Dyrhood, McKee, Scott, Pearce and Faulkner take Top Honors at Nissan Southwest Wakefest
The event featured the top two qualifiers in each division from several established tournaments that took place throughout the region over the summer. The qualifying events included the Mid-Summer Classic in Beaumont, TX, Ski Skellers "Wake the Desert" in San Angelo, the H-Town Showdown in Houston, the Southern Plains Festival in Eufala, Oklahoma and the TXMC Classic in Dallas/Fort Worth. The final event of the series took place at the Three Palms Extreme Sports Park in Conroe. It was the best of the best in the Intermediate, Advance, Expert and Outlaw/Open Divisions. The event also featured an open wakeskate competition.
First up were the riders in the Intermediate Division. Although there were eight who qualified, only five of them made the trip to Houston for the finals. This meant that the Intermediate Division would be a straight heads-up battle between Wes McElroy, Chase Mobley, Chase Schuster, Danny Faulkner and Dustin Patterson. It was Danny Faulkner from Rowlett, TX who impressed the judges the most with a nice mix of grabs and spins and back-to-back HS and TS Backrolls at the end of his run to lock up the first place podium position. After Faulkner, only three points separated the second place finisher from the fifth and it was a "Chase" for the other two spots on the podium! Local Houston rider, Chase Mobley took second place by just three tenths of a point over third place finisher Chase Schuster riding out of Priddy, TX. In addition to the gold, silver and bronze TWT medals, each rider received a stash of prizes from event sponsors.
The Advance Division featured nine riders split into two heats. Heat number one included Senter Henry, Justin Troth, Dylan Stults and Taylor Kress. The top two in each heat would advance to the finals on Sunday. The two that moved on from heat number one were Taylor Kress and Justin Troth. Heat number two in the Advance Division included five riders vying for the final two qualifying spots and when it was over it was Ross Pearce and Tyler McElroy moving on.
In the Advance finals on Sunday, Ross Pearce was first off the dock and set the pace with a busy run that included twelve tricks before he went down on a pair of 540 attempts. Next up was Tyler McElroy who started his run big with a TS 540. Justin Troth, who had been riding well all year, injured his knee and did not make it past his first trick. This left newcomer, Taylor Kress, with an opportunity to battle for a podium position. In the end, no one could catch Pearce as he locked up first place and followed by Taylor Kress in second and McElroy in the third position.
The Expert Division was next and it was stacked with a talented group of riders, all well on there way to riding in the Outlaw Division in the near future. Again, the line-up on Saturday featured two heats with the top two advancing. Chris Hoover and Kyle Cameron outpaced the competition in heat number one and moved on. They were joined by Rusty Scott and Thomas Freeman who tied for first in a much closer heat. Sunday's finals had Kyle Cameron going off first. He started strong with a huge OHH followed by TS and HS 5's. Chris Hoover was next but his bid for the championship ended early after two falls on his first pass. Next up, Thomas Freeman impressed the judges with a clean first pass that included a Scarecrow followed by a Switch Crow. On his way back by the crowd he landed a variety of big spins before going down on a Tantrum to Blind.
Rusty Scott was the last rider off the dock and he knew what he needed to do to take home the championship. He laid down a consistent run going big with lots of style and ended up taking home the first place gold medal and a check for $500. Thomas Freeman took the number two spot on the podium and received $400 and a silver medal and Kyle Cameron got the bronze and $300.
Wakeskate was the only division that did not include any previous qualifying. Seven riders, including defending TWT wakeskate champ, Richie McKee and young up-and-comer Clint Gee (who already had four first place finishes under his belt after killing it all summer!) showed up for the "open" call and a shot at a medal and $700 in prize money. It was a straight shoot out with each rider getting two passes and a three fall limit. Judges for the wakeskate division included Liquid Force Pro skater and WWA World Champion, Aaron Reed. Aaron was joined by LF teammate Danny Hampson and LF Marketing Manager (and avid wakeskater) Don Wallace. The judges all gave Darin Wahl from Springdale, AK. an "A" for attitude and high enough scores to land him in third place. Just four tenths of a point ahead of Wahl was Brett Little from Austin, Texas. Little fell on his first trick off the dock, but recovered nicely with an array of technical lip tricks and some big wake-to-wake grabs. Everyone rode well, but nobody could stop two time Texas Wakeboard Tour Wakeskate Champion Richie McKee from defending his title! McKee was fifth on the water and he was in the zone from his starting bomb drop off the dock. Always big on the wake-to-wake maneuvers, McKee also landed some tech lip tricks and spins that had the judges cheering including a FS Big Spin followed by a FS 360 Shuv at the end of his impressive run. It was a "three-peat" victory for Richie and he took home the gold medal and $400 cash for his performance.
Fourteen riders qualified over the summer for the combined Outlaw/Semi-Pro division at the Nissan Southwest Wakefest, but only eleven of them made the trip to Houston for the finals. The format for Outlaw would have the top four in each heat moving on to compete in an eight man head-to-head final on Sunday. In Heat number one, Austin's Tom Fooshee and Houston's Justin Harrelson both scored 23.7 out of a possible 40 points to advance and they were joined by Ryan Anderson from Edmond, OK. and Andrew Dyrhood from Springdale, AK. Who also tied with 30 points each.
Outlaw heat number two featured the DFW crew of Joey Bradley, Danny Sherrill, Brian Sasser and Duston Swafford along with up and comer - Logan Ferris. All moved on to the finals except Farris, but big props to Logan for stepping up from the Expert Division in 2005 and qualifying to compete with the big boys in '06.
It was single elimination during Sundays head-to-head finals so each rider knew they had to give it all to move on. The bracket for finals pitted Joey Bradley against Sasser, Andrew Dyrhood vs. Justin Harrelson, Ryan Anderson vs. Tom Fooshee and Duston Swafford up against Danny Sherrill. Sasser was first off the dock and was able to put together some big moves, despite some problems setting the boats speed control, for his pass. The door was wide open but in an uncharacteristic turn of events, the normally consistent Bradley fell twice on his first pass which allowed Sasser to move on to the semi-finals. Next up Tom Fooshee had his work cut out for him against young Ryan Anderson who has been tearing it up this year including finishing third over-all on the Pro Wakeboard Tour and taking third at WWA World Championships in the Junior Men's Division. Fooshee did what he does which is go big and grab everything. Anderson, on the other hand, ended his bid for the championship early with two falls before the end of pass number one. Advantage Fooshee. The third pairing was the toughest to judge as both Harrelson and Dyrhood laid down strong runs. In the end, it was Dyrhood who moved on to the final four. Danny Sherrill got the last spot in the finals by default as Swafford re-injured his pectoral muscle on Saturday and could not compete on Sunday.
In round two, Dyrhood went huge and landed a variety of big maneuvers including a TS 900 that took out Sasser. He would advance to the final two and face Tom Fooshee who ended Danny Sherrill's bid for the championship in their match-up. This left the instructor (Sasser) vs. his student (Sherrill) to shoot it out for third place before the top two finalists would battle for the championship. Sherrill started strong linking back-to-back TS and HS 540's before falling on a 720. He came back with a 360, and a big Crow Mobe but fell again trying to land the 7. Defending TWT champ Brian Sasser did what he had to do to returned to the podium, this time in third place overall. He received $500 cash and a sweet TWT trophy, courtesy of Lucky Devil Designs for his efforts. All that was left was the big air showdown between Andrew Dyrhood and Tom Fooshee. Dyrhood was first off the dock and set a blistering pace landing Ole 540, KGB another TS 900 and a HS 540 before falling. He finished his run with a Crow 540 and a Whirly Bird. Fooshee had no choice but to charge his run if he wanted to take down Dyrhood. Unfortunately, he pushed too hard and ended up falling twice on his first pass, handing the championship to Dyrhood. Fooshee still did alright for the weekend taking home the second place TWT trophy and $750 cash and Andrew Dyrhood was no doubt smiling all the way back to Springdale. AK. with his first place TWT Outlaw Championship and $1500 cash!
In addition to all of the great regional riding that took place during the Nissan Southwest Wakefest, the event also featured the final stop of the Liquid Force "Trip Across America" Slide Show. Most of the Liquid Force Pro Team were on-hand including Aaron Reed, Danny Hampson, Kevin Henshaw, Shane Bonifay, Ben Greenwood, Greg Necrasson, Keith Lyman and Shawn Watson along with top regional qualifiers from across the country. Several of the LF pros arrived at Three Palms earlier in the week and began constructing a killer pool to rail to lake set-up for the Slide Show Finals. The set-up featured a kinked rail, a flat bar and a wall ride to rail out.
The Slide Show Finals took place on Saturday afternoon and included an LF Pro team demo followed by the actual amateur competition. The LF Pro's mingled with the riders and spectators throughout the weekend and also did an on-the-water demo for the crowd on Sunday. For results from the LF Slide Show Finals go to www.liquidforce.com.
Major supporters of the Nissan Southwest Wakefest included Nissan North America, returning as the official automotive sponsor, and Malibu Boats, who pulled the competition. The series is also supported by a long list of industry sponsors including Darryl Moore's Marine, Fox Riders Co., Liquid Force Wakeboards, Body Glove, Reef, Spy Optic, Ten 80 Clothing, Kicker Audio, Da Hui Clothing, Lucky Devil Designs, Sun & Ski Sports, H20 Clothing and TBKS. Media partners included Alliance Wakeboard Magazine, Texas Boating Magazine, The Houston Press and KTBZ-FM "The Buzz" radio statioon.