The state flags were confidently displayed in a parade of boats as the state teams on shore cheered as their flag passed by. This was the sight on Wednesday morning when 439 Competitors gathered at Ski West Lakes in Bakersfield, California to kick off the 9th annual INT U.S. Championships. Twenty-five states were represented at this amateur tournament. Over 900 spectators assembled to watch athletes compete in 41 divisions ranging from novice slalom skiing, wakeboarding, and knee boarding to the new INT wakeboard and slalom pro divisions.
INT was pleased to have honored guests including world famous slalom skiers Andy Maple, Chris Sullivan, Marcus Brown, Chris Parrish, and Terry Winter. Also mingling with the riders were pro wakeboarders Andrew Adkison, Dave Briscoe, Gerry Nunn, Shawn Murray, and Danny Harf.
Kade Kasey, from Kentucky, was the youngest competitor, at age 5; he competed in the Wakeboard Mini Outlaw division. His opposite, Harold Stocks from Washington, was the oldest competitor, at 70 years he competed in 4th Class with a final score of three buoys at 28 mph 15 off. Anthony Graff from Southern California wowed the crowd in Jr. 4th Class with an exceptional performance of a full pass on double skies.
INT was excited to host the first annual INT pro competition at the US Championships. The female slalom skiers went head to head on Thursday and tied at 38off, then came back on Saturday to battle it out. Rhoni Barton-Bischoff and Jill Knutson both skied into 39.5 off, but Rhoni beat Jill by only a half a buoy. Women's wakeboarding was just as exciting; sister's Raequel and Shawna Hoffeman, and Shelby Kanter competed for the cash. Raequel Hoffeman ended up first on the podium. Her score was so impressive she would have taken 5th in the men's pro wakeboard division. Raequel was also surprised with a $400 check from Liquid Mountain Action Wear who focuses on growing women's water sports. The caliber of riding in women's pro was truly exceptional!
The pro men were just as electrifying to watch; the west coast swept the men's pro wakeboard competition. Robby Carter took first place, Michael Cardoza took second place, and Alex Scagliotti came in third. The wakeboard competition was very different from any other pro wakeboard competition; riders accumulated points per trick thrown and style points based on their variety, amplitude, and how clean the tricks were completed. The points were very close for these three excellent riders. (Mike Cardoza, Robby Carter, Alex Scagliotti)
Jamie Beauchesne set the water on fire in men's pro slalom with a full pass at 41 off, 36 mph! The crowd was on their feet to see the co-world record holder slice through the course. Coming in closely behind Jamie was his close friend Chris Rossi with a score of 5 at 41 off. In third place Seth Stisher ran 3.5 at 39.5 off. The men put on quite a show and inspired some great skiing at Ski West Village.
INT sponsors really got into the best of booth competition this year. Watersports Wearhouse really embraced the Hollywood theme of the event and welcomed competitors and spectators into their booth on an Emmy winning red carpet. Nautique had a popcorn machine and a big screen TV in their booth playing old movies including Freaky Friday, which showcased the Jodie Foster skiing behind a 1978 Correct Craft. Mastercraft, Malibu, and Nautique each gave away event t-shirts to the participants. Tige decorated their booth like the Pirates of the Caribbean film and had a dunk dank where spectators and participants could dunk world record slalom skier Jamie Beauchesne! Costa Del Mar sunglasses had pro slalom skier Rhoni Barton-Bischoff doing trivia questions, winners received a free pair of Costa Del Mar Sunglasses. The competition was stiff, but the big cup went to Tige Boats for their outstanding effort in the best of booth competition!
Off the water, athletes and their families attended the Malibu Opening Night Pool Party at the Double Tree Hotel in Bakersfield. Malibu premiered their 25th anniversary Malibu Response LXi and Wakesetter VLX Silver Editions. Participants and their families were invited to a free motivational speech entitled "Evening of Champions" by Kristi Overton-Johnson and hosted by In His Wakes on Friday night. Gerry Nunn, Jill Knutson, Kent "Roadkill" Hartshorn, and Rhoni Barton-Bischoff each spoke about their professional careers in water sports and their walk with God.
Winners were honored at a "Night of the Stars" awards banquet on Saturday evening. The North Carolina team took home the Team Award for collecting the most trophies and Arkansas won for most team spirit. Three INT/George Chicarilli Memorial scholarships were given away to deserving INT League competitors for their academic achievement and participation in the INT League. Ten-year-old Matthew Schaefer wrote and essay and a song about how INT has affected his life and played the song on stage at the awards banquet. Winners were considered based on an essay submitted to the George Chicarilli Memorial Scholarship committee; the fund is supported by generous industry manufactures, dealers, and competitors.
Rhoni Barton- Bischoff awarded Costa Del Mar sunglasses to the competitor with the best crash, the good sport award, the personal best award, and the big effort award. Trophies were awarded to the top three places in each division and Exceptional Performance Awards were awarded to participants who had an outstanding performance and bumped into the next division. The evening ended with a bang as Costa Del Mar Sunglasses, a Connelly ski, an Andrew Adkison signed CWB wakeboard, a Danny Harf signed Ronix wakeboard, a body glove wakeboard, Shawn Murray's personal wakeboard, and thousands of dollars or door prizes were raffled to the participants and their families.
"Overall we had a great week; this was the best INT US Championships ever. We can't wait until next year!" said Rick Stocks, INT CEO. The location of the 2007 US Championships will be announced after the first of the year.
The INT League is a promotional organization that hosts amateur waterski, wakeboard, kneeboard, and wake skate tournaments nationwide. For more information please see the INT website at www.intleague.com.
Check out the photos in the Wakeboarder.com Photo Gallery