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BOW, WA. - The 3rd Annual Pro Team Challenge wakeboard competition presented by Monster Energy Drink and Malibu Boats took place Sunday, August 3rd at the Bow Lake Watersports Complex just North of Seattle, Washington. The site was beautiful and the weather was epic as two of the sports premiere teams got set to battle head-to-head for a chance to take home the Malibu Cup Trophy and bragging rights as the best team in wakeboarding for the next 12 months.
New to the competition this year was the addition of wakeskating to the line-up. Also, the wakeboarding discipline was revised from a traditional contest pass to a more rider friendly free-ride format. The rail jam discipline featured three obstacles, a 60 foot A-Frame, an 80 foot long rooftop rail and the 50 foot Monster Energy C-Rail.
The event featured two-time defending champions Team Hyperlite led by the Bone Crusher, Rusty Malinoski. Rusty was joined by teammates Jimmy LaRiche and Jacob Valdez on wakeboard and Brian Grubb holding things down on wakeskate. They were gunning for the 3-peat and they rode hard to defend their title against the challengers on Team Liquid Force. Kevin Henshaw was the Team Captain for LF and he was joined by the always-animated Bob Soven and the face of wakeboarding in the Pacific Northwest - Mike Ennen. James Balzer was their wakeskater as they set their sights on de-throning the Champs.
The event kicked-off at around 11am with the wakeskate competition and Balzer was the first competitor to hit the water. Each rider would get two 5-minute runs and would be judged on their best of the two. The conditions were perfect and the crowd was ready to see some pro-level skating. Balzer did not disappoint with a smooth run that included a clean wake-to-wake H/S Backside 180, T/S Backside 180 and several Indy shuv-its. Next up was Team Hyperlites Brian Grubb, the winningest skater in the history of the sport and always a threat to take down any competition he enters. Grubb was in his element behind the Malibu wakeboard boat that pulled the competition.
James Balzer definitely held his own and represented his team well, but it was no match for the trick-filled run that the more experienced Grubb unleashed on Sunday. Landing his signature Nose grab H/S 360, T/S Indy Shuvit, stylish T/S Stalefish 180 and T/S wake-to-wake shuvit...Grubb sealed the deal on his final run with a KickFlip in the flats putting Team Hyperlite in control of the competition.
Next up was the wakeboard free-ride session and all of the riders were amped to show the enthusiastic Northwest crowds their best stuff. With each rider getting a 5-minute run and no-limit or point deductions on falls, there was no holding back. The format gave each rider an opportunity to reach deep into their bag of tricks and try things normally not pulled out in a regular contest run. Bob Soven was the first rider to hit the lake and he opened his run with a HUGE one-handed Raley while pointing directly at the crowd...the crowd loved it!
Highlights of the wake runs included Soven getting technical sticking a Whirly 5, Switch T/S 7 into B/S 540 plus a huge Crow Mobe and equally huge Tantrum-to-blind landing in the flats more often than not, young Jacob Valdez Moby Dick, T/S 7 and B/S 360...all landed with smooth west-side style, Kevin Henshaw's HUGE Nose-grab Front-to-fakie and steezy T/S B/S Double-grab 360 and Jimmy LaRiche's KGB and Nose-grab 720. Hometown hero, Mikey Ennen, got the biggest cheers from the crowd throwing everything big, stylish and smooth including KGB, B/S 540, T/S B/S 180 with a late Nose-grab, Skeezer and Roll-to-Blind. Last off the dock and always a crowd pleaser was the Bone Crusher and he laid it all on the line landing Nuclear Tantrum-to-Blind, Switch Mobe, Stalefish roll-to-blind a sick off-axis B/S 540.
Before the final event of the competition got under way, Brian Grubb went back out on the water and took advantage of the great facility, beautiful NW backdrop and perfect water conditions to shoot some footage for his upcoming FUEL TV First Hand feature. It was fun for the crowd and gave all of the wakeboarders a chance to rest up and prepare for the rail jam.
The rail jam got started around 3:00pm and riding in the same order as the Free-ride session, all of the participating pros had one last opportunity to impress the judges. Each rider got four passes - 12 rail hits total. Highlights included Jacob Valdez Back-lip 270 to front-board on the A-Frame, Jimmy LaRiche's super stylie nose-press over the rooftop rail, Mike Ennen's Tail Press on the Monster Energy C-Rail and Back - Lip over the rooftop and Rusty Malinoski's Back-board 90 out on the C-Rail. But it was Kevin Henshaw who did the most damage confirming why he is always a contender for rail rider of the year. Henshaw slayed the course including stylish Front-board 270 Back-board 90 out and 270 on F/S switch nose-press on the roof-top rail.
The overall vibe of the event was northwest mellow with great riding, smooth summer jams from DJ Grapenuts, tasty burgers from Bobs Burgers and Brews, the always entertaining announcing style of Dano the Mano and a stoked crowd. The judges had their work cut out for them as both teams rode really well throughout the competition. But when they went to the scorecards, it was Team Liquid Force who narrowly defeated the defending two-time champions by just one point with 365.5 overall points compared to Team Hyperlites 364.5.
The 2009 Pro Team Challenge was presented by Monster Energy Drink and Malibu Boats with additional support from EVO Gear, Liquid Force, Hyperlite and local Malibu Dealer - Bakes Marine. Media partners include Alliance Wakeboard Magazine, Wakeworld.com, The Seattle Weekly and 92.9 KISM-FM.
This was quite possibly the most relaxed, fun atmosphere of any pro level competition I have ever been a part of. Congratulations to Team Liquid Force for taking the win! Special thanks to Chad Sharpe for driving the Malibu boats pulling the event, to all of the participating riders, judges, video crew, photographers, spectators, family and friends who helped make this years Pro Team Challenge one to remember. Thanks also to Doug and Julie Spadey, Micah Ping and the great staff at Bow Lake Watersports for their great hospitality and for allowing us to host the competition at their facility.