Orlando, Florida - Shawn Watson knows how to slide, and he let everybody know with a victory at the MasterCraft Pro Wakeboard Tour's first stop of 2002, presented by Chevy Trucks and GM Vortec engines.
Behind the Indmar Marine engine powered MasterCraft X Star, the exclusive towboat of the Pro Wakeboard Tour, Watson mastered the Pro Tour's first-ever slider-only event. Shane Bonifay and Danny Harf who earned second and third place respectively joined Watson on the podium.
In the first couple of events of last season, Watson looked like he might break through and take his place among wakeboarding's elite, but it wasn't meant to be. Watson spent most of 2001 on the injured list, blowing out a knee early in the season, rehabbing it, and then blowing it out again while attempting a comeback.
So Watson spent most of 2001 at home in Lantana, Florida, got healthy and then schooled the rest of the Pro Tour at the first event of 2002 in Orlando. Orlando WaterSports Complex has been very good to Watson. His last big victory came at OWC back in 2000 when he won the Wakeboard Nationals.
"This is the best run I've had in a long time," said Watson. "I couldn't ask for a better day. I'm stoked to win the first event of the year, coming off the injury. The slider format is great; I hope we have more like it. Orlando is just a lucky place for me, I guess."
Going into the Men's Semifinal, all eyes were on Parks Bonifay, the 2001 Pro Tour Champion. Bonifay was tearing it up in the Quarterfinal round and looked like the man to beat. But Bonifay couldn't seem to get it going, pulling off some dazzling tricks, but also spending a lot of time in the water, Bonifay failed to make it to the finals.
That left the door open for the rest of the field. Watson's competitors for the top spot were two young competitors who broke through last season with big victories. Shane Bonifay won the first big event of 2001, the Ford Ranger Wakeboarding Pro; Bonifay's only win of the season. Harf also had one victory last year, but it was big as well, the X Games.
In women's competition, Dallas Friday a Freshman at Boone High School in Orlando, successfully defended her Orlando Pro Tour stop. Friday, the women's X Games Champion in 2001, edged 2001 Pro Tour, National and World Wakeboard Champion Emily Copeland for top honors. Lauren Loe finished in
"It's great starting off here with a win, just like last year," said Friday. "This gives me a lot of confidence for the upcoming events. I'm glad I was able to go out there and perform well since I haven't competed since last year."
In the first event of the MasterCraft Junior X Series, J.D. Webb conquered the sliders and the competition on his way to his first Junior Men's Division victory after moving up in class from the Boys Division. Webb was joined in the top three by Derek Grasman and Jonathan Nadolski, who finished second and third.