For the third year in a row, dozens of riders will show off their wakeboarding skills on Lake Hopatcong for the Garden State Wakeoff, the state’s largest wakeboard competition. But this year, things are a bit different.
The event, which runs all day Saturday, will be held at the Lake Forest Yacht Club instead of Hopatcong State Park, for one thing. But the format itself will change, too. Instead of North Jersey versus South Jersey, the event will pin Lake Hopatcong riders against those from the rest of the world.
“After two years we found that half the riders competing were from Lake Hopatcong,” said Ryan Sorensen, who organizes the event through Lake Hopatcong Marine and its wakeboarding team. “So to even up the teams, we changed the format to Lake Hopatcong versus ‘Team X.’ It will be fun to see if Team X will have a chance to take the championship belt from the native Lake Hopatcong riders!”
Sorensen expects about 75 riders to compete, spanning all age groups (from kids 14 and younger to “veterans” 50 and older) and all abilities (novice to “outlaw,” which is professional level where “anything goes). The teams will be competing for the championship belt, with the centerpiece a version of the Garden State Parkway icon.
Sorensen said he enjoyed having the event at the State Park, but that the Lake Forest Yacht Club will offer something new. “Having the competition at Lake Forest will give us the opportunity to have a longer run,” he said, adding that at the State Park it was a shorter run than desired. “The trustees and volunteers at the yacht club are doing an awesome job helping get ready for the event. It is great to have support from the community.”
The participants, he said, will get to be a part of an event that is growing in popularity each year. “There is just something about the excitement of a competition that makes it harder to sleep the night before and makes the hair on your arms stand up,” Sorensen said. “Even if you’re a novice rider or outlaw rider, it gets your mojo going knowing that hundreds of people are watching you stick your tricks! And even if you don’t land your tricks, it’s still fun and gives you something to practice for next year.”
Those hundreds of spectators are ensured a good time as well, with pro wakeboard tour announcer Jeff Barton on the microphone to provide the crowd a play-by-play description of the action on the water. “It will be the opportunity to watch the best riders in the northeast perform the riskiest aerial maneuvers that they have been practicing all year,” Sorensen said.
In addition, a barbecue and beer garden will be a part of the scene. The events begin at 9 a.m. on Saturday, and conclude at 5 p.m., and the competition gets more advanced through the day, starting with the Kids’ division, followed by Novice, Girls, Intermediate, Masters (over 35 men and women), Veterans, Advanced, and Outlaw.
Sorensen said he has no idea how many hours he puts into the Wakeoff every year, but said it’s worth it. “I’m very thankful to all of my wakeboarding friends, family, and LFYC members who volunteer their free time to make this event happen,” he said.
For more information about the Garden State Wakeoff, visit www.wakeoff.com.