For those who thought Irene was the only thing to blast through Lake Hopatcong's waters last weekend, think again. Dozens of riders completed backside spins, "scarecrows," inverts, and grabs as they cut through the wake in Woodport for the fourth annual Garden State Wakeoff at Lake Forest Yacht Club.
The event, sponsored by Lake Hopatcong Marine, was unofficially renamed "The Calm Before The Storm Wakeboard Competition" as Hurricane Irene approached on Saturday. But that calm provided smooth rides for participants, who enjoyed still waters, little wind, and just a touch of occasional rain as nearly 60 people—most of them from the home "Lake Hopatcong" team—showcased their talents to a crowd collected on the yacht club's beach.
"The buzz all day long was how good the water conditions were for wakeboarding," said organizer Ryan Sorensen. "Glass! We were literally riding in the clam before the storm!"
Though a few who had registered for the event had to cancel due to the incoming weather, reigning champion Paulie Koch, a 14-year-old wakeboarding pro from New Hampshire, was actually able to attend because of the hurricane. "Hurricane Irene has disrupted my plans to Tenn. I am now attending the Garden State Wakeoff !!! You asked for it & now I am coming to see you! Be there!!" he wrote on the page's Facebook wall on Friday night.
Koch had a great couple of runs, but finished in third in the most-advanced Outlaw division, behind Clayton Underwood of Orlando, Fla., and Nick Poulin of Manchester, N.H. Underwood received a $1,000 courtesy check from Lake Hopatcong Marine for winning the top division.
Other winners included Arden Kassaleh in the kids' division, Andrew Allen in the novice division, Shaina Kassaleh in the girls' division, Barry Umbaugh in the masters' division, Rick Fitzpatrick in the veterans' division, Darren Hendershot in the intermediate division, and Brian Sengebush in the advanced division. With the exception of Umbaugh and Underwood, all of the top winners were from Lake Hopatcong. (Full results and photos below.)
"I was proud of the wakeboarders," Sorensen said. "Only three out of 62 registered riders pulled out of the competition due to the hurricane threat. The riders that canceled were coming from Virgina and the Jersey Shore, where the hurricane warnings were mandatory."
Joe Kassaleh of Pompton Plains (who also has a home on Lake Hopatcong) watched his three kids participate, including his son, Kyle, 17, and his two daughters, 16-year-old Shaina and 13-year-old Arden, both of whom won their divisions. "They all had solid runs," he said. "I'm proud of all of them.... Wakeboarding is a family thing for us, and it's our vacation."
Sorensen estimated that they had more than 300 spectators to watch the 59 competitors—fewer than anticipated, but an impressive showing in light of the conditions. Forty of the 59 competitors were from Lake Hopatcong; opposing "Team X" included riders from all over the East Coast, from Florida up to New Hampshire and over to Pittsburgh, Penn. In the end, team Lake Hopatcong defended its title, and holds the championship belt for another year.
Plans are already in the works for next year's event. For more information about the Garden State Wakeoff, go to www.wakeoff.com.
2011 Garden State Wakeoff Results
1. Arden Kassaleh - Lake Hopatcong
2. Michael Guido - Lake Hopatcong
3. Logan Phelps - Lake Hopatcong
1. Andrew Allen - Lake Hopatcong
2. Steven Braybrook - Lake Hopatcong
3. Steve Michael - Lake Hopatcong
1. Shaina Kassaleh - Lake Hopatcong
2. Ashely Dorn - Lake Hopatcong
3. Jemila Najjar-Keith - Lake Hopatcong
1. Barry Umbaugh - Team X
2. Scott Godfrey - Lake Hopatcong
3. Thomas Povanda - Lake Hopatcong
1. Rick Fitzpatrick - Lake Hopatcong
2. Alex Kinon - Team X
1. Darren Hendershot - Lake Hopatcong
2. Randy Sorensen - Lake Hopatcong
3. James Jacobsen - Lake Hopatcong
1. Brian Sengebush - Lake Hopatcong
2. Brandon LaRocca - Team X
3. Daniel Bentson - Team X
1. Clayton Underwood - Team X - Orlando, FL
2. Nick Poulin - Team X - Manchester, NH
3. Paulie Koch - Team X - Greenwich, CN
4. Tim Piskie - Team X - Pittsburgh, PA
5. Ryan Sorensen - Lake Hopatcong - Lake Hopatcong, NJ
6. Steve Raymond - Team X Manchester, NH
7. Bobby Doublewide - Team X Sandy Hook, CN
Hopatcong's Anton Pezzano starts his novice run. (Photo by Willa Scantlebury)
Trent Pezzano of Hopatcong lands a 360. (Photo by Willa Scantlebury)
Competitors gather after the Wakeoff for the awards ceremony (Photo by Willa Scantlebury)