LAKE FOREST – The conditions were perfect; a summer day, sunny and warm, calm winds. Competitors at the annual Jersey Wakeoff, the Northeast’s largest wakeboard competition, were in the water, or in the air, from early morning until early evening. Spectators lined the beach at the Lake Forest Yacht Club and boaters anchored just off shore as wakeboarders of all abilities tried to wow the crowd with their fearlessness and gravity-defying feats.
“Having this event in the middle of the summer not only helps the event but also helps the club,” said Ray Calogero, commodore at Lake Forest Yacht Club, referring to past competitions that were held in September.
“Our young adults and teenagers love to come back to the beach for this event. It’s great for Lake Forest and its great for the lake,” he said. “The lake doesn’t have Bertrand Island anymore so we should have events like this, events that brings people to the lake.”
For eighteen-year-old Shaina Kassaleh it was a chance to show her skill to friends and family. Competing in the Girls division against three others including her younger sister, Kassaleh demonstrated her supremacy as one of the areas best, placing first in the division. Kassaleh regularly competes in New England contests where she usually finishes first and in the Gravel Tour in Florida.
“I go to Florida one or two times a month for training and to compete. Up here I’m considered good and I have a sponsor (Lake Hopatcong Marine) but down in Florida I’m considered a beginner,” she said. Kassaleh lives in Pequannock with her family and spends summer in Mount Arlington at the family lake house.
A new division named the Barrel of Monkeys was added to the schedule this year as a way to allow competitors to show off their creative side, said event coordinator Ryan Sorenson.
“This is the first year for this. Kind of a fun to see goofy stuff,” he said.
“Ryan and I have been doing this kind of thing for ever,” said winner Tommy DeSena. “We would tow anything behind a boat.”
DeSena attempted to ski using a recliner he found along the road screwed to four old wooden water skis held together by a two by six and a two by four.
Using the dock start method, DeSena’s first attempt was a quick face-first dive into the lake. He had better luck on his second attempt, going about 50 yards before going under. The whole contraption came apart on his third attempt to get on top of the water.
In the featured competition, the Outlaw division, Nick Poulin from Manchester, New Hampshire took first place, beating out six other competitors including Sorenson. Poulin, no stranger to the Jersey Wakeoff having placed first two out of the last three years, pockets $1,500 for the win.
Poulin is not the only one benefiting from the event. Sorensen reports that both the Lake Hopatcong Foundation and the Jefferson Township Fire Department will receive donations of $300 and $200 respectively, proceeds from gate money and entrance fees. Russ and Patty Babb, owners of four local Dunkin Donuts, set up a tent and by the end of the day had sold $366 worth of food and drinks. They will match it and donate $728 to the Foundation. Whenever they are asked to participate in a community event, said Patty, the money earned is always matched and always donated.
“In July we participated in Hopatcong Days and collected $226. We matched it and donated it all to the Hopatcong First Aid Squad,” she said.
Sorenson said he is already thinking about next year’s Jersey Wakeoff. He said the feedback from this year’s event has been nothing but positive.
“We already have big plans for next year. We are looking at holding it the same weekend, maybe a week before or a week after. I’ve heard tons of good feedback—everyone is talking about getting a sun tan and not getting cold,” he said.
Steve Kent, competing in the Intermediate division, attempts a back flip.