BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (May 12, 2017)—The Supra Boats Pro Wakeboard Tour, the longest-running professional wakeboard and wakesurf circuit in the industry, kicked off its 25th anniversary season Friday with qualifying rounds at Oak Mountain State Park in Birmingham, Ala.
Nineteen of the world’s best professional wakeboarders competed for eight coveted spots on the four-stop national tour and the chance to join the top eight riders from the 2016 season, who prequalify for this year’s tournament.
After three heats and two last chance qualifying rounds (LCQs), the highlight of the day was Harley Clifford’s highly anticipated return to the Pro Wakeboard Tour after an injury last year. A longtime world champion and widely considered the best in the sport despite his recent hiatus, Clifford placed first in his qualifying heat with the highest score of the day.
Another standout performance, new Supra Boats Team Rider Gordon Harrison landed an extremely difficult backside 900 (two-and-a-half blindside spins), a maneuver rarely seen even among the highest ranking athletes, to secure the final place on the tour in the last LCQ heat.
The other six athletes who earned a place on the tour were Tony Carroll, Christian Primrose, Team Supra riders Austin Hair and Shota Tezuka, and Jake Pelot – the only rookie to make it through the day’s intense competition.
As part of the event, three professional wakesurfers also qualified for the Supra Boats Pro Wakesurf Tour: Grant Witherell, Sean Silveira and Keenan Flegel. Wakesurfing—riding the boat’s wake without the help of a towrope—is one of the hottest up-and-coming sports in North America; it saw an astonishing 30 percent year-over-year growth from 2012 to 2015, according to the Water Sports Industry Association.
The Supra Boats SA550 is the official tow boat for the tour again in 2017. Purpose-built to create clean, consistent and controlled wakes, it is designed to push athletes to new levels while preserving strict handling and a balanced ride for those onboard.
The action continues Saturday at the first official competition of the season from 10:45 a.m. to 4 p.m. Hundreds of spectators are expected to crowd Oak Mountain State Park’s beautiful lakeside beach to watch the pros go big for the top spot on the podium. New this year, the competition will be livestreamed on Wakeboarding’s Facebook page (Wakeboarding Magazine).
Supra Boats ProWakeboard Tour 2017 Qualifying Rounds: Birmingham, AL