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Women’s Wakeboarding Champion Tarah Benzel-Mikacich

Learn about Tarah's journey and what she's up to today.

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Tarah Mikacich interview
Women’s Wakeboarding Champion: Tarah Mikacich Courtesy @seanobrien900

There are few individuals on this planet who hold the highest good for everyone above their own. Those whose heart is fully opened and their vision is clear.  For years, even decades, Tarah Mikacich has been that person who has selflessly championed the efforts and many of the accomplishments for the women’s wakeboarding movement.  Beautiful and kind-hearted inside and out, she started her career waterskiing, being taught by no other than her famous mother World Waterski Champion Cindy Benzel and her husband Dave. Gracefully and bravely Tarah transferred into the newer sport of wakeboarding after a fateful meeting with her soulmate Cobe Mikacich, who took her out on her first ride. Tarah was ranked number one in the WWA World Ranking in 2016. She’s continued to win many titles since and recently she made the finals at the World Wakeboard Championships next to greats like Dallas Friday, Body Glove’s new “It girl” Mary Morgan Howell and defending champion Meagan Ethell.

Here is the story of the sport’s greatest ambassador whose unbending faith has uplifted us all.

First time wakeboarding:

My background was originally in 3-event water skiing. My parents owned a ski school until I was 10, so I was super into it. I won the Jr. Worlds, the University Worlds, even the World Games.

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Tarah Mikacich skiing as a kid
Throw back to the Benzel Skiing Days. These photos are framed in Tarah’s parents house with the bible verse: “Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it.” Proverbs 22:6 Courtesy Tarah Mikacich

The first time I tried wakeboarding, it was my senior year at Rollins College. Cobe and I had been dating since the year before, but I was still really serious about water skiing. And then, after Worlds in China, I just felt like I needed a break from skiing, so I decided to take the fall/winter off.

Tarah’s childhood of water skiing helped her achieve wakeboarding success. Courtesy Tarah Mikacich, @cyndibenzel

After just a few days off, I called Cobe and asked if he would take me wakeboarding. This was September 2005. He was like, “Yeah, sure.” So he set me up with a small O’Brien Oasis (one of his pro model boards) and took me out on the west shoreline of Lake Holden in Orlando. I’m sure he told me to just take it easy and get the feel for it.

Tarah Mikacich covers
Tarah’s first Waterski magazine (left). Cover from 2006, the year Tarah started wakeboarding (top right). Behind the scenes at the 2018 @obrienwatersports catalog shoot (bottom right). Tom King, Bill Doster, @rossdantonio

Straight away I started jumping wake to wake heelside, and then toeside too within a few tries. I had fun playing around; it was weird standing sideways, but overall a really good first experience. No hard falls either. Skiing and wakeboarding used to share magazines and events when I was younger, so I was kind of familiar with the sport, but I didn’t know anything about the tricks or what to expect in the learning process. When we got back to the dock, Jason Lee (photographer, and Cobe’s neighbor at the time) was standing there and asked how I did. Cobe was like, “Oh she did so great!” And Jason jokingly replied, “Oh yea? Busting out Raleys?” But since I had no concept of how a person learns to wakeboard, I assumed that I didn’t actually ride that well because I didn’t do a Raley that first set!

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Tarah and Cobe Mikacich
Wakeboarding’s power couple: Tarah and hubby, Cobe Mikacich. Courtesy Tarah Mikacich

What are you up to this summer?

I’m coaching so much at Freedom Wake Park. I mean, I always do, ever since Cobe and I opened it 8 summers ago. But this year, we’ve had the most girls and women’s camps ever. It’s been pretty amazing!

Tarah Mikacich as the number one
Tarah has done a lot of winning throughout her career. Courtesy WWA, @meddockphoto

What new tricks are you working on and how did you stay strong while we were in lockdown?

During lockdown, I did a little bit of riding and working out at home. But mostly, I took advantage of the downtime. I almost never have downtime, so I took the opportunity to rest, recover, and do projects that I normally never have time to do. In that respect, I was grateful for the change of pace. But once things started opening back up, it felt great to ride consistently again. Mostly I’m working on getting some of my newer tricks consistent. I’ve landed switch back mobe and Indy roll to blind, but they’re not run-ready yet. I’m working to change that. 

Tarah Mikacich out wakeboarding
Tarah’s amazing riding helped garner many sponsorships. Courtesy Tarah Mikacich

What has been the most exciting win of your career?

Last year, I won Wake the Desert. I had been injured the year before in the first contest of the season, which was really heartbreaking. So it felt absolutely amazing to be able to come back and win an event!

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Tarah Mikacich at contests
Tarah took second at the WWA Wake Open. Left to right: Tarah, Giorgia Gregorio, Erika Lang (top left). Tarah, Dallas Friday, Giorgia Gregorio and Amber Wing (bottom left). The U.S. Masters (right)! Courtesy Tarah Mikacich

Best Contest Results:

  • 1st Wake The Desert 2019
  • 2nd WakeFest 2019
  • 2nd US Masters 2017
  • 2nd Wake Open 2017
  • 3rd WakeFest 2017
  • 3rd Malibu Evolution Series 2017
  • IWWF Female Rider of the Year (Boat) 2016
  • 2nd Sparks Pro 2016
  • 2nd WakeFest 2016
  • 2nd Malibu Evolution Series 2016
  • 3rd Wakeboard World Series 2016
  • 3rd World Cup Linyi 2016
  • 2nd WakeFest 2015
  • 3rd Tokyo Pro 2015
  • 3rd Houston Pro 2015

What are you looking forward to?

I’m not exactly sure what I’m looking forward to right now with everything being so uncertain this year. I think I’m looking forward to continuing to progress and have the opportunity to achieve some more of my goals. And I’d love to take a women’s wake filming trip sometime soon.

Tarah Mikacich on the beach and wakesurfing
Outside of wakeboarding, Tarah enjoys dog walks and wakesurfing. Courtesy Tarah Mikacich

Who are your sponsors ?

O’Brien Watersports, Malibu Boats, Performance Ski & Surf, CTi Knee Braces, CBDurance, Hangtyte, Drop N Fill, B4BC and Freedom Wake Park.

Special thanks to:

Tarah Mikacich coaching
One thing that this amazing Wonder Woman has left in her blazing path, is the legacy of female enthusiasts she has taught and inspired to ride. Today you can get lessons from Tara and her Hall of Famer husband Cobe Mikacich at their school Freedom Wake Park in Orlando, FL. Courtesy Tarah Mikacich

Proud to be supported by Malibu Boats, the first company to offer equal prize money at the WWA Smokey Mountain Factory Pro. The winner was Australian Zahra Kell.

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