At the ripe age of 40 (which is ancient in the young-gun sport of wakeboarding), hall-of-fame icon Parks Bonifay is as relevant as ever. While may be past his prime as a competitive rider, he’s as powerful as ever when it comes to continuing the promotion, progression and proliferation of the sport. Back in 2004 Parks created his signature “Double or Nothing” contest. The premise was to give the sport’s premier athletes a chance to showcase their unique skills while pushing wakeboarding to new heights, both literally and figuratively. The double-up-only contest instantly became one of the biggest and most prestigious events in the sport, despite not being open to the public. Past winners of Double or Nothing events include some of the biggest names in wakeboarding’s history.
After a multi-year hiatus, Parks, along with title sponsors Red Bull and MasterCraft, brought Double or Nothing back in 2020, but due to the pandemic it had to remain private. Last year, it came to the shores of iconic Lake Ivanhoe in downtown Orlando, home to many historic watersports events in years past. This not only gave the top pros the platform to showcase their skills, but it gave the public a chance to watch it firsthand.
For the 2022 edition, Parks invited 16 of the best to throw down their best tricks behind the massive double ups of the MasterCraft X-Star. The lineup included riders from around the world, including Australia, Argentina, Italy, the UK, Japan, and Canada. The first round of action would be the semifinal: Each competitor was given the opportunity to hit five double ups to land their best tricks. After all 16 riders had gone, four would be chosen for a final round. The best trick would carry over from the semi-final, but the final gave riders two more double ups each to try to top it.
With a viewing area, giant DJ truck and food and drink services at the ready, crowds lined the shore of Lake Ivanhoe’s Gaston Edwards Park to watch the action, and the international contingent did not disappoint. Huge air was hucked, some insane crashes were had (fortunately no injuries) and some unbelievable tricks were landed. Highlights included a giant heelside 900 by Japan’s Shota Tezuka, unique rewind tricks by Guenther Oka and Luca Kidd, a near double KGB (double back roll invert with a backside 360 rotation) by Tyler Higham, and a near triple back roll landed by rookie Thomas Herman. The biggest highlight for the crowd may have been the event’s originator, Bonifay himself, strapping in, giving it a go, and nearly landing a double half-cab back roll – a trick he made famous during his reign as the sport’s best rider.
Despite a heavy downpour delaying the event for over 30 minutes, the crowd re-assembled to watch the conclusion of the semifinals. In the end, the final came down to the four best tricks: Massi Piffaretti with a KGB 540 (the trick that won him last year’s Double or Nothing), Luca Kidd with a backside 900, Guenther Oka with a Zero (wrapped frontside 360 to rewind backside 360), and Sam Brown with a mute back mobe 720 (back roll invert with a frontside 720 rotation). It was Brown’s mobe 7 – a trick landed by only a couple other riders behind the boat in the sport’s history – that was in the lead. Each of the four riders went full send with their final two double ups, but only Brown came close to besting his top score when he nearly pulled off the never-before-landed back mobe 900.
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At the podium, Bonifay announced the winner – the aforementioned Brown. It was only fitting that the 40-year-old legend, with his signature enthusiasm and excitement for the sport he helped solidify, handed the check for $10,000 to Brown, who was barely a year old when Double or Nothing first came to be. So goes a sport like wakeboarding, where progression begets progression and the passion is passed from one generation to the next.