IWWF to Host First World Wakesurf Championship

IWWF to Host First World Wakesurf Championships: A Shift in Priorities?


IWWF to host first World Wakesurf Championships: A shift in priorities?

IWWF to Host First World Wakesurf Championship

Image: boats.com

By Jack Burden

The International Waterski and Wakeboard Federation (IWWF) has announced the initiation of the inaugural IWWF World Wakesurf Championships. Slated to take place at Tai Po Waterfront Park in Hong Kong from November 3rd to 10th, 2024, the event is a bold step into the realm of wakesurfing, perhaps signaling a potential shift in priorities within the water sports community.

Noteworthy is the decision to offer a cash prize of $30,000 for the Open Men and Women’s skim and surf categories. This is a departure from the tradition upheld by the World Waterski Championships, which have historically maintained an amateur status.

The choice of Hong Kong as the host is strategic, given the sport’s rising popularity in the region. Hong Kong, China Waterski Association (HKCWA) President, Michael Chow, expressed excitement, stating, “We are very excited to welcome wakesurf athletes and supporters from all over the world, and we will do our utmost best to be the very best host during their stay in Hong Kong.”

Despite wakesurfing gaining global traction, its organized participation is still hugely overshadowed by water skiing. In 2023, there were fewer than 20 IWWF-sanctioned wakesurf events, significantly less than the almost 600 IWWF-sanctioned water ski events. Additionally, the IWWF currently has 500 active wakesurf athletes, a stark contrast to the 12,700 registered water ski athletes.

Financially, the IWWF’s revenue stream has shifted in recent years. The majority of their annual income is now generated through EMS license fees, with water skiing dwarfing wakesurfing in funding. However, the organization’s primary source of income used to be sanction fees from titled events. It is possible that the inauguration of a Wakesurf World Championships might help address some of these revenue disparities.

In a parallel development, the International World Games Association (IWGA) has excluded water skiing from the 2025 World Games in Chengdu, China, breaking a tradition that endured since 1981. Instead, the spotlight will be on wakeboarding and wakesurfing, making its debut. The decision raises questions about the federation’s vision for the future.

The IWWF’s stated mission is to advance and service all towed water sports, so we should not be surprised when they promote other disciplines. There is significant crossover between the target audience for all towed water sports, so isolating water skiing has been unproductive in the past.

The reality is that, as much as critics within the water skiing community express reservations about the potential sidelining of traditional three-event water skiing, the IWWF’s hands are largely tied. The exclusion of water skiing from the World Games was primarily driven by the host country, China, and hosting a titled wakesurf event is necessary to select athletes for the Games. While traditional three-event skiing might be on the periphery, the wakeboarding and wakesurfing community welcomes the opportunity.

As the IWWF embarks on organizing the 1st World Wakesurf Championships, the water ski community watches closely, wondering if this move signals a broader transition in the industry and water sports organizations worldwide.

Vulcan and Vesta miss being out at Oak Mountain State Park with the Waterski and Wakeboard athletes!

Water Skiing Excluded from the 2025 World Games, Wakesurfing to Debut Instead


Water skiing excluded from the 2025 World Games, wakesurfing to debut instead

The World Games 1981 Santa Clara, USA

TWG 1981 Santa Clara, USA (image: World Games)

By Jack Burden

In a surprising and disappointing development for water skiing enthusiasts worldwide, the sport has been left out of the roster for the 2025 World Games scheduled to be held in Chengdu, China. This departure from tradition is significant, considering that water skiing has been a consistent feature in every edition of the World Games since its inception in 1981. Instead, the allocation of 88 athletes for towed watersports will spotlight wakeboarding, both cable and boat, and wakesurfing—making its debut at the World Games. The decision was reached through consultations between the International Waterski and Wakeboard Federation (IWWF) and the Chinese national federation.

Over the years, the Games has showcased water skiing’s traditional three events—slalom, trick, and jump—or overall competitions, providing a platform for athletes to exhibit their skills on a global stage. Water skiing has such a rich history in the Games that Patrice Martin sits at 6th on the all-time individual medal standings and was recently nominated for the World Games greatest athlete of all time. Other former champions include IWWF Hall of Famers such as Sammy Duvall, Bob LaPoint, Helena Kjellander, and Emma Sheers.

However, due to the evolving landscape of the World Games and the allocation of athlete quotas, compromises have been necessary over the years. From 2001 to 2009, as the number of disciplines expanded to include barefoot and wakeboard, the count of traditional three-event athletes and medals had to be reduced. The compromise was to compete only in overall, displaying all three events on this significant global stage but narrowing the pool of competitors. Since 2013, the Games has included three-event water skiing alongside wakeboarding.

The decision to exclude water skiing from the 2025 Games was influenced by various factors. The host country, China, has shown limited interest and participation in three-event water skiing in recent years. No Chinese athlete has competed in an IWWF-sanctioned water ski tournament since before the Covid pandemic, and prior to that, participation numbers were low, and the sport had been in decline. In contrast, the sports included for 2025 highlight China’s recent robust participation, with active involvement in the IWWF Asia Wakefest wakeboard and wakesurf series, including hosting an event earlier this month.

Moreover, considerations about the designated venue, Sancha Reservoir, played a pivotal role. Setting up the infrastructure for traditional three-event water skiing—involving jump ramps, courses, and officiating technology—demands substantial resources and manpower. Wakeboarding and wakesurfing, being less infrastructure-intensive, were deemed more suitable for the venue.

The 2022 World Games in Alabama faced similar challenges, underscoring the logistical hurdles of organizing water ski events at non-specialized venues. Athletes have been vocal about their dissatisfaction with repurposed venues, as seen in the criticism of the World Championships in France and Malaysia.

Critics within the water skiing community often point to the sport’s efforts to be included in the Olympic Games in the ’90s and 2000s as a contributing factor to its decline. While the impact of these endeavors is debatable, the exclusion from the World Games raises concerns about the sport’s visibility on a global scale.

The World Games, often considered a stepping stone to the Olympics, provides valuable exposure for water skiing, including mainstream media coverage. The decision to exclude the sport, in favor of other towed water sports, reflects a broader industry shift towards wakesports, leaving traditional three-event water skiing on the sidelines.

In the face of this setback, the water skiing community hopes for a reevaluation of future editions of the World Games, advocating for the inclusion of the sport that has been an integral part of the event for over four decades.