Was laying in bed sick as a dog when my buddy Mike Isler sent me a link to a professional wakeboarding competition going on at Firebird Lake about 15 miles from my house. It had been a good 5 days since I had last shot so I was antsy to get back to work!

I sent an email about the shoot to my ESPN the Mag editor to pitch the idea to her. I was somewhat expecting her to decline the idea but I was delighted to get an email back a few hours later giving it the go ahead.

Went out to the lake Saturday morning and within 5 minutes of being in the 109 degree heat I seriously began doubting my decision to do this shoot feeling so sick. Nevertheless I am a trooper so I gave it the old “never went to college try!”

I think the toughest thing about this particular shoot (next to how I was feeling) was that the event took place in the middle of the day with horrific light as well as bland and cluttery backgrounds. Not knowing the sport very well certainly didn’t help my cause and resulted in me constantly asking questions to the three judges riding in the tow boat with me.

I also felt incredibly uncool compared to the rest of the people hanging out at the event since I lacked cool tattoos and the surfer lingo that evidently is a requirement  for this sport. My favorite quote came from one of the judges to a rider after he fell. “Don’t let go of the momentum device (the rope) buuuuddy!”

While on the boat I was mostly shooting with my 200mm but decided to try something different and shoot with the 600mm. The looks I got from other photogs and the videographers was classic. I didn’t get anything amazing with it but it was worth it so I didn’t have to wonder after the fact if it woulda been a good shot. (I always make it a point to never leave a shadow of a doubt after a shoot) I still beat myself up over missed opportunities several years ago.

Shot with a 600mm from the tow boat.

Shot with a 600mm on the Nikon D3

I also did some shooting from the beach but for the most part it was garbage due to the horrific backgrounds as well as how small the rider looked in most the images.

While shooting from the boat weight is such an issue that the boat has to be perfectly balanced as far as passengers was concerned. I ended up being on the left side most of the time which didn’t matter to me until I noticed with the driver on the right side that the rear view mirror over there could make for a cool reflection shot. I had the other still shooter in the boat switch with me so that I could try the shot out to see if it worked. It certainly wasn’t an amazing result but it still was interesting….even though Jenny Cecil noted it was cliche!

Sunday I went back out to shoot although I had a much tighter deadline with the magazine closing out the issue. I tried to catch some good action in the “better” early morning light and felt I got a few decent shots.

It was great hearing the boat driver as well as the judges who are in their late 20’s I’d guess talking about their conquests the previous night at some of the local Tempe, AZ hotspots. Unless they were lying they sure sounded to have had better luck than I did at the very same bars back in the day! One of my favorite quotes was a judge who said, “If any of you smell Crown and Coke its from it radiating out of my pours.”  If only MLB umpires had such great soundbites!

On one of the floating boxes the riders grind on, Sunday a teenager in the Jr division ate massive shit when he jumped onto the rail and in his attempt to grind on it he miscalculated and flew right into it from roughly 10ft in the air at 27mph. All of us in the boat let out a simultaneous OWWWW as he hit the one solid thing in the water that could hurt you.

We pulled back around and it was quite apparent he was in major pain. The trooper that he was he asked for a few minutes to recover before he attempted to finish his run. I say attempt because when he was finally ready to ride we took off and as he attempted to pull himself up he fell back into the water screaming in agony. The boat took him to shore where he was carried off by paramedics and eventually left on a stretcher.

All in all it was an interesting and rough weekend of shooting but it is always fun to get out there and shoot different sports. If I was stuck only shooting baseball or racing I would probably gotten burned out a loooooong time ago!

Posted in Sports, Wakeboarding, Wrestling   | 6 Comments

6 responses to “Pro Wakeboarding in Phoenix”

  1. Guy Rhodes says:

    I don’t think the rear view mirror shot is cliché in this case. How often do you see THAT as the image in the mirror? Way to give up on making that animated GIF.

  2. Holly Gilliam says:

    Love the photos! Sick as a dog and still out there is the burning hell!?!?!? Your a trooper! And I only lasted 20 min out there!!!!! GOOD JOB!

  3. fred Harl says:

    As usual great shots Mark and always enjoy seeing your stuff. Keep it coming. Fred

  4. Mark, How did you get the sequined effect in the shot 4th from the bottom? Was there some spray on your lens?

  5. Hey Mike,
    The effect on the water was just from dumb luck. With the water flying pretty close to the lens from the boat plus the angle of the sun thats what it produced. After seeing it it made me wonder if I should see what would happen if I use a star filter the next time (if ever) that I shoot wakeboarding.

  6. Reuben says:

    I love the shot with the 600, think it works well and gives a different view. i was recently doing a national cycle race and was getting very funny looks from the regular cycling togs as i wandered down the road with my 400, well i use that lens for 90% of what i do, course I’m going to try it with the bikes!

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