Tale of Two Tours

By: Pat McElhinney

Tale of Two Tours

1992 was a pivotal year for the new Sport of Wakeboarding. Up until then only a handful of contests had been held. A couple in Hawaii, and a few in Colorado. The Sport was pretty much unheard of in the rest of the country. Tommy’s backyard Contests not only brought the sport to the mainland, but were instrumental in taking the sport to the next level. By the end of 1991 the pro bud tour was looking our way and see things start to blow up, were making plans on inviting us to their 1992 pro Waterski tour. Then out of nowhere here comes Sea Ray with a brand-new competition boat they called the “Ski Ray”. They wanted to promote their new boat with a Wakeboard tour called “The International Tournament Of Champions”. We would follow the I/O Outboard Boat Race Tour in the US and Canada, having a contest at each race. You could see the sport growing right in front of your eyes. The Pro Bud Tour had six stops throughout the US. Remember this was a Waterski tour and the three event athletes were pretty pissed about having us there. We were put on the water at 8 AM and about the time we were done at around 10 AM, the opening ceremonies would begin. We were a true sideshow. It only took a couple years for the tour sponsors to see that after the Wakeboarding was over the crowd would start leaving. By 1994 we had our own Tour.

The International tournament of champions was the complete opposite. Rick McCormick, a old three-eventer, himself, was in charge of the tour. Rick treated us like rock stars. He made sure we were always included in everything. He learned as much as he could about our sport, and how to judge it, always looking the other way as we piled bricks, rocks, logs,and everything else we could find in the boat for weight. The prize money was not bad and we were even paid just to be there. The boat races were held in rivers that ran through the middle of big cities, usually during the town’s summer fiesta or party. The crowds were huge sometimes 2 to 3 hundred thousand. Right there in front of three Rivers Stadium in downtown Pittsburgh or next to the arch in St. Louis Missouri. Of course I still remember hearing everyone say I can’t believe you are in that water.

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The Pro Bud Tour had much smaller crowds, but was well established, and we knew this would be the tour of our future. The Ski Ray Tournament Of Champions was one of those once in a lifetime happenings, and I was very blessed to be a part of it.

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Yeah, looking back, 1992 was a incredible year for Wakeboarding. By the end of that year, we had not one, but two televised tours. Tommy held two more contests, The ’92 Worlds, and later that year The ’92 U.S. Open. Old adversaries Jimmy Redmon and Tony Finn were secretly collaborating together, and would soon unleash the beast that became WakeTech. As for me, I stepped off a glass board for the last time, signed with O’Brien, and kept riding that wave to the future.

Keepin’ it real,

Pat

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Chris Hawkins
chris@hawkwebdesign.net

Chris has been an avid wakeboarder for more than 15 years and has over 12 years of experience in web development and graphic design. He currently helps with social media and web development for the WHOF. Be on the lookout for a fresh new WHF website in 2017! You can view more of his work at: http://www.facebook.com/hawkwebdesign