By Jeff Barton
Four days of vigorous competition came to a close at the Orlando Watersports Complex today with some of the usual suspects walking always with the serious hardware and the payday that goes along with it. In a day that provided some course challenges due to high winds, it was the excellence of execution in the face of adverse conditions that brought the wins home for some of the biggest names in the sport.
The Pro Mens Wakeskate division was the first to hit the water with four of the top dogs heading into battle. Aaron Reed, Nick Taylor and Reed Hansen all represented themselves well, but it was the wakeskate Jedi Master Brian Grubb sealing the deal with some late heroics, getting up from a fall and dropping no-grab heelside late shove to earn himself the win.
As the wind picked up it was time to send the ladies out for the finals and the six put on a strong showing despite the tough texture on the water's surface. Amber Wing laid down some strong moves but was unable link any back-to-back hammers. West Coast style master Melissa Marquardt showed her saavy rail skills and her toeside roll to blind on her way to third while young gun Raimi Merritt proved she's a force to be dealt with in 2009 as she almost stomped a heelside 720 on her final trick. But it was Dallas Friday showing what a few months of recuperation and training can do as she crushed a flawless pass #1 and went on to add yet another trophy to her collection.
And for the Pro Men, it was an afternoon that brought a broad smile to the face of Fox Team manager Todd Hicks, who watched his riders sweep the podium. Adam Errington showed his smooth, polished style on his way to third with Pro newcomer Jimmy LaRiche made his big leagues debut by wrangling third. But after his semifinal battle with his fierce rival Phillip Soven, Rusty Malinoski rode like a man possessed, riding with his signature intensity and controlled technical mastery. He put his stamp on the win with a final backside 720 off the double up, came to the dock and began to embrace the strong start to his 2009 King of Wake Campaign.
And there was more reason for Malinoski to celebrate as the Wake Games was a team competition, with 10 teams of 10 riders each accumulating points for their respective squads. The race for the team title was close throughout the weekend, but with Rusty and LaRiche both scoring valuable points, Team Malinoski ended up winning the overall title by a wide margin.