West senior brings love of wakeboarding to Victoria (w/video)
Dec. 21, 2013 at 6:21 a.m.
Blake Daniel comes from a flipping family.
If he's not practicing flips on a trampoline, or doing standing flips in the grass, the 16-year-old can generally be found in the water at Coleto Creek on the outskirts of Victoria flipping on a major wave.
The Victoria West senior, who recently came in third place at a national International Water Sport Organization's INT League wakeboarding competition in California, has been on the water pretty much his entire life, at least since he was big enough to ride with his mother, Stephanie, on a knee board.
Stephanie met Blake's father, J.J., in college soon after he had taken ownership of his own personal boat. She had been water skiing since she was a teenager, and it became a frequent pastime for the couple.
"We (water) skied all through college, but we were skiers though, not wakeboarders," Stephanie said. "Dad learned how to wakeboard, and they started teaching (Blake) when he was about 6."
After seeing others wakeboarding at Coleto Creek, the Daniel family became interested. Soon after that they were spending every weekend on the water.
Wakeboarding is the sport of riding behind a boat while riding on a short, wide board and performing acrobatic and aerodynamic tricks on the wake that is created.
About 10 years after he first stood up on a board, Blake and his dad decided to look into competitions in 2012.
"We started doing it for fun; I didn't really think of it as going as far as it did," Blake said. "I started competing in intermediate where it's like two flips and two spins and I came back this year and did a lot more than I ever expected."
Blake competed in four competitions in 2013, and during a two-day competition in Arkansas over the summer he was able to see expert- and outlaw-level wakeboarders compete.
More importantly, he was able to scope their tricks.
"You can choose to compete in expert or the pro division, but if you don't have the tricks, you're not going to do well," he said. "(Tricks such as) 540's, Scarecrows and flips with a half turn in it - I'm starting to work on those so that I can hopefully compete in those higher levels next summer."
At a competition in August, Blake had about three solid tricks down on his wakeboard.
"He started seeing what others guys were doing and started practicing the grab and where he could, he would create a whole new trick," Stephanie said about her son. "It raised his score in Arkansas from 8,400 to an 11,100 in October."
Scores are calculated by various factors, including amplitude, difficulty and style, he said.
A trick like a 360 (a full spin around) can be made more difficult by adding a foot-grab to it. Harder tricks mean more total points.
Besides watching and talking with pros at competitions, Blake derives most of his inspiration from YouTube videos.
"That's my main source," he said about the Internet videos.
"I'm trying to compete up next year in the expert round; I was in advanced this year," Blake continued. "A lot of (competitors) are older, you don't see very many young kids doing it. There was one 8-year-old that was like crazy good."
"(The 8-year-old) got to the men's outlaw division, which is the pro division," Stephanie said. "He practices every day with his babysitter out on the lake."
The Daniels are talking about Daniel Johnson, of Mooresville, NC, who has been competing in national wakeboarding competitions since he was six against opponents that are years older.
Since Blake's strong competition in California in October, he has worked to add a 540 (full spin-and-a-half) and Scarecrow, a toeside invert Front Roll with a 180 (half a spin), to his repertoire.
In competitions, wakeboarders can pull 10 tricks Blake said, and not one can be repeated. He can only wipe out once before being disqualified.
While he felt prepared with his stock of tricks, Blake was not ready for one aspect of the California competition: the water temperature.
"They said the water was 62 degrees, but he was in full-blown shakes when he got out," Stephanie said. "It was probably 75 here and 62 there."
"You kind of just get psyched up for it," Blake said. "When you first get in the water, it's a little bit hard to handle."
Blake has introduced several of his friends to wakeboarding, including three who have competed in national competitions.
Another West student and one of his Blake's friends, Xander Mahan competed in the intermediate level and came in first place at the Bakersfield INT competition.
"We pretty much all just work together and push each other," Blake said about wakeboarding with his friends. "A lot of my friends come out there and we all ride."
Traveling to competitions has become a fun event for the Daniels. His grandparents generally drive with the gear (board, rope, jackets, boots, etc.) to the site of the competition and support Blake.
In the wakeboarding offseason, Blake plays second base for the West varsity baseball team. He has been playing the sport as long as he has been on the water.
When asked which sport he prefers, Blake stumbles on the answer.
"I have more potential (in wakeboarding)," Blake said, adding that he would like to join Texas A&M or Texas State's wakeboarding teams.
According to CollegeWakeboarding.com, A&M is ranked No. 5 in cable wakeboarding and Texas State is ranked No. 7 in boat wakeboarding.
With Blake leading the pack, the rest of the family is trying to find a way into the sport. Fourteen-year-old Bailey is a gymnast and would be a natural in the water, Stephanie said.
Also, Blake's father, J.J., is looking into competing in amateur competitions next summer.
"(Bailey's) really good at all that flipping, and J.J. was a pole vaulter," Stephanie said.
"We're just a flipping kind of family - kind of extreme," Blake said, laughing.