Boarding School: Wake Devils Reaching Rarified Air

They have the longest practice commute of any Arizona State team but you’ll never hear any of them complaining.

After spending an afternoon with them it’s easy to see why.

How many student-athletes spend their mornings on the lake before returning to campus for classes?

If you haven’t heard about the ASU Wakedevils, you will.

Especially if they continue to stack national championships as they’ve done the past two years.

The 35-member wakeboarding team works constantly during their split season, using Cave Creek’s Bartlett Lake as their practice grounds. Like lacrosse, wakeboarding is a club sport with no scholarships given but the team is supported through sponsorships from Hyperlite Wake, Boulder Boats, Elevated Clothing, Rockstar Energy, Jet Pilot, Liquid Therapy, Ossur Medical Group and others.

Each rider is responsible to cover equipment costs (usually $700-$800), as well as travel expenses to events. The Wakedevils have recently competed in tournaments in Texas, California, Florida, Washington and Minnesota. Some of the better wakeboarding schools include Rollins College (FL), Texas A&M, Chico State, Central Washington and South Florida. ASU defeated USF two years ago and Rollins this past April for their second national title in the program’s fourth year of existence.

Riders are judged in competition by a panel from Empire Wake. The larger degree of difficulty, the higher the payoff. Boarders average between 10 to 15 tricks per competition.

Just like in other sports there is injury risk which couples with the rewards of success, especially traveling behind a boat traveling speeds close to 25 miles-per-hour.

“I’ve taken some hard falls,” senior Andrew Shrank explained to Sports360AZ.com. “If you land stiff-legged you could hurt some joints in your legs. I’ve partially torn my MCL. Some other falls you can take are back-edge catches. You’ll slap the water with your head. Those can lead to concussions.”

When practicing at Bartlett (usually Wednesday’s and occasionally on weekends), boats are leased from the lake and riders split the gas costs per session depending on how long they’re on the water and how many people are riding that particular day.

“After you warm up you practice your [competition] runs, getting ready for the competitions,” senior R.J. Pabon said of their usual Bartlett routine. “After comp season you’re out here to learn new tricks…as you learn new tricks you change your comp run up.”

Back-to-back titles have raised the bar of expectations for this team which continues to grow in popularity. The Wakedevils understand there is plenty of work to be done in hopes of three-peating but the foundation has been laid by the young tradition and endless work ethic established by those before them.

“You definitely have to have some motivated riders which we got this year,” junior Greg Crusco told Sports360AZ.com after a recent practice. “Getting out on the lake with everyone who wants to get better. That’s the best part about it.”