PROFILE — Albertan farm boy wins at World Wake Surfing Championship
Teen practiced on lakes until they froze over
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Keegan Hodgson came first in the Outlaw Male Surf category at the World Wake Surfing Championships, which is a step above amateur wake surfing and just under pro competition. (Image credit: CBC News)
Claim to fame
If you want to get good at water sports, it helps to live in a place where it’s warm enough to be in the water all year round.
But for wake surfer Keegan Hodgson, who lives on a farm in rural Alberta, getting good meant five hours of practice a day in a lake, even on chilly days.
Sometimes he didn’t leave the water until his legs were beet red from the cold.
Last month, the 16-year-old farm boy came first in the Outlaw Male Surf category at the 2020 World Wake Surfing Championship in Vernon, B.C.
"Mentally, I visualize my run.… I knew this was it, this was what I worked for all season, knew that I wanted to win the world championship." - Keegan Hodgson, 16
His win is especially impressive considering he lives in an area where bodies of water — and warm months of the year — are limited.
Wake surfing basics
In wake surfing, wake surfers hold onto a rope attached to a moving boat to gain momentum, then let go of the rope and ride the waves created in the boat's wake.
Keegan, who has only been competing in world competitions since 2018, hones his wake surf skills on bodies of water like Dickson Dam, located about 15 minutes from his family's farm in Olds. (Image credit: Monty Kruger/CBC)
They use wakeboards — which are shorter and squatter than surfboards — to perform tricks while riding the waves.
Because of COVID-19, athletes couldn’t gather in the same place for this year’s World Wake Surfing Championship.
Instead, Keegan and other Canadian athletes met in Vernon, B.C., to compete. Athletes in places like Japan and Russia also met in central locations.
Competitors from across the world submitted 45-second videos showing their best run to the judges.
To secure his win, Keegan landed tricks involving spins or rotations, which are called shoves. At one point, he even turned his back to the wave.
Keegan’s three biggest moves included the 3 shove, front shove and air 180 shove. (Image submitted by Nicole Hudson)
After a long time spent waiting for judges to sift through all the videos, Keegan heard the news of his win while surrounded by family and friends at his aunt's house.
"It was just an amazing feeling when we saw my name come up in first place," he said. "Everybody had great runs, but I just managed to pull it out."
Although Keegan doesn’t yet know what his future looks like in wake surfing, his coach says he has huge potential and that the next move is to compete at a professional level.
CORRECTION: In the original version of this story, we said that wake surfers hold onto a rope as they surf. This was incorrect. Surfers hold onto a rope initially to gain momentum, but then let go of the rope once they build up enough speed. The error has been fixed.
With files from Jennifer Dorozio/CBC
TOP IMAGE CREDIT: Submitted by Nicole Hudson