Words By: Drew Danielo

A few months back I was asked to go to Minnesota for the Minnesota Wake Surfing Championships and to spend time with Wake For Warriors. Once I heard Wake For Warriors it was a quick yes for me. I flew in on Thursday evening and met Shawn Watson and Jodi Grassman at the airport. We grabbed the rental and headed for the Wake For Warrior house on the lake. We arrived and after quick introductions we were loading up the boat and headed out for a shred. Our Warriors, Stephan, Tony and Doug were all wore out from a full day of riding already. The three of us jumped in and knocked off the airplane bugs. We also met Knoxville. He is Stephans amazing dog. You can see Stephan wake surfing with Knox on the Wake For warrior Instagram. After we rode we headed over to Fletchers on the lake for dinner and to help the Wiggle Your Toes fund raiser. Then it was off to the hotel for an early morning start.

Friday we started the day off going to ride behind a 70′ shuttle boat on the lake. “The Paradise Destiny” looked promising. But with the flat bottom we realized the wake in the back was smaller and not very long. But I quickly noticed the wave coming off the bow was larger and looked ridable. So we A framed it up with the Nautique G25 was and surfed the bow roller on the big boat. After this we spent the day riding with Tony, Doug, Stephan and many other Marine Max Nautique customers. Watching the excitement from these guys riding was so inspiring. After every fall or attempt at getting up the entire boat would throw there hands in the air and shout out “AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA”. Doug had never ridden behind a boat before. Thursday he struggled to get on the board and get going. But he fought and mastered it. Friday he continued pushing to figure it out and was cruising without the rope by the end of the day. Stephan was cruising on every board in the boat and successfully nailed a couple 360′s. Tony enjoyed wake boarding. So he was on the long line and cruising around riding doubles with Shawn Watson. At one point Shawn even threw a big Indy Tantrum over Tony. We spent the entire day on the water with crew and just had fun.

Saturday was the big day. The Minnesota Wake surf Championships at Surfside Park. One thing that you instantly notice was that Phase 5 is very well represented by our dealers in Minnesota. This is a grass roots event and had one of the largest crowds I have ever seen. Andy Weigman who is the event organizer knows how to throw a contest. Vendors every where. We had the Spirit of the Lakes festival tied in with it so live music, the jumbotron on the beach for the spectators and long list of riders in every division. I was lucky enough to judge the adaptive division and it was extremely humbling to watch these guys and girls tear it up with the biggest smiles. We had 11 riders in the adaptive division. We had riders that were Marines, Army, Navy and Air Force. We had riders who were injured in boating accidents, we had X-Games adaptive medal winners, We had para-olympic medal winners. All of them went out charging. This group had no limits. They charged forward and didn’t let anything stop them. Doug (who just learned Thursday and Friday how to wakesurf) went about 1/2 his first pass with no rope cruising in the wave. On his second pass while holding the rope and yelled “Drew I want to do a transfer”. I said “Lets do it. You count down and we will hit the button and switch the Nautique’s NSS”. With some heavy metal music playing Doug held his hand high in the air and started with 3 fingers, then 2 fingers and then 1. We hit the NSS, the wake started shifting and there was Doug high on the middle of the wake and then riding down the opposite side like he had done it 1000 times. Well I thought I was fired up, Then Doug threw his hand in the air with 3 fingers and successfully transferred 3 more times. It was absolutely amazing to see these riders throwing it down.

At the end of the day the pro division rode. We all went out and it was the battle of the tonka chop. There was 2′ rollers going every direction. Jodi Grassman battled through it to take the women’s pro win. I didn’t fair so well. The never change your plan to the conditions mentality struck again. But Cole Sorenson and Casey Pflipsen both rode great and took 1st and 2nd place. We wrapped up the contest with the awards ceremony. The contest was huge success.

After the event we went back to the WFW house and had a little 3 on 3 Basketball game with the guys. We sat around and ate pizza and shared funny stories form the weekend. There are a number of reasons I will not forget this weekend. It reminded me the reason I started wake surfing. It is fun. It is not about what place you take, or who did what trick. It is about being on the water with friends and family and laughing, joking, making fun of each other some times and sharing in the love of watersports. The contest was a breath of fresh air as well. Worst conditions ever and not 1 person complained about the water conditions or how they rode. Everyone came into shore with a huge smile on their face and a funny story about getting taken out by the chop. And the biggest thing is that it helped me put my own life into perspective. We get wrapped up in the day to day life and the little inconvenieces we face. Here I was surrounded by guys that have had some major life changing events happen. Some of those while they were protecting our country and our rights. And they didn’t complain about anything. They were extremely thankful for our time we spent to help them wakesurf. Well Tony, Doug, Stephan and Dave, I tip my hat to you guys over and over again for the sacrifices you have made for myself and our country. I will always be thankful that our paths crossed this weekend and I look forward to many more weekends with you guys in the water. And Doug we will have an alligator hunt in the near future my friend.

Special thanks to Andy Weigman for organizing all of this and calling me to be involved. Dave who is the founder of Wake for Warriors and one of the most selfless people I have met. Billy and Jay for your continued support for Dave and Wake for Warriors. Tony, Stephan and Doug for all the good laughs we shared this weekend. Nautique boats for your support of myself and for supporting Wake For Warriors. And last Phase 5 Wakesurfers. Without the support of you guys over the past 19 years I would not be in the position I am to have these incredible opportunities.

If you would like more info on Wake for Warriors please click here.

If you want to help, you can donate Here. Know that 100% your gift will be put to great use as we host several wounded veterans and their families all year long.
Be on the lookout for info about the custom Phase 5 Wake for Warriors edition Hammerhead I will be auctioning off at the US Nationals with 100% of the proceeds going to Wake For Warriors.


Here are a bunch of pictures in no order. Enjoy

























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