11-year-old wakeboarder Norman loves the sport

Published 8:38 pm Friday, August 13, 2010

Jake Norman speaks a language that not many 11 year old kids understand.

Fakie, mobe, olé, off-axis spin, switchstance and toeside are words that won’t be in a sixth-grade spelling book but Jake knows them all.

The words are wakeboard terms and Jake is all about wakeboarding. He was introduced to the surface water sport six years ago when his friend, Colton Meeks, invited him to go knee boarding at Gantt Lake.

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“Knee boarding is fun and I like it a lot, but I like wakeboarding better,” Jake said. “In kneeboarding you ride behind a boat on your knees on a big, wide board. A wakeboard is longer and skinny and you ride standing up. I decided that wakeboarding was what I wanted to get really good at.”

Jake had good teachers in his dad, Wes, and Colton’s dad, Wesley. He was a good student and took the bumps and bruises all in stride.

He was a dedicated student of the sport and worked hard to improve his technique and to develop a bag of tricks. He attended wakeboarding camps in Florida and Louisiana and improved to the point that he thought he was ready to compete in wakeboarding tournaments.

This summer he competed in the INT Amateur Tour that includes wakeboard, waterski, skate and kneeboard events.

“There were six wakeboard tournaments, and you score points and the one with the most points would get to compete in the US Championships in Orlando,” Jake said. “The competitions were at Lay Lake, Smith Lake and Lake Tholloco at Fort Rucker.”

Jake trained hard for the events by learning new tricks and tricks that would score the most points.

“You get 350 or 400 points for the easy tricks and most of the time you won’t fall doing those,” he said. “But the tricks with high points, like the Ollie 360, are real hard and you fall a lot. But you can’t win the tournaments doing easy tricks. You have to go for it. But you only get one fall. On the next fall, you’re out. That makes you kind of jittery.”

Jake explained that when wakeboarding the rider catches the waves of the motorboat that is speeding along at 22-24 miles per hour.

“In the tournaments, you have 40 seconds down and 40 seconds back and you have to do six tricks down and six tricks back,” Jake said. “The first time I competed on the INT Amateur Tour I had the jitters. My stomach felt weird and I felt sick and worried. I didn’t know anybody in the Novice Junior Division and nobody was talking to me.”

But Jake’s family was there to support him, his dad, Wes, his mom, Tisha and his sister Abby. They all wakeboard so, for them, the surface water sport is a family affair.

“In that first tournament, I fell and then I fell again,” Jake said. “So I was out of the tournament. I was sad that I hadn’t done good. But the next day I won the tournament. So I knew I could do good.”

Jake said the tournaments are fun and exciting but he still gets a little nervous before he competes.

“Before all the tournaments, we have prayer and the Pledge of Allegiance and that helps stop my stomach from jumping,” Jake said, with a smile. “Then they have the boats come across carrying the American Flag. All of that gets me excited and ready to compete.”

The more he practiced and the more he competed, the more confidence he gained in his ability on the board. And, the more confidence he gained, the more difficult tricks he tried.

The novice list of Entro tricks includes 500 pointers like the half crab, the roast beef and the Indy Stiffy. The toe-side back roll isn’t on the list for Jake’s division of the INT but he’s working on it.

“It’s one of those tricks where your feet are above your head,” he said. “I’ve held it for three seconds but I’ve crashed, too. Crashing hurts.”

Jake wears a helmet and a life jacket because there are successful tricks and some that fall apart and that’s when the fun stops – but just momentarily.

“It does hurt when you crash but that’s part of wakeboarding,” Jake said with a smile.

As Jake competed on the INT Amateur Tour, he developed strong friendship with other competitors.

“They all like wakeboarding as much as I do and we call each other and talk about what we are doing and about new tricks we are trying,” Jake said.

“I like having friends to talk to about wakeboarding and we like competing against each other. That makes us try harder.”

When the INT tournament season ended last weekend, Jake’s point total was the highest in the state in the Junior Novice Division and he will compete in the INT League US Championships in Orlando in October.

“I’m excited about the Championships and I’m practicing hard because I want to do my best to represent Alabama,” Jake said.

“Wakeboarders from 35 states will be there so I’ll have to do tricks that count a lot of points if I want to win. I don’t think I’ll have the jitters but I’ll be excited. It will be fun.”

Jake is a student at Pike Liberal Arts and he likes all sports but he is going to concentrate on wakeboarding.

“I’d like to go pro in wakeboarding but, when I’m about 17 years old, I want to follow in the footsteps of my dad and my granddad and join the National Guard,” he said. “I want to serve my country like they did. But, I can do that and wakeboard, too. That’s what I want to do.”