Pinckney native and world-class wakeboarder Mike Dowdy is vigorously preparing for the debut of the MasterCraft Throwdown in Grand Rapids. When the event premieres at Millennium Park on Saturday, August 8th, it will represent the first time wakeboarding has been featured as an official sport of the X Games franchise since 2005. The event will air live at 2:30 p.m. on ABC in a World of X Games television special.
Aside from the wakeboarding component of the event, the MasterCraft Throwdown will also showcase ski-jumping legend Freddy Krueger as he attempts to break the world Skifly record of 299 feet. To break the existing mark, he'll need to jump the equivalent of a football field, from goal line to goal line.
If you're new to the sport of wakeboarding, or completely clueless about it, you may need some extra encouragement to get over to Millennium Park on August 8th to take in the spectacle. Fortunately, Mike is here to get you motivated. With his help, we've put together a list of five things you need to know about the MasterCraft Throwdown so that you can fully appreciate what's happening out on the water.
1. It Features The Best Of The Best
A standard competition involving world-class wakeboarders features 30 competitors; this event features only eight, but they just happen to be the eight best wakeboarders in the world today. That elevates this competition to the level of a world championship event. And, if the competitive angle to the Mastercraft Throwdown isn't enough to spur your interest, Mike and his fellow athletes are competing with $25 thousand on the line, which is the largest cash prize in the history of competitive wakeboarding.
"This is one of the biggest events of the season, and these eight guys competing are the best in the world at the moment," Mike said. "There definitely isn’t another event offering a 25 grand cash prize, and with it being a part of the World of X Games Series and with it being on ABC, it’s a huge deal, and I’m just really happy to be a part of it."
2. It Is A Grueling Competition
Aside from the money, the MasterCraft Throwdown is about being the best to this hyper-competitive field of wakeboarders. Victory will come to the man who manages to win three consecutive, single-elimination rounds, so the champion must manage to conquer both his nerves and his adversaries, and neither of the battles is easily won.
"You definitely still get nervous," Mike explained. "Everyone deals with fear and nerves when they're out riding, but you just have to block it out and focus on all the things that are going right. You have to stay focused on your game plan and that’s all you can do. You don’t really have any power over whether you win or lose. You can do the best run of your life, but if the judges don’t like it then the judges don’t like it. You just have to focus on your run and do your thing."
3. It Takes Your Entire Life To Get There
While wakeboarding may look like a lot of fun, and it undoubtedly is, it's also a sport that takes a very long time to master. So, when you see a 21-year-old kid like Mike out on the water displaying his unbelievable aquatic skill set, don't assume he's doing it all on natural ability. Okay, Mike's natural ability has plenty to do with it, but I think we'd all agree training as a wakeboarder for more than a decade has a lot more to do with it.
"Wakeboarding is the same as any other sport; it takes a lot of your hard work and a lot of your time," Mike said. "I’ve been doing this since I was eight years old, and I’m 21 now, so I’ve been doing this for well over half my life. It takes a lot of patience, and you just keep setting goals and achieving those goals, and then setting new ones. You just keep focusing on progression."
4. There Are No Shortcuts To The Top
If professional wakeboarding sounds like a sport that any aquatically-inclined athlete can master after a few spring breaks and summers at the family lake house, then you've clearly never seen professional wakeboarding. The tricks are impressive because the competitors train themselves to perform the tricks as if their livelihoods depend on it, because they do. This means countless hours spent training on and off the water, and even specialized coaching.
"Training consists of a lot of going to the gym," Mike explained. "I go to the gym three times a week during the offseason, and during the offseason I’m also out riding about ten times a week for 20 minutes to an hour, so it’s a lot of hard work. I have a coach that I work with on occasion, but I don’t get coached much anymore. Sometimes it’s just easier to have someone on the outside looking in giving me advice and telling me things that they notice. So coaching isn’t something that’s necessary, but it is something that can be beneficial."
5. Home State Advantage Can Help
Mike was fortunate to grow up in a home right on Portage Lake in Pinckney, which gave him plenty of opportunities to hone his wakeboarding talents. Although it may seem trivial in the midst of a competition viewed by millions on network television, being permitted to play the role of home-state hero isn't lost on Mike, and he will derive added motivation from some familiar faces in the crowd.
"There is definitely a home state advantage for me," Mike stated. "I went to the competition in Michigan two years ago and it was so good to have my family there and my girlfriend and her parents. To have your family there supporting you is huge. I definitely see myself at the top of this group of competitors. I have the tricks to do really well at the contest, so if I can stay focused and not get ahead of myself, it should be a pretty good time."
So remember to be at Millennium Park on Saturday, August 8th to cheer on Mike and the rest of the wakeboarders participating in the MasterCraft Throwdown, and also to enjoy the added treat of a concert courtesy of Kip Moore, the platinum country recording artist.