Colin Ryan loves the water and likes a challenge.
Those two traits were a perfect mix as Ryan grew up experimenting with different water sports at his parent's home on Gilbert Lake in Brainerd.
Ryan's mom, Mary, would spend hours in the summer pulling him and his brother Andrew around the lake. They water-skied, knee-boarded and even gave barefoot skiing a try.
But the sport the 23-year-old Ryan was drawn to the most and has now developed a passion for is wakeboarding.
"About 10 summers ago I begged my mom to buy me a wakeboard," Ryan said. "That's when wakeboarding got big. My mom and brother and I were big into water sports. We were willing to try and experiment everything out on the water."
The sport of wakeboarding has skyrocketed in popularity over the past 10 years, making it the fastest-growing watersport in the world. Wakeboarding can be compared to snowboarding as both sports use a similar style board and bindings.
Like snowboarding, wakeboarding incorporates high flying stunts, or tricks. Tricks are classified into four groups: spins, grabs, flips and mobes (a combination of a spin and flip). The Tantrum, Hoochie, Vulcan and Slurpy are just a few of the many tricks wakeboarders execute.
Athletes, who are also called riders, use a special boat that is weighted in the back to produce a large wake for riders to perform their tricks.
It was the thrill and challenge of executing the tricks that hooked Ryan on wakeboarding.
"I loved the challenge wakeboarding gave me," he said. "I progressed well at it and it came natural for me. I also like the difficulty of the tricks. I've crashed a lot and gotten injured. My dad has asked me why I still do it and no matter how bad I get hurt I keep going back because it gives me a lot of enjoyment."
"It's tough to start up in the spring and it's
hard on the body for the first month."
23-year-old Brainerd wakeboarder
His list of injuries is long. Ryan has been knocked unconscious, broken his nose, torn his groin muscle, torn ligaments in his arms and ruptured his ear drums to the point where he lost hearing for two months.
Despite the dangers, Ryan competed in about four different wakeboarding events each summer. But this summer he competed at the World Wakeboard Association Nationals Aug. 21-24 at Indianapolis, Ind.
Ryan scored a 65.56 in the semifinal round in the Men's I division and followed with a 62.78 score in the finals, good for third place.
His finish at nationals earned Ryan a trip to the WWA Wakeboard World Championship Sept. 3-Oct. 1 at Orlando, Fla. Ryan won his Men's I heat with a score of 64.78, the second best score in the semifinals. In the finals a few crashes left him in eighth place with a score of 27.22.
One of the things holding Ryan back is that he only gets to train one-third of the time that many of his competitors train.
"I compete against people that ride year round," he said. "It usually takes all summer to be consistent and get the different tricks down. It's tough to start up in the spring and it's hard on the body for the first month. It's hard for me to keep up when I'm only riding for three or four months out of the year."
Ryan, a registered nurse who lives in south Minneapolis, trained nearly every day last summer with Ben Carley of White Bear Lake. Ryan would lift weights three times a week and would run or play hockey for his cardiovascular training.
Since he graduated from Brainerd High School in 2000, Ryan has been focused on his school work and career. He graduated from St. John's University and plans to return to school and get a degree in anesthesiology.
"I haven't really competed much in the last four years because of school," said Ryan. "It's nice to see that I can compete against some of the top guys in the sport that ride year round. But my work and career are the No. 1 things in my life right now."
In Ryan's estimation, the Brainerd lakes area is a haven for wakeboarders. Jade Whirley and Stewart Sawdey are local riders with whom Ryan has spent time wakeboarding.
And, as Ryan points out, there's nothing better than being on a lake with friends and a wakeboard in hand.
"There are a lot of good wakeboarders in the Brainerd area," he said. "Brainerd is one of the most beautiful places in the world. It can't get much better than being out on the lake in the sun with your friends."
TROY GUNDERSON can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 855-5865.
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