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Pro Wakeboard Tour splashes into Utah

MANTUA, Box Elder County — For the first time in its 25-year history, the Supra Boats Pro Wakeboard Tour is making a stop in Utah. The tour, which features professional wakeboarders and wakesurfers hitting the wake to spin, flip and perform tricks, will be held at Mantua Reservoir on Saturday, June 24, from 10:45 a.m. until 4 p.m.

“The Salt Lake City area is home to a huge contingent of wake sports fans, so we’re really excited to bring the Supra Boats Pro Wakeboard Tour to them for the first time ever,” Rick Tinker, president of Supra Boats, said in a press release.

The Mantua stop is the second of four stops on the 2017 Supra Boats Pro Wakeboard Tour, with the first stop in Birmingham, Alabama, the third in Colorado Springs, and the last stop in West Chester, Ohio.

Sixteen pro wakeboarders will compete at Mantua on Saturday for the top spots on the tour rankings. Three judges will evaluate each rider's run, giving the run a score from 1 to 10. Each run is evaluated using the DRIVE criteria, which assess difficulty, risk in the run, intensity, variety and execution.

After the Birmingham stop, Australian Harley Clifford, who sustained a season-ending injury in 2016, is in first place, earning a score of 97.17 out of 100 in the final heat in Birmingham.

Clifford, 23, started wakeboarding at age 5 and went pro at 14.

“Ever since day one, I wanted to be a pro wakeboarder, so I started wakeboarding and I always looked up to pro wakeboarders,” Clifford said. “By the time I was 9, I was on my way to being a pro wakeboarder.”

Clifford is a four-time Pro Wakeboard Tour champion, winning in 2009, 2012, 2014 and 2015; he loves being on tour.

“Just getting to travel to awesome places around the world with some of my best friends,” Clifford said. “Just the fact that I get to do what I love, and it’s my living.”

It’s not going to be all smooth sailing to a fifth championship for Clifford, with several wakeboarders jockeying for the 2017 championship. One athlete that poses a threat to Clifford is up-and-comer Nic Rapa, the 2016 Rookie of the Year, sitting in fifth place in the standings.

For Rapa, the transition from recreational wakeboarding to doing it professionally has been a rewarding one.

“The transition was just how competitive it (professional wakeboarding) is. It’s way more competitive obviously, now that I’m doing this as a profession, so for me, this is my livelihood,” Rapa said.

For Rapa, the best part about being on the tour is being around his friends.

“The best thing about being on this tour is that I get to hang out with all my really good friends all the time and it’s just a really cool vibe,” Rapa said. “It’s just a really good time, I get to see new places and meet fans, meet new people, so really just a win-win. I’m getting to experience different states and meet new people and really showcase our sport in its best live.”