Gallery: 2018 Pro Watercross World Championships in Naples, FL

The grounds of Sugden Regional Park in Naples, Florida erupted with traffic almost overnight. The normally placid shores of the shorelined park buzzed with moving trucks, crews erecting scaffolding, bleachers and marking off the buoy course. The annual Pro Watercross World Championships had returned. Although the jet ski racing would officially begin November 1st and last until the afternoon of Sunday, the 4th, the event began over a week earlier (October 26-28th) with the Hydroflight freestyle championships.

Spectators and film crews were wowed with flips, spins, dives, and more aerial acrobatics in fine fashion. Meanwhile, between October 27th and October 31st, the Pro Watercross event hosted the SUPcross, Hydro Expo and MotoSurf World Cup, welcoming standup paddle board athletes and jet-powered surfboard races, which has exponentially grown in both participation and public appeal in recent years. Albeit exciting in its own right, all of this was preamble for the main event.

Hundreds of racers flanked by their respective crews and families poured in, the parking lots and grounds filling with multi-colored rigs and vibrantly-wrapped enclosed trailers. In addition to its own live feed broadcasting, camera crews from local newspapers and television stations began staking out desirable locations from which to film from. For Sunday’s “Pro Show,” CBS Sports Network rolled in, setting up $100,000 high definition cameras from which to broadcast with. The energy was palpable.

The singular thrum of energy circled around local hero Erminio Iantosca, a hometown Sea-Doo X-Team racer, who several months after losing his father, was competing for glory in the Runabout GP and Pro Stock classes. Iantosca started the weekend with a large target painted on his back, as he was the returning GP champion, having won it the year before. With six world championships under his belt, Iantosca was no stranger to pressure. Aboard a stealth-black Sea-Doo RXP-X, Iantosca beat back the limited field of contenders earning his second consecutive championship in the top tier class.

Sunday’s Pro Runabout Stock class would prove much more difficult. Facing off against 2017’s World Champion, Brian Baldwin and former Naples resident Chris MacCluggage, both riding carefully-honed Yamaha GP1800’s, Iantosca was in tight contention with Baldwin, after a mechanical issue plagued Macc right out of the gate. Baldwin had won the first race of the day, putting him close behind Iantosca heading into Moto 3 and on pace to take over Iantosca. The two fought hardscrabble, narrowing in on each other with every passing buoy. It was, fatefully, a drag race down the final stretch that put Iantosca just ahead of Baldwin, earning his second title in as many days.

Drawing all eyes to the shore of Lake Avalon was Pro Freestyle 1200, Chris Anyzeski retained his undefeated title with a wild array of aerial tricks and dizzying backflips, beating out Ryan Doberstein who put on a strong performance but not enough to unseat Anyzeski. Another impressive performance came from Cameron Frame who boarded a turbocharged Yamaha EX built by Kommander Industries and swept the IROC GP. The Kommander team fared quite well this weekend, as Quinten Bossche became the new world champion in Pro Ski Modified.

Of course, the big win went to Kommander’s own team captain, Dustin Motzouris aboard his arm-stretching Kommander-built GP1 standup in the Pro-Am GP Ski class, who also destroyed the lineup with a blistering 3-out-of-3 holeshots that weekend. In an equally impressive feat, Richard Taylor – flanked by friends Jeremy Schandelmayer and Don Anderson (among a few others) – built what Jeremy has called a “Sea-Doo FrankenSki” to rise above the ranks of frankly a massive field of contenders to clench the Sport GP world championship. Equally, Sammy Nehme represented the Broward Motorsports team strong by winning the Junior 10-12 World Championship title.

In Novice Sport, Rylee O’Flaherty battled back Broward team racer Jessica Milone to grab her first World Championship title, the two giving the crowd an awesome bit of excitement out on the water. And that’s how the weekend’s racing went: pure excitement and fantastic sportsmanship. The evening’s award ceremony was a great endcap to the season as racers were able to express their gratitude to the Pro Watercross team, their sponsors, families and teammates. So as the year draws to a close, many are already gearing up for 2019 where big news and talk of changes to the series are bound to bring all the more excitement.

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Kevin Shaw

Editor-in-Chief – Kevin Shaw is a decade-long powersports and automotive journalist whose love for things that go too fast has led him to launching The Watercraft Journal. Almost always found with stained hands and dirt under his fingernails, Kevin has an eye for the technical while keeping a eye out for beautiful photography and a great story.

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