There are few race venues that carry the prominence and promise of Lake Havasu City, Arizona. The site of nearly four decades of IJSBA World Championship races, the blue waters of Lake Havasu have seen legends born and dreams come true, heartbreaking defeats and tragic losses, rider skill that surpasses technical excellence, and innovative advances in design and mechanics that set the industry on its ear.
The 2018 IJSBA World Finals was no exception. From tuning and testing at Body Beach in late September, through the final moto on October 7th, the best of the best in the world gathered in search of bragging rights and a championship title. But the stories of Havasu go well beyond a numbered plaque. The stories are in the Journeys that bring riders – from rookies to pros, from almost-placeds to past champions – from pre-teens to veterans – from around the world to pit their skill, their courage, their persistence and their machine against the best of the best.
Havasu is the culmination of years of training, months of preparation, weeks of tuning, often days of travel, and a lifetime of aspirations for the racers that pack the lakeshores below Crazy Horse Campground. At this year’s World Finals, as always, the official action started with a slate of amateur and novice classes early in the week, with Pro-Am and Pro classes packing Friday, Saturday and Sunday with non-stop action.
While every class, and every moto, brought full-energy, high-speed battles to the intricate buoy course on Lake Havasu, there were, also as always, a number of key battles that gained even more than their equal share of excitement and attention. IJSBA promoter and announcer, Mikey Young told The Watercraft Journal, “The 38th Annual Blowsion IJSBA World Finals had a great feel to it – a reunion for some, a dream for many, and always a fun party for most! As for me, it was my 26th year and I always enjoy being around my PWC racing family and friends. We are truly blessed.”
The freestyle competition is always one of the highlights of the World Championship week, and even with the cancellation of the nighttime freestyle round under London Bridge (due to weather), this year’s freestyle competitions drew some of the largest spectator crowds and once again brought several ‘first ever” moments into play. One of those firsts was the new Junior division. Introduced last year when then-8-year-old Coy Curtis demonstrated the new Rickter junior ski, this year’s Junior Division competition proved that age (nor height!) is a limiting factor when it comes to flips and tricks.
New Junior Freestyle World Champion Gabe Jurkish is certain to be one to watch in the years to come. Pro Freestyle had its fair share of groundbreaking moments, with multi-time world champion Mark Gomez, who voluntarily took that risky first run in the first round on Saturday, opening his run with an amazing Superman barrel roll. Not to be outdone, equally-titled pro freestyler and industry legend Lee Stone followed up his 2017 groundbreaking double backflip – the first ever in a competition – with the first-ever flat water double barrel roll. Stone ended the weekend on the top podium spot in the pro division, while Evan Krefski secured the amateur championship.
In the Ski class, the Junior divisions featured the continued dominance of the Beaumer clan, with Julien “JuJu” Beaumer claiming the Amateur Ski Mod Lites championship title and the Junior Ski (13-15) championship title, as well as finishing second in the Junior (13-15) Mod Lites class – ceding that title to his older brother, Theo Beaumer, who also claimed the world champion title in the Pro Am Ski Mod Lites division.
The Pro Ski Modified line – the largest of the finals week starting lines, with 20 world-class riders angling for that all-important holeshot – included a full raft of legendary names, including Mike Klippenstein, Craig Warner, Jeremy Poret, Dustin Motzouris, and Quinetn Bossche. It was Bossche who nailed down the championship title with 1-3-1 finishes, but not without battling for it through every buoy and every lap of all three motos – the only race division to include a third moto for the championship.
In the GP Ski division, top industry names again nosed up to the starting gate, with James Wilson and Jeremy Poret looking to add to their collection of titles; however, it was Brock Austin who walked away with the overall win, coming in a solid second place in both motos. Craig Warner and Mike Klippenstein faced off again in the Pro/Am Ski Super Stock division, with Klipper claiming a solid win in the first moto, and Warner securing the win in the second moto. Warner took the top overall podium spot, with a second-place finish in moto 1, while Claudio Rivarola edged out Klippenstein for the second-place finish in moto 2.
In the Sport GP division, a familiar battle shaped up, with Dustin Farthing and Sam Nehme both looking for yet another championship title to add to their collection. In the end, it was Farthing who walked away with the title, and Tyler Hill split the pair, coming in second overall, just ahead of Nehme. On the flip side of the Sport class, the Stock division featured some of the fiercest battles of the week. Christian Daly put in a decisive overall win, with first place finishes in both motos – but those wins were nothing less than hard-fought battles around every buoy against Haden Skellett (2nd overall) and Tommy Bonacci (3rd overall).
World Finals-newbie Christian Daly, who claimed the Sport Spec World Champion explained: “The 2018 World Finals for me was an awesome first experience. I thought the event itself was efficient and organized. I was even able to bring home a world title and a moto win in Pro Sport GP. Great experience and hope to be back!” Conversely, Expert Vets Runabout World Champion, Troy Snyder said, “[The IJSBA World Finals in Lake Havasu is] the best race and race site in watercraft racing history! [It] brings some of the best in the World and scares the others away! I enjoyed this year’s Finals, winning my 4th World Title and being on the podium in another Pro class.”
Ken Waddle explained, “The World Finals in Lake Havasu has a big mystique to it. You are racing against the best of the best. Winning here takes preparation, dedication, and skill. Frankly, a lot of it can come down to pure luck. Everyone, including myself, enjoys the fierce competition and camaraderie of spending time with fellow racers from around the world.”
In the Runabout class, Mohammed Burbayea repeated his 2017 domination of the course in the GP division, while Yuki Francois (Kurahashi) repeated her 2017 top podium spot in the Women’s Runabout 1100 Stock division. Sophie Francis (3/1) secured a hard-fought overall win in the Women’s Runabout division, holding out against tough competition from 2nd-place Tammy Rarick (1/4).
Arguably the most anticipated and most fiercely fought competition of the World Championship week was the Pro/Am Runabout Stock division, where the man known most commonly as the GOAT, Chris MacClugage, nailed down his 24th world championship. But it was not a foregone conclusion, nor an easy win. Mutli-titled racer Brian Baldwin dominated the course during the first moto, pulling a definitive win, with Eric Francis securing second and Macc following in third in that first moto.
Pro/Am Runabout Stock World Champion, Chris MacClugage told us, “This year’s [Finals] was very special for me as I spent the first half of my trip filming with my jet ski hero Larry Rippenkroeger on his dream movie ‘Hot Water, the Movie.’ I was fortunate enough to double Glenn McCuen, who is the main actor in the movie. After I was done with the 5 days of filming, I picked up my family in Vegas and with their support managed to win my 24th world championship.”
All three – Baldwin, Francis and Macc – were in top form for the second moto, and it was anyone’s game to win, but – in racing, skill is paramount, quality, innovative equipment is vital, but luck plays its part, and a heaping helping of bad luck hit Baldwin midway through the second moto, sending him off the course billowing smoke, and Macc put his legendary racing skills and expertly-engineered and tuned ski to good use, taking the checkered flag in moto 2 for the overall win, with Francis taking the second podium step and Abdullah Alfadhel claiming the third spot.
38th IJSBA World Championship Podium finishes:
Novice Ski Stock: 1. Nantawat Singurai, 2. Salem Almutawa, 3. Claudio Rivarola; Novice Ski Limited: 1. Nantawat Singurai, 2. Salem Almutawa, 3. Abdulla Alhammadi; Novice Runabout Stock: 1. Abdullah Alghanim, 2. Manea Almarzoogi, 3. Khaliad Almazmi; Novice Runabout NA Stock: 1. Eduardo Lopez, 2. Rashed Alrashed, 3. Darcinei Rodrigues; Amateur Runabout 1100 Limited: 1. Tossawanon Phuearphong, 2. Roseina Brabham, 3. James Alamillo; Amateur Vet Ski Stock: 1. Laurent Boucher, 2. Philippe Dufaud, 3. Derek Powell; Amateur Runabout Limited: 1. Yamya Rammah, 2. Suphathat Footrakul, 3. Khaliad Almazmi; Amateur Runabout 1100 SS: 1. Teerapat Meechai, 2. Theerapong Pimpawat, 3. Supak Settura; Amateur Ski Mod Lites: 1. Julien Beaumer, 2. Revin Harris Gilbert, 3. Corban Farnley; Amateur Women Ski Lites: 1. Stevie Bascom, 2. Alexandria Benson, 3. Aryana Thayer; Amateur Ski Lites: 1. Dag Martin, 2. Brady Courson, 3. Lucy Gadsby; Expert Vets Runabout: 1. Troy Snyder, 2. Ali Allanjawi, 3. Rick Kantola; Master Ski Stock: 1. Philippe Dufaud, 2. Laurent Boucher, 3. Yuji Shiroki; Sport Spec: 1. Christian Daly, 2. Haden Skellett, 3. Tommy Bonacci; Classic Ski 2 Stroke LTD: 1. Tallon Chambers, 2. Ben Morris, 3. Davi Prado; Expert Ski Modified: 1. Alec Enderli, 2. Ou Moeut Saly, 3. Preston Matzdorff; Junior Ski 10-12 Lites: 1. Theodor Liseth, 2. Coy Curtis, 3. Taylor Skellett; Expert Runabout Super Stock: 1. Rashed Aldawas, 2. Adulrahman Alomar, 3. Permpon Teerapatpanich; Master Ski GP: 1. Daniel Martinelli, 2. Rick Kantola, 3. Pradit Buri; Women’s Runabout: 1. Sophie Francis, 2. Tammy Rarick, 3. Andrea Dominguez; Junior 13-15 Mod Lites: 1. Theo Beaumer, 2. Julien Beaumer, 3. Revin Harris; Pro/Am Runabout Stock: 1. Chris MacClugage, 2. Eric Francis, 3. Abdullah Alfadhel; Junior Ski 10-12 Stock: 1. Sebastian Girello, 2. Jay Finlinson, 3. Theodor Liseth; Vintage X2: 1. Hayden Item, 2. Daniel Ortega, 3. Nicholas Gargaro; Womens Runabout 1100 Stock: 1. Yuki Francois (kurahashi), 2. Melody Lattes, 3. Sachiko Inoue; Pro/Am Women Ski: 1. Emma-Nellie, 2. Emi Tanaka, 3. Emi Kanamori; GP Runabout: 1. Mohammed Burbayea, 2. Mohammad Albaz, 3. Oraphan Teerapatpanich; Pro Ski Modified: 1. Quinten Bossche, 2. Maurin Raphael, 3. Kevin Reiterer; Vintage Ski: 1. Rob Flores, 2. Bryson Olson, 3. Dan Fitzgerald; Pro Runabout: 1. Mohammad Albaz, 2. Mohammed Burbayea, 3. Marcus Jorgensen; GP Ski: 1. Brock Austin, 2. James Wilson, 3. Jeremy Poret; Pro/Am Runabout 1100 Super Stock: 1. Eric Lagopoulos, 2. Supak Settura, 3. Jayme Cheney; Pro/Am Ski Stock: 1. Preston Matzdorff, 2. Maurin Raphael, 3. Mike Klippenstein; Pro/Am Runabout 1100 Stock: 1. Permpon Teerapatpanich, 2. Suphathat Footrakul, 3. Eric Lagopoulos; Runabout 1100 Open: 1. Supak Settura, 2. Eric Lagopoulos, 3. Permpon Teerapatpanich; Sport GP Slalom: 1. Permpon Teerapatpanich, 2. Teerapong Khunjeng, 3. Tossawanon Phuearphong; Runabout Open Slalom: 1. Marcus Jorgensen, 2. Jonathan Ariel, 3. Daniell Wagner; Ski Modified Slalom: 1. Stian Schjetlein, 2. Corban Farnley, 3. Jesse Dirnberger; 4-Stroke Ski Stock Slalom: 1. Benjamin Scharff, 2. Phil Segers, 3. Emma-Nellie; Pro Runabout Super Stock: 1. Waleed Alsharshani, 2. Mohammed Burbayea, 3. Mohammad Albaz; Pro/Am Ski Super Stock: 1. Craig Warner, 2. Mike Klippenstein, 3. Claudio Rivarola; Sport GP: 1. Dustin Farthing, 2. Tyler Hill, 3. Sam Nehme; Amateur Runabout 1100 Stock: 1. Teerapat Meechai, 2. Pradit Buri, 3. Seojin Yang; Amateur Ski GP: 1. Alec Enderli, 2. Brady Courson, 3. Daniel Martinelli; Amateur Runabout 1100 Super Stock: 1. Teerapat Meechai, 2. Pradit Buri, 3. Seojin Yang; Junior Ski 13-15 Stock: 1. Julien Beaumer, 2. Nantawat Singurai, 3. Abdulla Alhammadi; Pro/Am Ski Mod Lites: 1. Theo Beaumer, 2. Alec Enderli, 3. Brock Austin; Pro/Am Runabout Limited: 1. Marcus Jorgensen, 2. Waleed Alsharshani, 3. Troy Snyder; Pro/Am Runabout NA Stock: 1. Adulrahman Alomar, 2. Rashed Aldawas, 3. Nick Leseney; Pro/Am Runabout Limited: 1. Marcus Jorgensen, 2. Waleed Alsharshani, 3. Troy Snyder; Runabout Endurance: 1. Filipe Filipe, 2. Aqsa Aswar, 3. Aero Aswar; Pro Freestyle: 1. Lee Stone, 2. Christopher Anyzeski, 3. Taiji Yamamoto; Junior Freestyle: 1. Gabe Jurkish, 2. Akin Nitatcharoen; Amateur Freestyle: 1. Evan Krefski, 2. Brad Turnbloom, 3. Jordan Aspinall