Nine-year-old Lake Utopia summer resident wins world Jr. Boys Beginner wakeboarding title for Canada

Utopia – You may remember hearing about Sander Abony last year. The nine-year-old, who usually spends his summers at Lake Utopia, won second place in the nine and under category at the Nautique WWA Wakeboard & Wake Park World Championships, which was held in Mexico. Well, Abony is still competing, and this year he has placed first in his age division while competing for Canada.

“Sander competes for Canada. So, he was sent on behalf of Canada, and it was a really great event, put on by the Nautique boat company and the World Wakeboarding Association,” said Lorne Abony, Sander’s father.

Abony said he competed twice at this year’s world championships, and he got first place both times. He said he had already qualified to be in the semi-finals because he won second place last year, and he had to compete against four other people.

“You had to go against them, and then you get to go in the finals,” said Abony.

Although he lives in Texas, Abony was able to compete for Canada because both his parents are Canadian. Lorne said they usually spend their summers in Utopia, but they were unable to do so this year due to COVID-19. They hope they will be able to return to Charlotte County next year.

“He trains on Lake Utopia,” said Lorne. “We would have been there all summer, but because of COVID we couldn’t come at all. But, he learned how to wakeboard in Utopia. He basically goes every day, all day. It’s a great sport. Lake Utopia is a great place to train. It’s a beautiful, huge lake, and there’s not a lot of boats. We look forward to hopefully getting back there next summer.”

Abony, who lives in Austin nine or 10 months out of the year, had to do a bit of traveling in order to train for this year’s competition. At just nine-years-old, he traveled, alone, to Michigan and Florida so he could train with some of the best wakeboarders in the world.

“I trained a lot,” said Abony. “I traveled by myself to Orlando and Michigan to train, and I stayed with the coach. It was fun.”

Lorne said it was a difficult choice to make to allow his son to travel alone, but he loves the sport, and in order to be able to train with top coaches, travel was necessary.

“It was very nerve-wracking seeing your son handed off at the airport to travel alone,” said Lorne. “But, he really wanted to do it and he was really committed to his training. I feel as a parent it’s my job to feed that. So, he wanted to train with the best in the world. They don’t live in Austin, so we sent him to go train with them.”

In a nutshell, wakeboarding is kind of a cross between snowboarding and water skiing. You are using a board similar to a snowboard, while holding on to a tow rope and doing various tricks. This isn’t a sport for everyone, but Abony has loved it since he first tried it about three years ago.

“I started when I was six,” said Abony. “I tried it and I loved it. You basically are on this snowboard. You’re using this kind of snowboard that can float on the water.”

Lorne said a wakeboarding competition is very similar to figure skating or gymnastics. Competitors are judged on two things, the difficulty of their tricks, and whether or not they are able to complete the trick.

“You can do a triple salchow in figure skating, but if you fall it’s useless,” said Lorne. “You do 10 tricks, and each trick’s worth 10 points. Sander got 90, which is his highest score ever. You get judged on 10 tricks, and the judgment is based on two factors, difficulty of the trick and execution of the trick.

“He works on his own as a comp run or competition run. He practices and practices and practices. He immediately qualified for the semi-finals because last year he was second in the world. He won the second semi-final heat, and then won his final heat with the same comp run.”

The Nautique WWA Wakeboard & Wake Park World Championships was supposed to take place in Mexico again this year, but Lorne believes COVID changed that plan. The competition was moved to Georgia this year, and was held in August rather than in October like last year.

“Because of COVID, they moved the worlds. The worlds were scheduled to be in Mexico in October. They moved the worlds to Callaway, Georgia,” said Lorne.

Abony has every intention of competing for Canada again next year. His father said they are not sure if they will keep him in the nine and under division, or if they will have him age up. Because he will still be nine years old as of January 1, 2021, he will be able to continue competing in that category next year. Either way, we all look forward to seeing Abony bring home another win for Canada by doing what he does best, wakeboarding.

sarigreen@stcroixcourier.ca