Originally created 07/21/02

Wakeboarding gives pole vaulter acrobatic outlet



Chase Andrews is an adept pole vaulter, enough that he thinks the sport will pay his way through college.

But make no mistake - Andrews loves vaulting himself over wakes on a sunny day more than else.

"I just love wakeboarding," said Andrews, a 17-year-old from Duluth, Ga., who is competing in the Georgia Games Championships on the Savannah River. "Just being out there on the lake, the atmosphere of it - being by yourself, getting big air, having fun with all your friends - is the best."

Watersports are in Andrews' blood. His parents, Ted and Betty Andrews, are professional show skiers who used to perform with Callaway Gardens.

Andrews took up skiing 13 years ago and became curious about wakeboarding when he was 11. His mother said he was natural at it, having been a gymnast when he was younger.

Still, it took awhile - 100 falls, his mother said - before he landed his first flip.

Andrews has come a long way since then. Last week, he won a tournament in Marietta, Ga., and the victory could eventually lead to sponsorships - a stamp of legitimacy for competitive wakeboarders.

Andrews said he's begun to notice a big difference in his ability during the past year.

"All the stuff comes natural to me," said Andrews, a senior at Providence Christian Academy. "Flipping and knowing where I am, twisting and stuff. I know where I am when I'm upside down."

Wakeboarding is a burgeoning sport that began in the early 1990s. Combining techniques from skateboarding and snowboarding, the most skilled can launch themselves into a series of flips, twists and spins while maintaining their grip of the rope. The ultimate goal is "going huge" - launching high into the air.

The top professionals can sustain themselves with sponsorships and good paychecks from tournament wins. Andrews' ultimate goal is reaching that level, but he admits he still has work to do.

He figures he can earn a scholarship to college through pole vaulting, but he'll make his choice of schools with wakeboarding in mind. He's looking at schools in Florida, particularly Orlando.

"They don't give wakeboarding scholarships yet, but I'm going to do a lot of it on the side," he said. "There are a lot of ski schools in Orlando."

Reach Larry Williams at (706) 823-3645.