Ranging in age from 15 to 32 and having backgrounds from nine countries, the athletes will be challenged in three wake disciplines, including boat, wake park and big air.
On Wednesday, two former Rookie of the Year winners along with one of the favorites to win the award this season were at the Red Bull media event at McCormick's Cable Park in Seffner to show off their skills — 2011 winner Steel Lafferty, 2012 winner Shota Tezuka and recent pro Mike Dowdy.
Lafferty, who is from Fort Lauderdale and now lives in Orlando, competed in just one event last year due to an injury, which means he's amped to get in the water for the event this year.
"The Red bull Wake Open is like the Super Bowl of wakeboarding," Lafferty said. "It's the biggest event. If you win overall, you're pretty much crowned king for the whole year. It's awesome having it in Tampa because it showcases Florida, which I think is the home for wakeboarding because there's so many lakes and the weather is great all the time. Plus, for me, you get home fans, family. It's like you have a home crowd rooting you on."
The inaugural 2012 event drew thousands of fans to the waterfront near the Tampa Convention Center with hundreds more camped out in boats lining the competition ring. With this year's event moved to the Fourth of July weekend, Tampa Bay Executive Director of the Tampa Bay Sports Commission Rob Higgins expects an even larger turnout and greater impact on the region.
"In the first year, over a thousand hotel visitor room nights translated into nearly into a million dollars in visiting spending in the community," Higgins said. "The great thing this year is it's moved up a week. It's at a time when our hospitality community really needs the impact. We're looking forward to it. We're continuing to hear a lot of positive buzz. I think the second year is going to be even better than the first."
In addition, the city of Tampa benefits from TBSC's partnership with a global brand like Red Bull and the opportunity to be featured internationally on NBC.
"The partnership we have with Red Bull has been outstanding from Flugtag to now the Wake Open. Just the fact they trust our community to help pull these events off is awesome. To be live on NBC to the entire country, the promotional postcard can lead to a lof of great things, whether people want to vacation here or people want to relocate a business here. It has a promotional value that really has no ceiling."
Over the next few weeks leading up to the event, look out for profiles on athletes on the Daily Loaf.