Austin American Statesman. Surfer wins championship for a second time
When 11-year-old Raleigh Hager went to the Pro Women’s World Wake Surfing Championship, there were monitors everywhere and a jumbo-tron for those watching on the shore of a private lake just outside Las Vegas. But Hager, of West Lake Hills, didn’t see any of that. It was just her, her board and a few judges in a boat creating the wake she rode. “She just goes out there and has fun,” said her dad, JB Hager. “She’s very removed from the judging while all the parents are analyzing everything.” “When I’m up (on the wave), I don’t think of anything,” the 11-year-old said. “When I fall, I think of things I’m going to do on my next run.” Hager won that competition last month, making her the wake surf champion for the second year in a row. She competed against four other women, all adults. Hager, a sixth-grade student at Hill Country Middle School, started wake surfing when she was 8. “I thought it looked really cool,” she said. The wipeouts also hurt less than those she experienced at a few surfing lessons during vacations to San Diego because the boats typically travel about 10 mph. One day while Hager was riding on Lake Austin with her family, Billy Clark of Austin Surf Company spotted her and offered to be her coach. She’s since learned new tricks every year, most of which involve jumping in the air with the board or turning up to 720 degrees. The tricks in the sport draw from surfing, but also skateboarding, said her father. Austin has been about five years ahead of most lakefront areas in the nation when it comes to the sport, but the rest of the country is beginning to catch on, JB said. “A lot of wake surfers will stop and applaud when Raleigh cruises by,” he said. “Most people are thrilled to just be able to drop the rope and ride.” Raleigh Hager said she feels like she still has a lot to learn when it comes to wake surfing tricks. “Within the sport, we get the comment a lot that she’s really humble about her talent,” said her mother, Erin Hager. “Then she goes out there, crushes it and makes people’s jaws drop,” her father said.