LAKE LINDEN — The eyes of the watercross world were focused on Torch Lake this past weekend for the second annual Jeff Moyle Memorial Watercross races.
More than 50 racers, mainly from the Midwest, showed their water-racing skills and had hundreds of spectators cheering on from the beach.
“Crowd size is greater than last year. We have more vendors and we are just continuing to grow this event,” said Lake Linden Fire Department chief Andy Kotila. “Proceeds for this event are going towards a new fire house for Lake Linden, which we desperately need. The one we have now is more than 100 years old.”
Attendance figures weren’t released before press time.
The three-day event was named after Lake Linden watercross racer Jeff Moyle, who died in 2008 in a parasailing accident.
“He raced just about everything,” Kotila said. ” If it had a motor, he raced it.”
Watercross which began in the mid 1970s is a race of modified, water-proofed, snowmobiles flying across water at speeds of up to 75 miles-per hour. Three racers fly into the water from the starting line on land and circle a marked oval track four times in a variety of different racing categories. Racers with their sleds will quickly sink if racers do no stay atop the water and keep going fast.
“We have a recovery boat to pull sleds out, said Kotila. “We even have a diver as there are spots in this lake that are 40 to 50-feet deep.”
Saturday’s races were an International Watercross Association sanctioned event. There are are around seven IWA races in a typical summer season according to Kotila.
One of the youngest racers on this year’s IWA circuit is 14-year-old Colton Laurie, of Ahmeek. He was first introduced to the sport at age 12 and having a great weekend.
“My dad brought home a sled. I gave it a try, and I was hooked,” he said. “I got a first and second (place) in sport ovals and 600-drags (drag racing) on Saturday.”
Also making his debut this weekend was Chet Atkinson, of Hugo, Minnesota. He was racing with Snowmake Performance Team.
“A buddy of mine got me into this a year ago, and I went and pitted for him,” he said. “This year I thought I would give it a try as a racer.”
He added that they key to a good race is staying well balanced on your sled and staying out of choppy water created by your opponent.
“It all depends on where everyone else is running and how you can run with them,” he said.
Rachel O’Brien couldn’t agree more as she raced in the pro-series events. The 32-year-old Wisconsite has been racing since she was 15 and is one of just a handful of women on the IWA-racing circuit.
“For me, the key to a good race is staying calm and calculating what you need to do and watch everything as a whole and put up a good race,” she said
She added that there is a lot of camaraderie in watercross racing.
I love the people here,” she said. “It is such a great community. As racers, this is our home away from home during the summer. We look forward to seeing everyone each year.”
While the Jeff Moyle Memorial is still a fledgling IWA event, it is already receiving rave reviews.
“This is absolutely amazing,” said O’Brien. “It is very well organized, and everyone in the crowd is excited about it. It has just been so excellent coming here and so supportive.”
Results from the Jeff Moyle Memorial Water-X can be found on the IWA’s Facebook page this week.