Bernier is No. 2 wakeboarder in nation

Published 6:33 pm Monday, October 20, 2008

Sunny California was the sight of the U.S. Nationals wakeboard competition held Oct. 1-4. This elite event represented the best 450 athletes, ages 6 to 72, from across the United States.

In order to be invited to this prestigious tournament, an athlete had to place either first or second in his or her state’s qualifying tournaments. Alabama had 19 athletes invited to the national event, and Chilton County High student Colby Bernier placed first in the state in the advanced wakeboard division.

Bernier set a goal to be invited to the nationals. Once Bernier decided to commit himself to the sport, his parents, Julie and Pete were right behind him (or better said in front of him driving the boat and enjoying family time together). The fact that Bernier wanted to compete at a high level just added to the enjoyment and, yes, the frustration the Berniers would experience through the next several months together as a family.

Bernier started his wakeboard season this past February practicing on Lake Mitchell behind a Mastercraft X-Star. It was not uncommon to see Bernier cruising Lake Mitchell at least five times a week. The biggest hurdle Bernier had to overcome was making his body go upside down and spin 360 degrees, 10 feet in the air behind a boat going 23 miles per hour. Once over that initial hurdle it was practice, practice and more practice.

These practice sessions did not go unnoticed by the local residents of Lake Mitchell, and, in fact, concerns were raised about the boat wake, suggesting that the boat had barrels in it filled with water to increase the size of the wake. Certainly, the wakes produced by the boat are larger than what is produced by fishing or ski boats, however, during training it was important for the boat to be loaded according to factory specifications – one of the rules established by the national committee for all tournament competitions.

After 11 tournaments and more than 200 hours behind the boat, Bernier received the recognition of No. 1 in the state and was invited to the Nationals. When Bernier was asked what he thought about going to California to compete, he said, “There is one reason I want to go, and that is to win it all.”

This trip to California did not start well for Bernier as he became ill the day before competition was to start. However, it ended quite well for him, scoring his personal best run and accumulating 11,053 points. He recently received recognition as the No. 2 rider in the country.

Bernier has already set new goals, so Lake Mitchell residents and fellow boaters don’t be surprised to see some guy going upside down and spinning around behind a boat over the next few months.