MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — The National Wakeboarding Championships are being held this weekend in Minneapolis on the Mississippi River. This year, the national competition will feature one Minnesota native who lost his left leg as a professional snowmobile racer.
Running through the weekend, the event has wakeboarders in 23 categories, according to age, gender and skill level.
One of those categories is the adaptive class for people like Mike Schultz. He lost his left leg above the knee, but is now wakeboarding with a prosthetic leg he made himself.
“I actually designed and built the knee that I wear. I call it the ‘Moto-knee,'” said Schultz. “I started a company, now called Biodapt, so it’s a great marketing strategy to go compete in all these adaptive sports and show what my knee is capable of.”
This weekend, there are three men in the adaptive class, and the judges look for the same things from all the athletes.
“The judges are looking for difficulty of tricks, how clean they are landed and how big you go,” said Billy Garcia, a wakeboard competitor.
Schultz’ invention takes a beating while in the water, so his knee uses ideas from snowmobile suspension systems, and a shock absorber from a bicycle.
Schultz hopes to go big with his new knee. He wants to help lots of other people, including wounded soldiers returning from Iraq and Afghanistan.
“I actually just came back from a troop tour to the Middle East, the last 10 days and met up with some injured warriors, and told them, you know what, your situation might kind of suck, but after some time and you get the right equipment, you’ll be back doing everything you love,” he said.
Mike is 30 years old and has every intention of competing in lots of adaptive sports. His wife, Sara, said she is amazed at how little his injury has slowed him down.
“He used to race as a professional snow cross racer and there were a lot of stresses and challenges, and ups and downs, but now we just look at it differently and enjoy everything that we do in life,” said Sara.
The wakeboarding is on the Mississippi River, between Plymouth and Broadway.
You can watch for free for the next four days, and most of the competition is from 9 a.m. until 3 p.m.