An ACL tear has the ability to make even the fittest of athletes doubt their future in sports.
But it was that exact injury that led Stuart Shinn to the world of wakeskating.
And he’s gotten so good that he placed third in the recent WWA Wakeboarding World Championships in Orlando.
“I blew my knee out snowboarding, and I’ve had two surgeries,” Shinn said. “And I just kind of did it for rehab, and just really never stopped.”
He said he never really wanted to do anything else after finding wakeskating.
And Shinn’s ascension in the sport that he describes as skateboarding on water has sent the Manatee High alumnus to Orlando, a central hub for the extreme sport.
There he rides about two or three times a day on Lake Waunata.
It’s all he does.
Shinn is a professional, and to make a living as a professional in any individual sport — especially the extreme ones — is tough.
But he has the support system from his parents Byron and Jodi.
Add in the sponsors and the pressure to win isn’t as difficult as someone who doesn’t have backers.
“It’s hard, but it is possible — you just have to work at it,” Shinn said about making it in the sport.
Bay Area Watersports in Land O’Lakes is one sponsor.
“Stu’s dad originally was an avid water skier,” said owner Jim Kranendonk, who along with CWB Boards, Mastercraft Boats, Vans Shoes and Rusty Surfboard and Clothing sponsor Stuart. “They came up to us at the dealership probably about six years ago with the interest of trading in a boat and picking up one of the Mastercraft saltwater series boats. And we had vaguely heard of Stu being an up-and-coming, and we gave them a good deal on their boat. And by the time they got to their second boat with us, Stu was just about at the top of the list as far as wakeskating goes.”
Fast forward to the present and Shinn has morphed into an accomplished wakeskater with all the tricks in his arsenal for success at the highest level.
The crazy thing, though, is unlike figure skaters or gymnasts that have set routines, Shinn just wings it.
“I go out and I ride,” Shinn casually said over the phone. “I have a general idea of a bunch of things I want to do ... I just feel it.”
The event that netted him a third place finish is scheduled for Fuel TV on tape delay in the next couple of weeks.
Shinn said there were about 1,200 people in attendance at the world championship.
“Not too nerve-wracking,” he said about the crowd. “All the competitors are all pretty close friends.”
Of course it doesn’t hurt that he can do a back big spin.
A back big what?
“It’s like the board is doing a 360 (degrees) and I do a 180,” Shinn said. “I’m kind of spinning with the board, but lower than the board.”
Shinn said he played other sports growing up, but he just loves spending time on the water.
With his various tricks and the soon-to-be airing world championships on TV, its clear Shinn’s found his niche.