Here's how much Fort Lauderdale is gunning for one of its own, Steel Lafferty, to win this week's WWA Wakeboard World Championships: Last week, the city's vice mayor, Romney Rogers, declared Sept. 3 Steel Lafferty Day, gifted him a key to the city and screened a video of the board tricks he pioneered (the wake to wake 1080, heelside backside 1080 and toeside backside 900) at a ceremony in City Hall.
But how to work all this into a conversation at the bar?
"Yeah, it's great bar chatter," Lafferty says with a laugh. "You don't want to brag that you have a day named after you. Once you start telling girls that, it's game over. But if the subject comes up, who knows?"
Lafferty, now of Orlando, is one of 200 wakeboarders gliding into the invitation-only competition at Fort Lauderdale's Mills Pond Park, the 130-acre site that will host the action sport from Thursday to Sunday. The 22-year-old, ranked fourth in the Pro Men's Division of the World Wakeboarding Association, will mount his board on Saturday for early-round heats, and possibly on Sunday for the finals.
Lafferty, who grew up in Fort Lauderdale’s Rio Vista neighborhood, says his father bought him his first wakeboard at age 9. Using rented towboats, he would practice at the family’s second home in Lake Placid and at Mills Pond Park before moving at age 18 to Orlando, a city he considers a “mecca for wakeboarders.”
"Yeah, I have home field advantage at Mills Pond," Lafferty says. "It's great there. I'm super stoked. Wakeboarding is still a young sport, but there's such a family vibe here that we're actually pumped for our fellow riders to kill it. It only helps wakeboarding's potential."
The WWA Wakeboarding Championships will run 9 a.m.-4 p.m. Thursday through Sunday at Mills Pond Park, 2201 NW Ninth Ave., in Fort Lauderdale. Admission is $7 per day online or $13 at the gate. Go to WakeboardingMag.com/Worlds.