Ranked sixth in the world, wakesurfing pro Connor Burns shares his passion for the sport
Ranked sixth in the world, wakesurfing pro Connor Burns shares his passion for the sport.
By Michelle Talsma Everson
Photos by Chadwick Fowler
Like many teens, Connor Burns, 16, a junior at Northwest Christian School, balances school and sports. What’s unique about Burns though is the sport he dedicates most of his free time to—wakesurfing. It isn’t just something Burns does for fun, he’s a literal pro at it and is currently ranked number six in the sport for the 2017 world rankings.
His love of all things wakesurfing has taken him around the globe for competitions and inspired business ventures, too.
“I found out about wakesurfing about three years ago and now I practice at Lake Pleasant about four days a week,” Burns shares. “Originally, it was just for fun, but I very quickly went up the ranks from amateur to pro.”
Burns says that he was undefeated in the Amateur Men’s division of the World Series of Wake Surfing in 2015. This year, he chose to skip the Outlaw division (the division between Amateur and Pro) and surf in the Men’s Professional division. His competitive drive has taken him to France, Canada and across the United States. He says that he often places second or third at most events this year, but is obviously after the coveted first place ranking.
So what is wakesurfing? Burns describes it as a water sport that’s growing in popularity where a rider trails behind a boat, riding the boat’s wake, without being pulled directly by the rope once the rider is in motion. The wakesurfer will start out with a rope attached to the boat, but will drop it once they are comfortable and hit the “sweet spot,” he says. When an onlooker watches, it seems very similar to surfing, except it can be done on a lake and there’s no need to wait for waves from Mother Nature.
The sport is different from wakeboarding because wakeboarders are connected to the boat at all times and their feet are attached to the board, Burns explains. He makes sure to emphasize that one sport isn’t better than the other, just different genres of water sports.
“With wakesurfing, the boat is pulling you at about 11.5 miles an hour before you let go, your feet aren’t attached, and you’re continuously behind the boat utilizing its wake to surf,” Burns says. “I love it because it’s a sport on the lake, it’s a great way to make friends and have a good time. It’s an overall fun sport.”
Because of the nature of the sport, Burns’s time on the lake is often a family affair. He says that his dad drives the boat usually and his mom is currently learning to do so. He’s on a personal mission to get as many people involved with wakesurfing as possible.
“I started offering lessons at Lake Pleasant for people who are curious or new to the sport because usually once people start, they’re hooked,” he says.
Not only does the busy teen offer lessons, he also is developing his own clothing line.
“I decided that I wanted a brand that was a fit for the lake life that I love,” he says. “I wanted a brand for myself and the people I know in the sport.” His clothing line, Usurf, LLC, features tops, hoodies, board shorts, and more for purchase on Etsy or at the Scorpion Bay Marina Store.
Because of his desire to give back, Usurf, LLC, donates a percentage of its merchandise sales to Wake for Warriors, a nonprofit that engages injured service members to be involved in water and wake sports. The clothing line has also donated products to Shoebox Ministries.
So how has it been for the active teen to go from curious about the sport to a pro in such a short amount of time? “I never thought I’d compete with other pros,” he admits. “But it’s been fun! Most of the kids at school know I do it, so it’s no big deal there.”
While he’s garnered some local media attention from his wakesurfing talents, he’s humble about his achievements.
“I was on the news recently and some friends saw it and it opened up a venue to talk about the sport, which I love,” Burns says. “To know that something that was meant to be a hobby, I’ve now made a sort of job out of it, between the teaching and the clothing line, I think that I’m definitely on to something!”
To learn more about Burns and follow his wakesurfing adventures, visit Burnsburnsurf.com. He also encourages those interested in the sport to e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Instagram @Burnsburnsurf.
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