In only his second year of professional racing, Fritz Wolff roared to the top of the Budweiser Jet Ski Sports tour.
He didn’t sound satisfied.
“Actually, I’m depressed about the season,” Wolff said by telephone from Arizona, where the Spokane Valley native is now training. “Overall it was a good season, but I was shooting for No. 1.”
This summer Wolff finished first in the sport classification slalom national championship, up from seventh a year ago. Overall, he went from 10th to third in the world and caught the eye of big-time sponsors.
Failure to participate in one of 10 tour races held in the U.S. probably cost him the overall points championship this year.
Ironically, the one he missed, because of a snow skiing accident, was the closest to home. It was held in the Tri Cities.
It may have been Wolff’s decision to postpone college that prevented his winning the world title.
Wolff graduated from Central Valley High School in mid-term of last year and enrolled, briefly, at Montana State University.
“I was in a big hurry to get to college,” Wolff said. But after he arrived on the MSU campus, “I didn’t feel like being there.”
Instead he returned home to teach snow skiing. It was during that time he hurt a knee.
Once healed, Wolff won three races, traveling with the Yamaha race team to stops in San Diego and Santa Barbara, Calif., Ft. Lauderdale, Fla., Virginia Beach, Va., Chicago, Detroit, Denver, Dallas and Connecticut.
He is expecting a full-time sponsorship from Yamaha, although nothing has been signed yet.
The company is sending him to international competition this winter, which is why Wolff currently is training on Arizona’s Lake Havasu.
He will be doing promotional work and racing in Saudi Arabia, Germany and Spain in December.
“In the Middle East, Jet Skiing is like polo,” he said.
Royalty helicopters to a site, races for fun and pays to have professionals come and compete, he said.
“They fly in with $1 million in money, race, get into their helicopters and fly back to their country,” said Wolff. “It’ll be a trip.”
Wolff said he spent the early part of his first year of racing worrying about the other riders.
When he began to beat the sport slalom’s top pro over the last half of the season, he realized he could succeed on the tour. This year he became one of the best.
Wolff competed in one of three pro Jet Ski classifications. Next year he will race in all of them.
Sport and Standup class races use a traditional Jet Ski. The Runabout category is for bigger, family-style water craft.
“Runabouts are abusing, but not as physically demanding (as the other two),” said Wolff.
Sports tour racing includes slalom and closed courses. The slalom course is 200 feet long with buoys set at 60-foot intervals. Closed course racing is moto cross on water.
Wolff said he prefers competing in salt water surf races.
“The rougher the better,” he said. “It’s skill, not the boat. It gets the flounders out of there.”
His training includes mountain biking and running. He now has a physical trainer. By being affiliated with a manufacturer like Yamaha, he also has the luxury of a mechanic.
“He takes care of stuff and lets me concentrate on staying in shape,” Wolff said.
While striving to be the best on the Budweiser Tour, Wolff still emphasizes the need for a college education, which the sport will pay for.
He is taking correspondence courses from Gonzaga University and doesn’t rule out an eventual return to MSU.
“The next year or two I want to try to be the top pro,” said Wolff. “The most important thing is to go to college.”
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