Campus Life

UWF student doubles as competitive wakeboarder

By Josh Newby, University Communications

Leah Gibney, a competitive wakeboarder from the University of West Florida, recently placed third in the national CBS Alt Games in San Diego, Calif. The Alt Games is an annual collegiate competition featuring alternative sports such as wakeboarding, beach volleyball, snowboarding and skiing.

Gibney competed in the competition against students from a number of other prominent schools, including Division I institutions such as the University of Tennessee and the University of Florida. This was the sixth year the Alt Games took place, and participation included more than 1,200 competitors.

The competition is a grueling five-minute exhibition that she planned out and practiced for months before undertaking.

“Competitions are much different in wakeboarding than any other sport,” said Gibney. “You train for weeks or months to show the judges what you can do. Usually, you’re only allowed one fall. It’s very intense, because if you mess up, it’s extremely hard to redeem yourself.”

Gibney also discussed the unique grading system the judges use, which only adds to the pressure of the competition.

“The judging is based on intensity, execution (how well you organized your run), style (how big the tricks are, or if you land them or almost fall) and every trick is worth a different amount of points,” Gibney explained.

The Alt Games is just one of many competitions that Gibney has competed in. She learned how to wakeboard when she was just seven years old, and began competing three years ago.

“I went to a wakeboard camp and learned that there was more to wakeboarding than just riding behind the boat and I was immediately hooked,” said Gibney.

When she is not busy impressing the judges and winning trophies nationwide, Gibney is occupied with her Hospitality and Resort Management studies. These classes have inspired her to bring her love of wakeboarding and professional competition into her future career. She plans to graduate in 2014.

“I have a lot of ideas about what field I want to go into,” said Gibney. “I’d like to run a hotel, start my own wakeboard competition series or be a special event planner. Wakeboarding has taught me that I’m an interactive person and I like to do things hands-on, instead of working behind a desk.”

Beyond all of the talk about her future and her studies, Gibney said she is content to just have fun for the time being, and the Alt Games was a great opportunity to do that.

“The Alt Games was so fun,” said Gibney. “I met a lot of people and made good friends.”

The Alt Games will air on CBS June 25 at 2 p.m.