Ashley Kazmer: Wakeboard World Champion  

Ashley Kazmer, center, was the top finisher at the Wakeboard World Championships in Portugal

Cary resident Ashley Kazmer, an 18-year-old senior at Cardinal Gibbons High School, has made some BIG waves in the world of wakeboarding! After traveling to Portugal to compete in the Junior Pro women’s division at the Wakeboard World Championship, Kazmer took home the win at the beginning of September.  

“It felt absolutely unreal to win a world title,” said Kazmer. “I came in last place last year at worlds, and to finally get a win fills me with such pride because I fought through all the adversity.” 

Kazmer, who started waterskiing at age 3 and wakeboarding at 7, credits her love of the sport to her father.  

“My dad is the reason why I fell in love with watersports,” said Kazmer. “Most of my family is into wakesurfing, which is surfing behind a boat. My dad grew up competing in slalom water skiing and barefooting, and it was his mission to get his kids up on water skis at an early age.”  

Despite her early start on the water, Kazmer only began competing four years ago — but what a four years it has been! After performing well in her first few regional tournaments, Kazmer soon discovered her passion and talent for the sport. Prior to the world championship, Kazmer took the win at the North Regionals in Lake Winnipesaukee, New Hampshire, and placed 4th at Nationals in Pine Mountain, Georgia.  

We recently spoke with Kazmer to learn more about how it feels to win a world championship at only 18. 

Describe what wakeboarding is, in your own words!

Wakeboarding is like snowboarding but on water. The wake off the boat creates a ramp that helps launch you in the air to do flips and spins. Wakeboarding to me is freedom on the water to get creative and try different things.  

When did you first start wakeboarding, and when did you start to compete? 

I first started wakeboarding when I was 7 years old after I decided I was bored of waterskiing. During Covid, when I was 15 years old, I started wakeboarding a lot and decided to compete in my first regional competition at Lake Anna, Virginia. After that, I was hooked on competing. 

What is the most challenging aspect of being a competitive wakeboarder?

The most challenging part of competing in wakeboarding is definitely the mental game. Combating my nerves before competing is something I continue to work on. Last year in 2022, I had my worst year of competing. I would have great practice rides leading up to the competition, but my nerves would get the best of me, and I would fall on tricks I would land all the time back home. I had to change my mindset.  

In 2022, I focused too much on getting on the podium, and the need to win consumed me. Preparing for the events, I would only hope to win and would not focus on landing the tricks I needed to make me successful. This year, I wanted to put an emphasis on getting as consistent as possible in my riding, only caring about the quality of tricks I put down —  not where I finish in the rankings.  

Where and how do you train?  

Most of my training is spent at Smith Mountain Lake, Virginia. My family has had a lake house there for 20 years, and I live up there full time in the summer. This makes it easy to train because my backyard is the lake. I train every day in the summer, but usually allow myself a rest once a week. I would train about twice a day in the summer, once in the morning and once in the afternoon. When I get back to school, I usually go to my lake house on the weekend if my soccer schedule does not get in the way. When it gets too cold outside, I usually take a trip to Florida to train in the winter. 

How did it feel to win the world championship? 

When I first started to compete, winning a world title in Junior Pro felt like a dream that could never be achieved. Even when I was younger, I would watch YouTube videos of awesome wakeboarders, and I would be in disbelief. I never thought I would be doing what I am doing now. It made me very emotional when I found out I won because I was making my younger self proud. 

How do you balance friends, school, and sport?

Most of my wakeboarding training is in the summer, but when I was training for the world championships this year, I was in school for a couple of weeks before I competed. During that time, I would train once during the week on a local lake in NC, and then leave Friday after school to train during the weekend at Smith Mountain Lake. I left right after school on Friday so I could train Friday night. This was really tough, because I would miss high school football games or my friends’ birthday parties. I knew it was the sacrifice I had to make, if I wanted to get prepared for the competition. Usually in the summer, my friends come to visit me, and it is easy because they have their driver’s licenses. 

Anything else you’d like to add! 

I want to thank my parents for everything they do for me. Wakeboarding is not an easy sport to support financially, but they help me out so I can reach my goals. They would wake up at 6 a.m. so I could train before work. It was a team win in Portugal, because I could have not done it without them. I also want to thank God for blessing me with my talent and keeping me safe from injuries on the water. 


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