Raphael Derome by Chris Garrison © Chris Garrison / Red Bull Content Pool

40 of the world’s best wakeboard athletes gathered in Tampa, Florida, this weekend for the inaugural Red Bull Wake Open, a three-day event showcasing all three disciplines of Boat, Big Air and Park. In front of 25,000 spectators it was Canadian ripper Raphael Derome who showed his all-round skills to ride off with the overall title.

The Garrison Channel in Florida was transformed into a huge amphitheatre this weekend as around 25,000 spectators lined the waterfront outside the Tampa Convention Center for the first ever edition of the Red Bull Wake Open. 40 of the top wakeboarders on the planet were invited to attend the three-day event, which was broadcast live as part of NBC’s Red Bull Signature Series.

The event organisers had pulled out all the stops to allow the athletes to take the sport of wakeboarding to the next level. As well as creating an enormous floating skatepark full of rails, pipes, kickers and even a huge quarter-pipe, the brand new Sesitec System 2.0 winch system which spanned the Garrison Channel gave participants the chance to ride as many of the objects as possible as they passed through the course. At the end of three days of sick action - which included tricks never performed before at a wakeboard event, such as double-flips – it was Australia’s Harley Clifford who was crowned the king of Boat, while 20-year-old Canadian star Raphael Derome completed an impressive hat-trick by winning both Big Air and Park and topping it all off with the overall title.

“It was a lot of pressure and there was no room for mistakes, so I went all out. I’m super-stoked I won,” said Raphael, whose brother Olivier competes on the Pro Wakeboard Tour. “I love all three disciplines, so to be part of a contest that actually rewards that kind of riding is a really big opportunity for me.”

Wakeboard legend Parks Bonifay, who hosted NBC’s live coverage of the event on-site, was impressed with the new competition format: “This was a long time coming for wakeboarding. Red Bull stepped up and made everyone in the sport realise this is what wakeboarding should be.”

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