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Dawson County student wins world championship on Pro Watercross tour
S-Wyatt Hayes mug
Wyatt Hayes

When Dawson County High School sophomore Wyatt Hayes has free time, he will most likely be found on the water.

The 15-year-old was recently crowned world champion in the junior 13-15 ski stock class of the Hidden Trails/Sea Doo Pro Watercross tour.

Hayes competed in the world championship event in Naples, Florida at the end of September.
"This was my first full tour," Wyatt said. "The tour runs six months."

The Pro Watercross national tour begins each year in May and runs through September on courses across the country that include both fresh and salt water.

The riders race on closed buoy courses with up to 24 competitors on the starting line, depending on the class.

"It's like road racing on the water," Wyatt's dad, Rex Hayes said. "On the tour they also do free style which is like back flips on the water."

The 2016 tour stopped in Panama City, FL; Pensacola Beach, FL; Reno, NV; St. George, UT; Atlantic City, NJ; Hartwell, Ga; Charleston, WV; and Naples, FL.

Hayes did not make all the stops of this year's tour, but intends to in the upcoming season.

Being crowned world champion makes it seem like Hayes has achieved all he can in the sport, but the next steps include racing well in the junior division with the future hope of one day going pro.

"Since I've started the sport, I've learned a lot," Hayes said. "However, like in any sport, you are always learning and I feel like I still have a lot to learn to make it to the next level."

As soon as he turns 16, he will move up to the junior division.

Wyatt, along with his two older brothers and dad, have been driving jet skis for years. They have even tried to get mom Jennifer on board, but she is content to watch from the beach.

Hayes trains with one of the tour's professional riders, Jordan Carroll, who lives in Flowery Branch.

"I sort of take after Jordan," Hayes said. "He helps us out a lot, going places, staying in the camper. He's my role model right now."

Carroll finished third in the world finals Pro-Am Ski GP in Naples. The world champion on the pro level is a racer from South Africa.

The sport, according to Rex Hayes, is physically demanding. Riders adhere to rigorous work out schedules to stay in shape for the season.

Though a race only lasts between eight and 10 minutes, the water conditions and running the heavy machines at high speeds will take a toll quickly.

Hayes plays football for Dawson County and he said that conditioning helps in the off season.

"In school I have weight training and during fall I do football and then during winter I do a lot of cardio," he said.

In Hayes' classification, the boat he drives runs about 53 miles an hour. The pros run in the 65-70 mph range.

"Standing on a 2-foot wide by 8-foot long, doing 53 mph across the water, it's pretty crazy," Rex Hayes said. "It is a very demanding sport."

"Ocean races are definitely the hardest," Wyatt said.

Aside from battling conditions, racing for position can also be difficult and injury inducing, but Hayes says it doesn't scare him.

"I trust the guy that is beside me. I know that he is not going to try to hurt me."

"It can be dangerous," Jennifer Hayes added. "It's a little scary sometimes, for me anyway."

Much like road racing, to move to the next level, a driver has to win and find sponsors. Hayes also hopes to race in more than one classification next year.

"He has to win worlds. You have to be invited to become a pro rider. Typically that means you win the nationals or worlds as an amateur," his dad said.

Hayes is currently building his resume and plans to go as far as he can in the sport.

"My goal is winning," he said.