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ORANGE COUNTY ON THE GO | RECREATION NOTES

Vesely Set to Take Flight Again

September 07, 2000|MARTIN BECK | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Yorba Linda's Brian Vesely is known to be fearless behind a ski boat. "Flyin' Brian" is a guy who pushes aside thoughts of personal safety to launch himself into acrobatic tricks 20 feet above the water.

Vesely is no less a competitor as a water ski racer, skimming along at speeds that could get you a ticket on the 405.

"His will to win is bigger than his fear of getting hurt," said Mike Murphy, a longtime water skiing professional.

However, Vesely, 25, is taking at least one thing slowly: his recovery from a serious accident last summer. Less than a minute into the 62-mile race from Long Beach to Catalina and back, Vesely hit some rough water and crashed at 65 mph.

His ski didn't release and his leg was shattered, broken in seven places. The injury--repaired with a rod and three screws--kept him out of the water for about five months. He said it took him another five to go all out again.

"I don't know if it's me being cautious or what, but I'm doing exactly what the doctor says," Vesely said. "I ask him what if I wait a little bit longer to do something and he says, 'Yeah, that would be better.'

"I figure I'm too young and I've got too much more skiing to do to mess anything up."

Vesely is returning to major competition this week at the Flight Worlds 2000 in Lake Elsinore. He will be shooting for a championship in the hydrofoil, a sit-down water skiing craft.

Hydrofoils feature a wing that sits several feet below the water and when it cuts through the water provides lift, working like an airplane wing in the air.

Riders fly above the water and by leaning back can propel the entire craft clear of the water. Jumping off the wake takes them even higher, sometimes more than 20 feet up.

Reaching those heights is Vesely's specialty. Murphy, the co-inventor of the hydrofoil who won the Big Air competition at the last world championships in 1998, said few go higher.

"Brian is the person I worry about spanking me," Murphy said. "He just goes huge."

One of those huge moments came in the 1998 Big Air competition. Vesely appeared to have the highest jump, but rotated his "back roll" too far and crashed head first into the water.

The spectacular miss is the most viewed video clip from the event and is still available on the Web at http://www.skyski.com/htmfiles/galavi1.htm.

"That's pretty much my calling card," Vesely said. "I was at an event last October and a guy came up to me and said, 'Dude, I've got you on my laptop.' "

GOING HIGHER

John Clemmons, the 45-year-old pole vault coach for the Katella High track and field team, is competing in the veterans division of the Flight Worlds this week.

Clemmons, a former barefoot water skiing competitor, was introduced to the hydrofoil by Murphy 1 1/2 years ago and was quickly hooked, going so far as moving from Placentia to Canyon Lakes to be closer to the water.

"I trained hard for one whole year and I learned about eight different flips on it," Clemmons said. "So now I'm ending up competing at the Worlds, which I had no intention of ever doing."

Clemmons, who cleared 16 feet 4 inches in the pole vault in college, said hydrofoiling is allowing him to approach those heights in a different way.

"It's kind of like you can jump all over again without running," he said.

The Flight Worlds, which expect about 120 hydrofoiling competitors, will also feature wakeboarding, freestyle motocross and arm wrestling competitions at the site near the Diamond in Lake Elsinore. Hydrofoil practice continues today and competition starts Friday and runs through Sunday. Call (909) 674-7900 or http://www.flightworlds.com for more details.

FRIENDLY ESCORT

This year it was bottle-nosed dolphins instead of a tiger shark, much to the relief of three local ocean swimmers who competed in the Maui Channel Relay in Hawaii.

Last year, the relay team pulled Rick Reeder of Orange out of the water moments before a 15-foot tiger shark closed in on him. The team, representing the Irvine Novaquatics Masters, understandably decided to quit the nine-mile relay from Lanai to Maui.

Three members of that team--Craig Taylor of Laguna Niguel, Scott Zornig of Rancho Santa Margarita and Dan Sullivan of Irvine--decided to return for the race this year and Saturday with Jim Stewart and Vince Herring of Rochester, Minn., and Lee Mench of El Cajon won the Senior Makule division in 3 hours 19 minutes 47 seconds.

The team finished eighth overall, 20 minutes behind the winner, and 45 seconds ahead of a West Los Angeles-based team that finished second in the senior division.

There were no shark sightings, only some dolphins playing around the support boat.

NOTEWORTHY

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