Lake Elmo amateur wake surfer places 5th at worlds

Dan Van Amptig at an international competition in Utah in early September. He said the wake there was smaller than what he was used to. (photo courtesy of Dan Van Amptig)

Van Amptig finished in fifth place out of more than 200 competitors. (photo courtesy of Dan Van Amptig)

The Utah championship was Van Amptig’s first run at worlds. He says he will take the winter off from training and start up again with competitions in the spring. (photo courtesy of Dan Van Amptig)

Dan Van Amptig started wake surfing on Minnesota waters three years ago. Earlier this month, he competed in a worldwide competition for the sport, taking home new friendships and a fifth-place finish.

In wake surfing, a rider trails behind a specialized boat and rides the boat’s wake without holding a rope.

Van Amptig surfed in the 24th Annual Centurion Boats World Wake Surfing Championship in early September in Ogden Valley, Utah, where the world’s top eight riders in a number of divisions competed. He surfed in the men’s amateur surf division, which he said came with a set of challenges.

“Every contest is different, so you never know what you’re going to get from the wave,” the 36-year-old from Lake Elmo said.

He finished third in his heat but didn’t advance to the finals, pointing to a smaller boat wake than he was used to practicing with. He described his performance as a “rough run,” though overall he placed fifth out of over 200 competitors — and it was his first world competition.

Getting his feet wet
Van Amptig’s wife, Andrea, introduced him to the sport several years ago, and his love for wake surfing on lakes only grew from there. He said with tough Minnesota winters, it only seemed right to make the most of summer. 

Growing up snowboarding, Van Amptig said he saw wake surfing as a natural progression from the other board sports he’d tried.

He and his wife first competed in a Brainerd wake surfing event through a competitive surfing association. From there, the two entered more contests after getting a lesson from a former world champ.

They first ranked two years ago before traveling to Michigan for a contest. Last year, the two competed in a Minneapolis wakesurfing open as well as an online contest, before surfing in three contests so far this year.

World competition
In Utah, Van Amptig said there were two tiers of riders. The top two from each heat advanced to the finals, putting him just one slot away from the top round.

Even so, he said he’s proud he can make time in his busy life for wake surfing. He’s a sales engineer and has a couple other responsibilities, too.

“Having two little kids — a 1- and a 3-year-old — getting any time on the water is super difficult,” he said. “To compete on a world stage and also being a dad and chasing the kids around is a lot. But sometimes my family is up on the board with me [during practice].”

Van Amptig said that although he would have liked to place higher in the competition, he made connections that weekend for which he’s grateful — “Making friends, seeing people, meeting people, creating friendships you wouldn’t normally have.”

He described the competition as “pretty intense,” nodding to the skill level of tricks other surfers were performing. Some 11 countries were represented at the competition.

The next wave
The 2020 contest season starts in November, but Van Amptig said he’s taking the winter off from training.

“[I’ll be] just keeping in shape, and when the spring hits there’s just a whole new slew of contests,” he said.

This year, Van Amptig and Andrea competed in amateur surf competitions. Next year, he said he plans to move to the next division: outlaw semi-professional. He said they were invited last year to compete in the semi-pros, but were unable to attend. 

For the love of wake surfing
Van Amptig said from the beginning of his wakesurfing career until now, he and his wife went through their share of trials and errors. But he noted after the initial learning curve, it’s hard to describe the experience the sport brings.

“Once you get up, you’re just surfing away. It’s just a really cool feeling,” he said. “I never thought growing up I’d be any sort of competitive surfer living in Minnesota.”

To his delight, he and his wife are doing just that — with their young children in tow.

“We’re water people,” he said. “It’s just a great family sport.”

He encourages those interested in learning to wake surf to ask someone with a wake surf-specific boat to teach them.

“The way to get into it is just find somebody who does it, and more often and not, they’re very welcoming,” he said.

For those who want to give the sport a try next summer, several wake surfing instructors are spread across Minnesota, including at Faction Marine and Hangloose MN.

– Amy Felegy can be reached at or 651-748-7815

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