Division of Campus Planning, Infrastructure, and Facilities’ Director of Renovations Joy Manning will be competing among the world’s best professional and amateur wakeboarders at the World Wake Association Wakeboard World Championships on Sept. 16.

During the three-day event at Callaway Gardens in Pine Mountain, Georgia, Manning will perform top-notch tricks in the wakes left behind boats. And while this will be Manning’s 11th appearance in the wakeboard world championships, it doesn’t mean the sport is getting easier, but she hopes to capture her ninth world title.

“Every three to four years, the boats change and their wakes get bigger. The tricks become more difficult. As the sport develops, the younger generation of wakeboarders take it to the next level. For example, in the Men’s Pro Division a double flip was very rare a few years ago. Today, everyone is doing them including some of the Pro Women,” said Manning.

Manning’s championship ride will commemorate two significant figures in her life who passed away during the COVID-19 pandemic: Gary Wetterberg, retired International Forestry Support Program manager of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s U.S. Forest Service, and Russell Hitt, chairman emeritus of Hitt Contracting Inc. Their names will be printed on Manning’s board so that every time she rides she knows they will be cheering her on and bringing out the best in her performances.

Joy Manning rides a wake. Photo provided by Joy Manning.

“Gary and Russell passed away when it was challenging to hold memorials without knowing how to properly help mitigate the airborne transmission of COVID-19. Because of this, they weren’t properly honored. Adding their names to my wakeboard is my way to reflect on their impact on my life,” said Manning.

Wetterberg was her husband’s stepfather. He supported Manning in her first wakeboard world championship, traveling with her to Indianapolis to cheer her on. Manning was once afraid of the water and all that lurked below its surface. After trying out the sport, she conquered her fears to become the worldwide reigning champion for her division. And Wetterberg was there to see it all begin.

Prior to joining Virginia Tech, Manning worked with Russell Hitt at Hitt Contracting Inc. for nearly 14 years. Manning shared many fond memories of competing with Hitt on who could get into the office first to start the day.

“Russell came from an ‘old school construction’ background. He and everyone on the team worked hard and took pride in what we produced,” said Manning.

Hitt was immensely proud of Manning’s out-of-office wakeboarding activities. He introduced her as a world champion to office visitors and would always inquire on how her training and competitions were going.

Hitt Hall, whose construction is anticipated to mobilize in November 2021, is named in recognition of a multimillion dollar gift from the Hitt Family Foundation Inc., of which Russell Hitt was a member.

Gary Wetterberg and Russell Hitt's names printed on Joy Manning's wakeboard. Photo provided by Joy Manning.

This week, viewers of the wakeboard world championships can expect to view only a final run. The competitors will have an opportunity to perform about seven to eight tricks in a run. If they fall twice, their run is finished. In a typical competition unaffected by the COVID-19 pandemic, a semifinal run would also be included.

The competitors will have no prior practice on the boat they are wakeboarding with - and every boat is different and has different wakes.

The World Wake Association Wakeboard World Championships can be viewed live on the Rideline smartphone app. Manning’s final run will be aired on Thursday, Sept. 16.

Like in her construction profession, men account for a large percentage of the wakeboarding community. Whether advocating for women in construction industry careers or supporting women interested in trying out wakeboarding, Manning encourages women of all ages to go beyond their comfort level to try something new.

“Wakeboarding is a great source of stress relief and exercise. I look forward to doing it every weekend in the summer. Everyone should give it a shot,” said Manning.

Local opportunities to explore wakeboarding in Southwest Virginia include lessons at Smith Mountain Wake Company or reach out to Manning for tips and guidance to get started or improve their riding. Manning has hosted annual Girls Ride Weekend for nearly a decade. She has hosted women from across the country to learn about the sport and boating safety.

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