Knights Wake, UCF's wakeboarding club, shows off some of its tricks at Orlando Watersports Complex. Video by: Jarrod Heil, Central Florida Future
Otis Redding's "Sitting on the Dock of the Bay" wasn't playing at the Orlando Watersports Complex during Knights Wake's mid-Sunday morning practice session, but a few members of the UCF wakeboarding club were sitting on the dock resting their bones.
Wakeboarding at Orlando's lone cable park may grow tiring after a while, but that was the last thing on the minds of the wakeboarders who call the facility a second home.
Knights Wake has come a long way to become the back-to-back College Cable National Champions in the first two years of the tour's existence in 2013 and 2014. And this year, they're going for a three-peat.
Kellan Rudnicki, president of Knights Wake and senior double major in management and finance, may have been the Knight in shining armor the club was looking for.
"It really was a lot of work to get a club going, to get people going, using my own money on my own time," he said. "We didn't have a boat. We didn't have boards. We didn't have anything like that. I invested a lot of my own money into getting boards on Craigslist just so we could get some gear."
Rudnicki said the previous president had left the club in a state of disarray when he left UCF. So, he and member Ed Alosco found 12 UCF students they met at OWC and convinced them to join the club. The duo was then able to create a registered student organization during spring 2012.
Chris Draper, a two-year veteran of Knights Wake and spring 2015 recipient of a bachelor's degree in mechanical engineering, was part of the first wave of members to join the club and, like many Knights Wake members, values the comradery it provides on and off the water.
"I've had some of my best memories riding with this club in college," Draper said. "I'll still be out here every Sunday for the next couple years riding with them."
In fall 2013, Knights Wake scraped up all the money it could, made it to nationals and beat the competition to take home the first-ever college cable title.
"When I first refounded the club, never would I have ever expected in our first not even a year, that we'd win our first national title," Rudnicki said. "It really shows you that at UCF you really can build your own legacy. Tradition does start here."
Over the next nine or 10 months, Rudnicki was able to hash out a deal with OWC, his current employer, allowing UCF students to use their facilities every Sunday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. for a discounted rate.
The next step was to become an official sports club at UCF, which it accomplished in fall 2014 when the team won its second-consecutive national title in cable.
With Rudnicki graduating in fall 2015, the team has made way for a new president but hopes to keep the same heritage alive. The future president, Shawn Rysak, is going into his second year with the club and is a sophomore business finance major.
"I want to grow it as much as I can," Rysak said. "We're working up the ranks as a sports club at UCF to get more and more money every year, so it just opens up more things we can do to make the club even better."
Knights Wake is ranked No. 1 in the country in the Collegiate Cable Tour standings, and Rudnicki will get a chance to three-peat in fall 2015, but his legacy will be left in a different form than being arguably the best wakeboarder at UCF.
He will be remembered among past and present team members for pioneering nothing into something, while teaching the sport to countless individuals along the way.
"All I really want to do is share my passion with others. I've probably taught over 500 riders in my five years [at UCF]," Rudnicki said. "The only thing I can hope for is that we'll always have a wakeboard club here."
Jarrod Heil is the Sports Editor for the Central Florida Future. Follow him on Twitter at @JHeil11 or email him at JarrodH@CentralFloridaFuture.com.