Friday, August 16, 2013

KP Gagnon churns up Panther Pond and beyond - By Michelle Libby

Toosie roll, air raley, 540, off-axis 540 and double flips, they’re all in a day’s fun for KP Gagnon, a 20-year-old from Raymond.

Gagnon grew up on the water at Panther Pond, swimming, waterskiing and tubing. Three years ago, he picked up a wakeboard and two years ago he got serious, he said.

“It’s pretty complicated,” he said of the sport that requires its riders to flip through the air, spin and jump all while being dragged behind a boat. “You have to be very dedicated and understand the risks. Extreme sports can be very dangerous. The odds of getting into an accident or serious injuries are very good,” Gagnon said.

To combat injuries, Gagnon has a coach when he is in Florida attending college in Lakeland. His coach is in Orlando where he travels to five days a week. He also works out twice a day building muscle and core strength.

In his first competition, Gagnon took second place. “In Florida you can always find (a competition) around there,” he said. He still has some skills to work on, he added. “I need to work on staying calm. I got really nervous. Tricks I usually land, I crashed,” he said.

The air raley, where he flips his board up above his head, stretched out over the water, holding on to the rope, is the closest thing to flying (without a plane) he’s ever experienced, he said.

“I’ve had some pretty bad falls,” Gagnon said. In Maine, falls could get him injured, but in Florida falls can be complicated by alligators, water moccasins and amoebas that can kill once they enter the body, he said. 

He doesn’t consider wakeboarding his job and he doesn’t expect to make a lot of money doing it, however the best at the sport make over a million dollars a year. “Yes, you can make a living, but it’ll just be a hobby for me,” Gagnon said. He does make some money by giving lessons on Panther Pond to locals and out-of-staters. 

Gagnon rides behind a Malibu Wakesetter and uses a Ronix One Time Bomb 2013 wakeboard. He upgrades every year, he said. He uses a no stretch wakeboard Ronix rope and wears a pullover life vest that is light weight and sucks to his body.

His advice to his students and to new wakeboarders is “never give up. Keep trying and be persistent with it. You can do anything you want, just keep practicing.”

Gagnon plans to work with his father in commercial real estate after getting his degree in communications with a minor in business.

Gagnon has a Facebook page, KPGGNN and can be found on Instagram at KPGGNN.

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