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Fit City: Austin girl wins world wakesurfing championship

Pam LeBlanc
Raleigh Hager recently won the title of 2012 Women’s Pro Wakesurf Champion at a global competition in Parker, Ariz.

Austin wakesurfing phenom Raleigh Hager has chalked up the biggest win of her career, snagging the title of 2012 Women’s Pro Wakesurf Champion at a global competition in Parker, Ariz.

Raleigh, who is just 10 years old, took the open women’s surf title against a field of veteran pro riders twice her age at the Centurion World Wake Surfing Championship.

The Eanes Elementary School fifth-grader qualified for the competition by placing at both the West Coast Open in California and the U.S. Nationals in Florida earlier this year.

“There were a lot of doubters that she should even be in that division,” said Raleigh’s father, MIX 94.7 disc jockey J.B. Hager.

Raleigh wasn’t expected to place against current U.S. champion Ashley Kidd and the 2011 World Champion Rebecca Ort from Switzerland. But three days of landing moves that included back-to-back 360s and 180s, skater-style grabs and the biggest leaps of the competition pushed her past the best in the sport.

“Raleigh worked so hard for this. Countless hours on the lake in all conditions, all times of the day. I can’t tell you how often we were the only ones on the lake in December and January,” J.B. Hager said.

Besides the title, the winner’s check and the glory, Raleigh is getting a new family member for her efforts. Her father, sure he wouldn’t have to pay up, promised her in May she could get a pet miniature pig if she made the podium at the world championships. “We’re looking into our new pet, Fergus, right now,” J.B. Hager said.

Stay safe when open-water swimming

I’ve been thinking a lot about water safety since I watched a couple of swimmers and their support kayaker glide right in front of the boat ramp at Walsh Landing on Lake Austin recently.

We’d pulled our boat up to the shore so my husband could hop off and retrieve our truck. I puttered back out into the lake to wait.

As I idled the boat, the swimmers and kayaker passed right through the no-wake zone in front of the boat ramp. It was about 9:30 or 10 a.m. on a Sunday , prime time for boat activity.

In the time it took them to pass, another boat launched and a third pulled away from the dock with a load of passengers.

Alarmed for the swimmers’ safety, I called out to the kayaker, “Hey, this is kind of a dangerous spot to swim!” Probably not the friendliest way to approach the situation, granted. The kayaker called back, a little angrily, “It’s never been a problem before.”

Well, no. But it only takes once.

I’m a swimmer, and rivers and lakes are my favorite place to swim. I’ve done dozens of open-water races. Last summer, I swam 9 miles from City Park to Walsh Landing. I’ve done the 12-mile Lake Travis Relay and a five-day stage swim in the Highland Lakes. Twice, I’ve swum 28 miles around Manhattan Island — once as a relay with three other women and this June with a single partner.

But I’m a water skier and boater, too. During the summer, my husband and I trailer our boat to Lake Austin early in the morning, ski for an hour or two and then load the boat back up for the trip home.

I’ve often noticed how hard it is as a boat driver to spot swimmers in the water. A boat travels much more quickly than a kayak, and sometimes the sun glints off the surface of the water, making it hard to see. Swimmers (and kayakers too) have a low profile that makes them difficult to spot.

Please, swimmers. If you’re going to swim in a lake that buzzes with boats, take every precaution.

Swim near the shoreline. Make sure you’ve got a support kayaker with you and that he or she stays nearby. Consider getting an orange safety buoy designed to make swimmers more visible. Check out the one Kiefer sells at

And never swim in front of a busy boat ramp!

No boater wants to hit a swimmer. But if you’re not careful, it could happen.

Runners: Check for ozone signs

Have you noticed the little signs that sprout along the trail around Lady Bird Lake on days when the air quality is poor?

They’re there to remind you that you might want to scale back your workout. Some people, including those with asthma, can be adversely affected when ozone levels rise.

City of Austin’s Parks and Recreation Department staffers plant the signs along the trail on days that warm temperatures and low winds contribute to high ozone.

Scott Johnson, a trail user and windsurfing and golf instructor, worked with officials from the parks department and the Capitol Area Metropolitan Planning Organization to get the signs. They’re planted at four places along the trail when ozone rises — by the water jugs at Auditorium Shores, on the north side of the river near Congress Avenue, just west of the north side of the Pfluger Bridge and at the Johnson Creek Trailhead on the north side of the pedestrian bridge underneath MoPac (Loop 1).