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Snowmobile watercross racing comes to Lake Linden

Provided Photo Mohawk native Teddy Laurie (left) leads a Semi Pro Open race during a recent event at the Brainerd International Raceway back on June 6-7.

The International Watercross Association (IWA) will be in Lake Linden this weekend, which is the fifth stop in the World Series of Watercross. But what is watercross racing, exactly? Well, first, it is an alternative use for a snowmobile.

Watercross racing is an extreme sport that started more than 30 years ago, and it has grown in popularity across the country, and this summer Twin Ports residents will be able to experience this unique and exciting sport in person at the Superior Watercross Shootout Aug. 22 and 23.

Watercross racing is taking modified snowmobiles, that can move at speeds of 60 mph, and racing them on water. Only a few modifications are needed to make the average snowmobile good for watercross. Gaps in the bellypan, bulkhead and tunnel must be sealed with silicone to make the sled waterproof. Remove the oil injection tank, and use a pre-mix fuel. It is also recommended to lengthen and stiffen the front shocks, and the seat can be removed.

Similar to riding a personal watercraft, the racers do not use the snowmobile’s skis for steering, but instead rely on leaning and shifting of their bodyweight, just like riding a jet ski.

This weekend’s competition is a fundraiser for the Lake Linden Village Fire Department.

Provided Photo Lake Linden’s James Marietta turns his sled during a mid-season race at the Brainerd International Raceway in Brainerd, Minnesota, in late July.

In October, 2019, the Village Council gave its approval for the event to take place at the Lake Linden Campground, in late August, or early September of this year, the Daily Mining Gazette reported on Oct. 19, 2019.

The Village Council gave permission for an event at the Lake Linden campground in late August or early September at its meeting Thursday night.

The International Watercross Association (IWA) competition will raise funds for the village fire department, organizer Neil Marietta told the DMG in 2019. Marietta’s son, James, is a member of the department.

The IWA has done summertime races for 43 years, Marietta said. Races had previously been held in Baraga before shutting down in the early 2000s, he added.

“It’s actually bigger now than it’s ever been,” Marietta said.

For the World Championships in Grantsburg, Wisconsin, it holds a $35,000 fireworks display on the Saturday night of the competition, along with bands. Profits from that go to support athletic programs at the local high school, he said.

“As far as I’m concerned, the only reason that I want this race to come to town is for our own benefit,” he said. “I think the Lake Linden Fire Department should be the people who are hosting it, taking the profits.”

The IWA brings in its own insurance, and runs the event, Marietta said. The IWA would bring in materials such as bleachers and pontoon boats with winches to retrieve snowmobiles.

The fire department would still provide support in the form of collecting money from the gate, crowd control and beer sales.

Racers reserved campground spots weeks in advance, and will also need additional camping past the campground sites, to avoid snowmobiles in the campground area wrecking grass.

The course comprises approximately one acre of water, and the Coast Guard is scheduled to be present to keep boats and watercraft spectators a safe distance from the competitors.

Spectators and racers will be charged $30 for the weekend or $15 for the day.

It will cost about $10,000 to bring the event to Lake Linden, Neil Marietta said. Sponsors have already contributed $4,000. Races and gate fees will bring in $7,500.

James Marietta had said in October that if this first watercross, in Lake Linden is a success, it is hoped to it will become an annual event.

The International Watercross Association is a member owned and operated nonprofit organization founded in 1988, the IWA website states. The mission of the IWA is to provide a safe, uniform environment for the sanctioning and promotion of the sport of Snowmobile Watercross Racing.

The IWA was formed during what most would consider the “adolescence” of the sport, states the site. Beginning (for all practical purposes) in the summer of 1977, with the first event held in Grantsburg, WI, the sport grew quickly during the first 10 years. During the World Championship Watercross in 1987, a group of pioneers of the sport put their heads together and decided to form the IWA in an effort to make a uniform set of rules and procedures with which the events could operate for the sake of fair and safe competition.

“Much of the original format, primarily the brain child of original IWA President Mark Maki, remains intact to this day, 25 years later, the website states.

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