Arizona Father and Firefighter Wins Wakeboarding World Championship

Contributed By Amber Clayson, Church News contributor

  • 24 October 2014

LDS firefighter Sam Cole practices his wakeboarding tricks out on the water. He won the World Wakeboard Association championship in the Men’s II division on September 12.  Photo by Nikki Rimer.

Article Highlights

  • Sam took first place in the Men’s II division at the Wakeboard World Championships.
  • Sam is a father, husband, counselor in the Sunday School, and firefighter.
  • He hopes to inspire youth and his own children.

“He is a great example of a man who is constantly striving to be his best in all areas of his life and works to help those around him become better in every way.” —Erika Cole, Sam Cole’s wife

Sam Cole isn’t your average working dad. He doesn’t sit behind a desk, working a 9-to-5 job. He stands behind a giant fire hose, washing down anything that’s aflame. And what does he do in his spare time? He’s a world champion wakeboarder.

The 26-year-old champion attends the Page 3rd Ward of the Page Arizona Stake and works hard to balance his roles of husband, father, active Church member, firefighter, and wakeboarder. While it hasn’t been easy, he has been rewarded in bounteous ways.

On September 12, he won the Men’s II division (age 25–29) champion title at the World Wakeboard Association Wakeboard World Championships in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida, with a score of 81.33 out of 100. Taking first place in his division at U.S. Nationals on July 25 near Waco, Texas, qualified him for the championship. Having wakeboarded since he was a young boy, these wins brought him some proud moments.

“I was definitely excited,” he said. “I haven’t really competed in a lot of contests lately. I’ve got a young family—a two-year-old and a kid on the way. I’ve been more focused on that and getting my career going. But it was a huge accomplishment coming back and starting to compete again and be able to win these pretty big titles.”

He grew up in Corvallis, Oregon, in a family of five. Kneeboarding, water skiing, and wakeboarding were common pastimes in his family. Around age 17, Sam started to take wakeboarding seriously and began to train. His father, Craig Cole, said Sam would practice four days a week, for two or three hours a day.

“He’d get out of school, and I would have the boat already loaded up, and we would head right down to the lake,” Craig Cole said. “He’d do his training runs and then we would drive right back and come home for dinner.”

He said Sam’s accomplishments are blessings that come from diligence, faith, and love for his family and career.

“We’re very proud that he’s faithful and a father and a fireman and a good husband and is able to make this accomplishment, which I think has happened because of all of those things,” Craig Cole said. “He’s a much better competitor, now that he’s more mature and a father and all those things, than he was when he was a 17-year-old.”

LDS wakeboard world champion Sam Cole works as a firefighter in Page, Arizona. He is also a husband, father, and counselor in the Sunday School presidency. Photo by Nikki Rimer.

LDS wakeboard champion Sam Cole with his wife, Erika, and two-year-old daughter, Taytum. Photo by Nikki Rimer.

Sam Cole competed in 15 to 20 tournaments when he was younger, but it’s been seven or eight years since he’s done a major competition. Competing in the World Wakeboard Association championship had always been his dream

“It’s been kind of a dream to go to the world championship,” he said. “You always want to do it at a professional level, but life happens and you pursue other things. Somebody suggested, ‘You should go to Nationals; you could do really well.’ It was a thought before, but now it’s a cool thing. You don’t have to be a professional to get on the stage. You can be an amateur and still get recognized.”

Although he competed at the amateur level, taking the title of world champion in his division boosts his wakeboarding career. The win puts him in a better spot with his sponsors, which brings better equipment and gives him the support he needs to compete again next year.

“As far as my aspirations of going professional, I don’t think it’s quite there,” he said. “I have a professional career now being a fireman, and [wakeboarding] is more of a hobby, … but it makes me more hungry to go back next year to defend my title.”

Following high school, Sam moved to Florida, where he spent his time practicing and teaching wakeboarding. When he met and married his wife in 2009 he was working for a construction company. Realizing he wanted a better career to support his new family, he began to volunteer at the fire department at the suggestion of his wife. It wasn’t long before he was hired and became an EMT and decided this was the career path he wanted to pursue. Firefighting took the Coles to their current home in Page, Arizona, where Sam is taking classes to become a paramedic.

He and his wife, Erika, have a two-year-old daughter, Taytum, and Erika is expecting another child. He serves as the first counselor in the Sunday School presidency in the Page 3rd Ward, and Sister Cole teaches fourth grade at Desert View Elementary.

Between taking care of the family, fulfilling callings, working, and wakeboarding, the Cole family have busy lives but, Sam said, with the gospel and careful planning, everything always works out.

“If you keep Heavenly Father and the Church and the gospel centered, just kind of focusing everything on that, it’s amazing. As long as you’re taking care of what you should be doing, everything else will work out,” he said. “Heavenly Father will bless you for the efforts you make, and He’ll make up the difference.”

Sister Cole said her husband’s determination to live the gospel and be an example for others is easily seen.

She said he is “often surrounded by those who have lifestyles that are very different from his.”

“He is a great example of a man who is constantly striving to be his best in all areas of his life and works to help those around him become better in every way.”

Craig Cole said his son not only stands as an example to his co-workers but also to younger, aspiring wakeboarders. “He sets a really good example as somebody who lives the gospel, isn’t tattooed up, is married, a father, has a career, and still can compete at a high level. He doesn’t have to do all the other stuff associated with it.”

Sam Cole recognizes the importance of being a good example and hopes to be able to influence younger kids in a positive way.

“It seems like extreme sports get a bad rap,” he said. “And I feel like I’m a cool guy, so if I can show these kids you can still be cool and be a good rider and have good values and morals and influence the sport that way, then that would be really cool.”

He said his wife is his “greatest support,” and he is grateful for his parents for “getting me started in this awesome sport and raising me in the gospel. It’s kind of a dream come true.”