Riding waves: Correll enjoying sport of watercross, while having experiences of a lifetime

At age 41, Derek Correll is riding the biggest waves in his life.

Correll, a Sherrills Ford native, has been involved in the sport of watercross since 1987.

He initially became active in the sport by spending time with friends who were interested in jet skis as well.

"I started working on jet skis," Correll said. "I met up with some guys who were doing the same thing I was doing at the time. They also did their own maintenance work. I got involved with them a little bit and started learning things from them."

Watercross is similar to motocross. Racers compete on a closed course against each other on jet skis. The machines reach a top speed of over 90 mph. Most tracks are one-half mile to three-quarters of a mile.

Laps are usually around 90 seconds and riders will be involved in both left and right hand turns.

Derek's passion for the sport ran deep and he wanted to pursue it even further. However, it was going to take some extra effort to become involved.

"When you first start racing, you don't have a mechanic," Correll said. "When you race, you have to fix it yourself if you plan on racing. I kind of took a liking to it and next thing I knew, I was racing."

Correll immediately became hooked and competed for a while, but he took a 10-year hiatus from competing in the sport after a friends passing. However, he never lost the spark he had for the sport.

"I was still going to all the major events, but just as a spectator," Correll said. "I just didn't race for those 10 years, but I kept up with the sport."

Correll eventually returned to compete and has been a member of the Jettribe USA race team based out of Moorpark, Calif. for two years.

During his time in watercross, Correll has achieved numerous accolades. Among these include multiple regional championships.

However, one of Derek's biggest accomplishments was racing in the King's Cup World Grand Prix in Pitsanulok, Thailand on Dec. 1-5, 2010.

Derek competed in the Amateur Veteran Runabout Open Class at the event and rode a Team Racing Seadoo RXPX. He finished tenth overall after qualifying amongst some of the best watercross racers in the world.

The experience at the King's Cup tournament was something Correll said he will never forget.

"Going overseas 13,000 miles away from home was definitely the experience of a lifetime," Correll said. "Their customs are totally different. It is a completely different world. We not only went to Thailand, but my sponsor has a business in Vietnam. We went there for a week. We went on vacation in the South China Sea. It was a very interesting trip."

Correll is planning to make the trip again this year and will leave on Thanksgiving Day and return on Dec. 13. His team has also scheduled other events around the world.

"We have four venues we are looking at," Correll said. "The plan is to race China, Dubai, the Cayman Islands and back to Thailand, which is the big event. I am planning to put a lot of time into that trip. It takes about three weeks. You have two days of flying, but the jet lag will kill you."

As for his future in the sport, Correll says he has no immediate plans in the future to park his jet ski for good.

"I work out three times a week and keep up my cardio," Correll said. "The sport keeps me young and active. I've seen a lot of people my age that have let themselves go. I don't want to be that kind of person. You aren't promised another breath, so I live my life like there is no tomorrow."