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August 2000

Sonja Scheffler

A Long Way From Her Roots and Flying High

     Who would have known that the same girl growing up on the farm in Michigan and driving tractors would eventually find herself living in central Florida as an accomplished wakeboarder, a television host and the subject of magazine articles.
     It seems that her involvement into wakeboarding came about by accident.  You see, Sonja Scheffler had always been heavily involved with sports and had even attended college on a basketball scholarship, but her life was about to take a different direction.  Sonja said, "I got really burnt out on being in a gymnasium all day long everyday, so I came home, continued college and got involved with kneeboarding."


     It was during this time, when some friends she had been kneeboarding with asked her to try wakeboarding.  They said, "why don't you try wakeboarding and I said, 'GREAT' and never stopped."  


     Sonja can be found helping out Dean Lavelle at "The Lavelle Train Station", a wakeboarding school operated by Dean.  Aquaskier recently had the opportunity to find out more about this accomplished individual who has been such a positive influence in the world of wakeboarding. 





Who are you, where are you from and how did you end up getting involved in wakeboarding?


Hello, I am Sonja Scheffler.  I was born in St. Joseph, Michigan and I lived on a farm, drove tractors, and got dirty until I was 6 and then I moved to the city.  In the city I went to a private school where I played every sport available to girls. In the sixth grade my whole family moved to Florida. 

My family consists of my Mom and Dad, married 36 years, but met and first fell in love when my Mom was 8 and my Dad was 9. They were playing king and queen with a bunch of kids and my dad made my Mom give him a kiss on the cheek because he was king. 


I have two older sisters Kim and Misty and one younger brother Matt. With a family of six there is never a dull moment. I live in central Florida on a lake, but all through the rest of my schooling I was so involved with playing basketball, volleyball, and running track I never skied or wakeboarded. 


I went to college my first year on basketball scholarship and then I got really burnt out on being in a gymnasium all day long everyday, so I came home and continued college and got involved with kneeboarding. I really enjoyed being out on the water, in the boat and being active, so I started competing kneeboarding. I did this for about 3 years and then some friends I was kneeboarding with, Hunter Brown,  said "why don't you try wakeboarding" and I said 'GREAT' and never stopped.


What is your typical training routine?


I go to the gym almost everyday: I do this to try to keep my knees ready for impact, then I either I ride with Dean Lavelle at his house, he has a great set up with his own kicker ramps and sliders, or I go to the Bonnifay's and ride. At the Bonnifay's I ride with 
Nick Weinacker, Erick Ruck and Parks.  I am so lucky to have all these guys there to help me. Between those guys and Dean all helping me, I have no excuse not to learn wakeboarding. Thanks guys.



Do any of your family members participate in wakeboarding?  Are they supportive of you?


No one in my family wakeboards or does any water sports other than me. Actually, they all race cars and my Dad wonders why I don't want to race.  I raced a few races when I was fifteen and I won my first one I ever raced and that set him on fire to have me race. But, they do support me 100% in my wakeboarding and I love them for it.



What is your current wakeboard setup?


I ride the Slayer 133. My rope is a 70 ft. Proline no 
stretch cable. I ride the Cannon bindings and I think they rock, nice and comfy. I prefer to ride the behind the Nautique Super Air and of course I ALWAYS ride with a life jacket on because you never know when you could take a fatal digger, so I wear Neilpryde jacket.



What is the wakeboard scene like in your hometown?

The wakeboard scene in my hometown is a lot of fun. Basically I guess I am just one of the guys. I ride with Dean, Nick, Erik, Ruck and Parks. They are great because they are always pushing me to try new stuff or things I am really scared to try. They call me chicken and don't give me a whole lot of sympathy when I do get beat down. 


Because we all ride in Lake Alfred we are called the L.A. clan. It's a small town but we are constantly having visitors from out of state or out of the country. Erick and I counted the other day that we have had 36 people in last 7 months to come and stay and ride in Lake Alfred.


Who are some of my favorite wakeboarders? 


Well I guess I will have to be biased and say Dean, Erik, Nick, Parks, Shaun, Kevin Brew, and Julz. They have all helped me so much and I love them all. Thanks guys.



Where would you like to see yourself in 5 years?

HHMMM good question, well fast food restaurants all have 2 for $2 deals so I know I won't be going hungry, but Erick and I have future plans of having a pool cleaning service. I'll clean the pools he will drive the van. We have already found a 1979 white Ford van for $1,150,00, I know high ambitions. 


No really, I am hosting two television shows for the World of Women's Sports, so hopefully our TV shows Curves and She Sport will keep doing well and I will step back from competing one day and just do TV. But for right now, I am very busy helping out Dean Lavelle, because he has opened a wakeboard school, "The Lavelle Train Station", and I am also coaching for him.



Have you suffered any major injuries while wakeboarding?


From wakeboarding of course I have had all kinds small stuff happen, like stitches and sprained body parts but I have only had two major injuries. In 1997 1 tore my meniscus in my knee and then later I broke my heel. 


Breaking your heel is one of the worse places on your body to damage because it gets very little blood to it; so therefore, it heels slowly. I was on crutches for about 7 months and I wasn't able to do any physical activity for one year. That almost killed me! I am extremely hyper and having to sit and watch everyone do all the activities I love was hard to handle.



I read that you switched from kneeboarding to wakeboarding several years ago.  Do you ever ride the kneeboard anymore?

Since I started wakeboarding, I have to say I haven't gone back and kneeboarded. It is not like I wouldn't want to but I am always pretty busy and the time I do have on the water I either wakeboard or surf behind the boat.



What advice would you give to someone wanting to learn how to get started in wakeboarding?

The advice I would give to someone just starting out on a wakeboard would be to get some help, especially if they haven't been doing watersports their whole life. I think it is very important to get a few lessons and learn how to do things right before you develop a bunch of bad habits. 


When I first started wakeboarding I didn't even know what foot I was forward, there is no shame in that. It simply means you need a little help from someone who is experienced.



Anything else you'd like to add?

I just want to say I have been so fortunate. Wakeboarding has opened so many doors for me, I have met so many wonderful people and made great friends. I have also had the opportunity to travel all over the world doing clinics teaching people how to do our sport. Being on the road can be really tough, especially when you're a Mom and Daddy's girl, but I am very thankful for everything I have been exposed to through this sport.


Sonja is sponsored by CWB, Blink, Flojos, Legend, Neil Pryde, Nevin, Performance Ski and Surf. 



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