For Mark Richards, the owner of Pro Wake Watersports, the phrase “Memories Start Here” has been a lifelong motto when it comes to enjoying lake life. Many of his first memories are of spending weekends on Syracuse Lake at his grandparents’ lake house. While there, the day often started with a bath off the end of the pier, and continued with boat rides, water skiing, swimming, fishing, and every kind of lake activity a boy could imagine.
“I just loved every time my parents were like, ‘Hey, we’re going to grandma and grandpa’s for the weekend,’” Richards says. “I couldn’t get there quick enough.”
Now, more than four decades later, Richards provides the same kinds of opportunities for his grandkids.
“My grandkids are aged 6 months to 6 years, and they all know that at Pop’s, you go to the lakes and get on boats and have fun.”
Since he has so many wonderful memories on the water with his family, it’s only natural that he would try to help other families find the perfect water sports equipment. So, it’s no wonder why the hashtag on social media for Pro Wake Watersports is #MemoriesStartHere.
“In the boating industry, you’re making memories for people,” Richards says. “You’re growing memories for kids and grandkids. You don’t see many people on the water who are frowning and not having a good time. Memories are made on the water. It’s our passion to get to know people, to get them into the right boat, to deliver a good product to them, to back it up, and to support them.”
Richards rebranded the business in 2012 and purchased the company in 2018.
“Pro Wake Watersports seemed like a perfect name for the next phase and direction that we were going,” he says.
In the last eight years, the business has grown from one location with four employees to three locations and 20 employees. Each one is near a travel destination lake, which draws people from all over the state and even around the Midwest.
All three locations have a wide variety of boat brands available, including Supra, Moomba, Sylvan and Harris. They also have other water sports equipment, such as waterskiing and wake surfing gear and accessories.
When a new customer walks through the door looking for a boat, the first question Richards and his team ask is, “What lake do you boat on?” To the Pro Wake Watersports staff and their customers, that detail makes an incredible difference, since the size of the lake and the boat need to harmonize. In smaller lakes, like Ridinger in Kosciusko County, boats are only allowed to go 10 miles per hour or less, and as such, need smaller engines. However, on larger lakes, like Wawasee, boats need more power in order to safely share the water with the rest of the traffic on the lake.
“By asking that question, it gives us a direction of where our thought process needs to be in order to guide you to the right boat,” Richards says.
Once they know how powerful the boat needs to be, Richards’ staff will ask about what kind of accommodations the boat needs to have in order to best suit the customer’s needs and desires.
“Is it just the four of you and you want to be left alone when you come to the lake, or do you entertain a lot and have 25 people on the lake with you?” Richards says. “We spend the time, we learn each other, and we get them into the right boat with the right price.”
After payment options have been determined, whether the boat is paid for in full or the customer has made a down payment through Pro Wake Watersports’ financing option, it is lake-tested and detailed. When the staff is satisfied that everything is in working order, it is delivered on the date set by the customer.
“I have a delivery captain come out to your lake, bring you the boat, and go out on the lake with your boat for an hour or two to go over everything with you, to get you comfortable with it before we leave you,” Richards says.
Pro Wake Watersports professionals are willing to come back and help customers as much as needed.
“We’ll come back out, especially on the towboat side, and spend more time with them to dial in their boat, helping them to correct what they may be doing wrong on the wakeboard or wake surf side,” Richards says.
Pro Wake Watersports’ customer service doesn’t end there. They also offer a full range of maintenance, storage and services for boat owners.
“We do storage, winterization, summarization – it’s a full-service, full-storage facility,” Richards says.
Their main location in North Webster alone features more than 50,000 square feet of under-roof storage.
“We store hundreds and hundreds of boats, and service thousands,” he says.
Richards and his team offer more than just motorboats. One of their most popular services is their Surf Wednesday program, which is available between Memorial Day and the second week of August. Richards’ team offers lessons to those who sign up to learn how to wake surf.
“We teach them how to surf,” Richards says. “If they know how to surf, we take them to another level. We get them excited about surfing behind a boat.”
All of Pro Wake Watersports’ products, programs and services come down to a single goal – inspire customers to enjoy water sports and lake life with the same fervor that Richards and his team feel.
“We are all about the family, the passion, the water, the boating industry, and growing families and making memories,” Richards says. “We care. The bottom line is that you’ve given us an opportunity to earn your business and we aren’t going to let you down.”