His intuition was right. "The sailfish were pouring through in 120 feet," he says wistfully. Miller spent the next ten hours battling sailfish and tuna, one after the other, as he watched nearby boats with full crews doing the same. Mentally tracking his take versus everyone else's, Miller stayed out for hours, his competitive spirit and love for the sport willing him to push past bleeding fingers and battle sea monsters for hours on end. "I was playing that little game with myself," he says. It's a "game" he's been playing since he was 3 years old. "The obsession starts early and gradually grows and grows."

David Hernandez, 33, South Beach


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Joel Meinholz
Karrie Norberg
Christina Mendenhall
Karrie Norberg

They say that when things go right, your career chooses you instead of the other way around. A career of water and waves planted itself in David Hernandez's path after a dispassionate go at academia.

"My parents said, 'Go to school, go to school,' " he says. He opted not to go but then had to deal with the realization that his love for baseball wouldn't manifest itself into a viable career. Having been fascinated with wakeboarding since the early '90s, Hernandez switched gears and forged a career in it not only as a pro rider but also as a coach and instructor. The two-time Pan American champion — he placed third in the men's open in 2007 and first in the men's II in 2008 — is a coach at Miami Wakeboard Cable Complex, in Hialeah's Amelia Earhart Park. His "office" is essentially a lake, his commute conducted on the wake of a motorboat. "I never go out mad," he says. "I never get tired of it."

Though he has devoted years of intense training to the sport, he never forgets those first challenging trips behind the boat. "I didn't get up the first time," he says, though he was hooked from the beginning. "You can't just settle" with wakeboarding, he says. "It's hard enough to get up. There's always something new to learn, and that's one of the cool things about it."

Noah Flegel, 14, and Keenan Flegel, 16, Lighthouse Point

Wakeboarding and Wakesurfing

They haven't even made it out of high school yet, but already these athletic brothers have the world at their water-pruned feet. Competitive since they were toddlers, Noah and Keenan Flegel have secured more championships, sponsorships, and accolades in their short careers than many board-sport devotees could hope for in a lifetime.

Last year, Noah's role as a world champion in wakeboarding and his prowess for surfing and wakesurfing landed him on the cover of Sports Illustrated Kids as the magazine's "SportsKid of the Year." He's also part of an effort to get wakeboarding into the 2020 Olympics, an accomplishment that would look really nice on a college application. "To me, it's the best sport to be in the Olympics," he says, noting how cool it looks to watch boarders spin through the air with apparent weightlessness. He intends to go pro with the sport and attend college in Orlando, a world hub for wakeboarding.

Keenan, meanwhile, frequently takes top honors at wakesurfing competitions while exploring what's possible in the new sport. He'll likely head to college in Southern California so he can advance in wakesurfing while pursuing a degree. He says that though people initially paid attention to him in competitions simply by virtue of his youth ("Everyone was at least ten years older than me"), he soon "earned" that attention by advancing to the professional level before he was old enough to drive a car.

North Broward Preparatory School, where Noah and Keenan are students, has been supportive of the boys' training and competition schedules. The proximity of their home, school, and the lake on which they train means they're able to devote plenty of time to homework at night and still get to bed on time. Perhaps predictably, the brothers maintain above-average grades, even in their honors classes.

Cheyne Cottrell, 29, Deerfield Beach


A surfboard doubles as a passport for Cheyne Cottrell, whose sport has given him a chance to travel the world in search of waves. He's surfed in Australia, Hawaii, and Central America; throughout Europe; and at Skeleton Bay in Namibia, where he says he encountered "the most perfect waves ever." Growing up the child of a devout surfer — his late father, Kirk Cottrell, opened Island Water Sports in Deerfield Beach — Cottrell enjoyed early exposure to water and an active lifestyle. "I've been surfing for as long as I can remember," he says.

In 1997, the elder Cottrell moved his family to Cape Town, South Africa, for missionary work. The move meant Cheyne Cottrell spent most of his teenage years in the vicinity of some of the best surfing beaches in the world. He moved back to South Florida in 2005 at age 21, even though the state simply doesn't provide the kinds of waves that make for a great surfer. "Getting into the big-wave scene can be a challenge," he says.

His time in Africa, combined with his wanderlust, gave him the confidence to break into the pros and earn sponsorship from Oakley. "Going from amateur to professionally ranked was a gamble... I had to put everything on the line and go for it." He once ranked as high as 90 on the Association of Surfing Professionals' World Qualifying Series. Cottrell — who now works full-time at Island Water Sports — will pass along the fundamentals of the sport in a series of ten, one-week surf camps this summer in Deerfield Beach.

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