Harrison TownshipDecember 24, 2013
Harrison Township resident takes China competition by storm
By Julie Snyder
C & G Staff Writer
HARRISON TOWNSHIP — When Kevin Rheeder’s love of high-performance sports moved off dry land, it was like a duck to water.
An outdoorsy and athletic person since childhood, Rheeder has always had a penchant for racing. But in 2005, he decided to have a go at personal watercraft racing.
“I liked it immediately,” said the 27-year-old. “I was hooked.”
Over the past eight years, Rheeder has competed in numerous local and national competitions, claiming championship after championship, winning purse after purse and trophy after trophy.
He has competed in professional Jet Ski races in New Baltimore, Hillsdale and St. Ignace. He travels out of state to compete in races everywhere from New York to Lake Havasu City, Ariz., where he became the 2006 World Champion against 300 other racers. The win launched him from amateur to pro-am status.
Rheeder, who graduated from L’Anse Creuse High School in 2004, said the local racing scene took a nosedive, so he started looking into opportunities elsewhere.
Thanks to the efforts of a promoter — not to mention Rheeder’s skills and reputation on the water — he was invited to compete in the 2013 Asian Aquabike Qinzhou Open on Oct. 26-27 where he finished in second place on his 800cc Sea Doo, beating 17 other racers from around the world.
The competition, which was organized by the General Administration of Sport of China, was intended to enhance the abilities of pro competitors while encouraging international exchanges, according to organizers. The two-day tournament was also attended by racers from Australia, Brunei, Estonia, Malaysia, New Zealand and Thailand.
Rheeder’s father, Rick, said it was no surprise to the family when his son first demonstrated a natural ability to ride and race a jet ski; he was able to not only travel at a high rate of speed during any race — racers will go anywhere from 60 mph to close to 100 mph — he was also able to successfully maneuver turns and recover quickly.
“He started demonstrating athleticism at a very young age,” said Rick Rheeder, who has owned and operated JM Collision in Clinton Township since 1998 with his wife, LuAnn. “He just went up north and went snowmobiling with some friends. He plays baseball, golfs. ... He’s been this way as long as I can remember.”
Kevin Rheeder, who manages JM Collision, said there are hopes to compete in China again next year, just as long as his promoter is able to snare an invitation from the country’s government.
“They’ve (China) really gotten into Aquabike (personal watercraft) racing down there over the past two years,” he said. “It’s huge. That is my plan; to go back and compete again.”