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Red Wing native displays wakeboard winch at River City Days

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Midwest summers are short - too short for most water-crazed river worshipers. For Red Wing native and Lake Pepin lover Kyle Mehrkens, the stunted season taunted his watersport obsession for years - but not anymore.

Mehrkens has masterminded a new watersport product, allowing a person to wakeboard alone without ever launching a boat.

An electrically powered automatic wakeboard winch offers a non-operated pull, he said, allowing the boarder to ride independently.

"People who understand watersports know the limits of the season and the manpower needed to successfully get on the water and ride," he said.

He will demonstrate his invention throughout today at Bay Point Park as part of River City Days.

Mehrkens and his company, Lake Pepin Innovation LLC, released the prototype last fall. This summer marks the release of his second-generation machine, debuting to the public this weekend.

The winch is an electric-powered system with 1,000 feet of rope. All batteries and moving parts of the machine will be off-limits to the public, but people will see a rider using the automatic wakeboard winch for short runs to perform, practice and execute eye-popping maneuvers and tricks.

Conceived from the combination of manually operated cable systems studied in Germany and his infatuation with watersports, the innovation will revolutionize the abilities of extreme water athletes, he believes.

"I've always loved extreme sports," Mehrkens said. "Unlike downhill skiing or skateboarding, you always need someone with you on the water. This is a solution to feed my need for water."

Watch Mehrkens from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. at the Upper Harbor. A spectator tent will be set up for the public to view drawings of his machine.

Stacy Bengs-Silverberg

Stacy Bengs has been a photojournalist at the Red Wing Republican Eagle since 2010. She holds a bachelors degree in journalism and art from the University of Minnesota.

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