What do you do once you’ve proven you’re an elite performer at a sport? Most of us will never have a need to answer that question, but for Steve Chestolowski—winner of five Canadian championships in watercross racing—it’s all about passing his skills on to his kids.
He and his wife, Robynn, have four children (13, 10, eight and three years old). They’ve instilled their passion for watercross racing on to their kids. Their two oldest children have hopped into the sport like a frog onto a lily pad. “Peyton, my oldest, has already placed better than me—second in the world for his age division and a third-place finish as well,” said Chestolowski. His kids feel the rush of the ride just as much as he does, if not more so. One of his son Peyton’s noteworthy quotes after a ride was “Wow, that’s fast!”
Steve Chestolowski with his sister Diane Hanke. (L to R) Kashmira Hanke, Spencer Chestolowski, Peyton Chestolowski and Mike Hanke. — Photo courtesy Steve Chestolowski
The proud father gets emotional when watching his kids race, especially when they compete at the same time. “It sends shivers down your spine and puts a tear in your eye,” he said.
According to Chestolowski, eight or nine is the appropriate age for children to begin riding a PWC (personal watercraft). “It depends on their maturity,” he said. “At young ages they need to race the course by themselves (timed) with safety boats on hand.”
Becoming the best
Chestolowski’s journey to becoming one of the best watercross racers in Canada began 28 years ago at age 15. During his rise to the top he travelled to Penticton, B.C., Chicago, Illinois, and Lake Havasu, Arizona, with a three-year stint in Mexico where he rented out PWCs as a business. He’s still in the business of watercraft, only now it’s as a racer instead of a retailer. In order to attain such a highly sought-after job, Chestolowski said you need to “be dedicated and gain the trust of large sponsors. Have a hard work ethic and lots of salesmanship.” He also works as a refrigeration mechanic, although he wishes he could race full-time. His main sponsor is Fisher Powerline Construction.
Steve Chestolowski’s lifetime of watercross racing has yielded many trophies and awards. — Photo courtesy Steve Chestolowski
Another attribute needed to succeed in the world of watercross is strength. One way to gain strength is riding, but in the off-season Chestolowski opts for Canada’s favourite game. “I play on three hockey teams to stay in shape for racing,” he said. “I also coach my three sons’ hockey teams.”
Chestolowski is the president of the Western Canadian Watercross Association (WCWA) and his wife has been the organization’s treasurer for many years. They organize the WCWA’s eight-round series in Saskatchewan and Alberta. Chestolowski also started up a 40-and-over novice class to get dads racing and staying in shape. “Racing is a full-body core workout,” he said.
When recalling his favourite thing about riding PWCs, Chestolowski said, “The adrenalin from cornering on a stand-up (PWC), there’s no other feeling like it.”
Most adrenalin junkies have a collection of battle scars from their dangerous outings. Chestolowski has managed to keep nasty spills in the drink to less than a handful. The worst injury he’s sustained was a broken ankle in 2010 and he maintains that the sport is safe.
PWC racing appears to have a gleaming future on the horizon. “It’s good now that two main powerhouses of the sport, Yamaha and Kawasaki, have new four-strokes (Kawasaki this year, Yamaha next),” Chestolowski said. “Once people ride for a day they get hooked. All you have to do is try and the sport will stay alive.”
Name: Steve Chestolowski
Ride: Hydro S4 open boat
Home: Saskatoon, Saskatchewan
Day jobs: Refrigeration mechanic and professional watercross racer
Bragging rights: Five Canadian championship wins, 14 Canadian runners-up, 16 third-place titles, two third-place wins in the world