New business ‘making waves’

Duane Hicks

Marjan (“Mar”) Fraczkiewicz has turned a longtime passion for wakeboarding and other water sports into a new business venture.
Fraczkiewicz, along with his business partner, Shawna McRitchie, launched Sunset Water Sports this summer to great success, with few evenings and weekends when they aren’t out on Rainy Lake with riders of all ages.
“I’m huge into water sports. I love every one of them,” Fraczkiewicz enthused.
“I started out way back in the day,” he noted. “A buddy had a kneeboard.
“She said, ‘We just bought it. Let’s try it.’ I tried it. I got hooked.
“I’ve surfed tabletops, everything–it’s a blast,” added Fraczkiewicz.
Then about six years ago, Fraczkiewicz started giving free lessons at the Point on Canada Day–just to get people, especially youths, more familiar with water sports.
“I got more and more into the teaching aspect of it. I love it,” he remarked, adding that after years of being an auto mechanic, his own body can’t quite do what it used to, so he gets satisfaction out of seeing others enjoying the various water sports.
“It’s all about the smiles,” Fraczkiewicz said. “I love when kids are yelling and screaming; they come in the boat and give me high-fives.
“They can’t believe they did this or that. It’s really rewarding.”
Over the past year or so, Fraczkiewicz decided to follow his dreams and spoke to longtime friend McRitchie about putting together a business plan with help from Angela Halvorsen of the Rainy River Future Development Corp. here.
They did so, and in April they were green-lit for a start-up loan. It’s been full speed ahead from there.
Fraczkiewicz underwent training in the Muskoka region so he would be fully certified in coaching water sports by Water Ski and Wakeboard Canada, Canada’s official governing body for towed water sports.
McRitchie, meanwhile, handled the financial side of things. To this day, she continues to make sure all of the waivers are signed, payments collected, and bills paid, as well as taking photos during excursions.
The pair also bought the key component of their business–a state-of-the-art boat–along with a full suite of water sports equipment.
While Fraczkiewicz had been using a Bayliner for the past six or seven years, his new pride and joy is a Mastercraft X25.
“It is a wakeboard boat,” he noted. “I can do waterskiing, bare footing, wake surfing, wake skating, wakeboarding, slalom skiing, kneeboarding.
“Pretty much everything that involves water sports, we can do behind this boat.
A wakeboard boat is meant to do far more than simply tow a rider behind it. At the helm of the Mastercraft X25, Fraczkiewicz can adjust how much of a wake the rider will experience.
It also can transport up to 16 passengers, along with an array of water sports equipment.
“If we had the other boat, it would be just us and we would tripping over equipment,” noted McRitchie.
But with this boat, “Everything we need for a day is right here,” she said.
The Mastercraft X25 even boasts its own sound system to further liven up the party.
And they’ve already gotten plenty of use out of the boat. Since July 1, Sunset Water Sports has been very busy, showing people of all ages–from three years old to 66 or older–a good time on the water.
These occasions have included weekly tube rides and lessons in water sports, as well as special events like birthday parties and family reunions.
“People just contact us and let us know what they want,” said McRitchie, noting Facebook has been their primary means of communicating with customers.
“We’ve done scenic tours to the mermaid, to Steep Rock, all of that. Trips to Sha-Sha,” she added.
“We takes crews out to lessons.
“We have had experienced riders who’ve never done it behind a boat like this–they’ve done it behind skiffs or whatever,” McRitchie noted. “So they book us and experience how it’s different.
They’re going to do Kettle Falls runs, as well.
Fraczkiewicz said he’s even been contacted for a wedding.
“The groom’s talking about going out in his tux after and wakeboarding,” he remarked.
“Not only that but they [the bride and groom] want to be able to go from a swim platform to a rock so the photographer can take pictures of them sitting on a rock in the middle of the lake,” added Fraczkiewicz.
“If someone has an idea and it involves the water, get a hold of us and let’s do it,” he enthused.
“I am pretty much game for anything.”
McRitchie stressed Sunset Water Sports is insured, has all of necessary equipment, Fraczkiewicz is an accredited coach, and both she and Fraczkiewicz are trained in CPR, first aid, and boater safety.
“We’re not just out here recklessly pulling people around,” she said.
Fraczkiewicz said they’ve taken numerous riders out on the lake this year who never have been out in a boat, let alone tried water sports.
He noted one young girl at Sunny Cove didn’t want to try tubing but once she finally did, she quickly learned to love it.
On a more serious note, Fraczkiewicz also helped a man who had drowned and been resuscitated more than once overcome his fear of water.
“We took him out to the mermaid, and his wife went swimming and that, and I just talked to him, nice and easy. ‘C’mon, let’s go sit on the platform and dangle our feet,'” he recalled.
“He was uneasy but he did it.
“It took us a half-hour, 45 minutes, but eventually [McRitchie’s niece] Aurora and I got him swimming by himself with a life jacket,” added Fraczkiewicz.
“It was so gratifying, so nice seeing that,” he said. “I’m willing to work with anyone with anything they want on the lake.”
Fraczkiewicz admitted not everyone can afford to go out and do water sports on their own, so Sunset Water Sports allows those interested to give them a try for a reasonable cost.
“It’s an expensive sport. You’re talking huge numbers for these boards, the boat, everything like that,” he conceded, adding Sunset Water Sports is affiliated with KidSport and is trying to get as many kids as possible out on the lake.
“I want it cheap enough that any kid can do it,” he reasoned. “I want it so that everyone is out here enjoying it.”
Sunset Water Sports also is welcoming sponsors.
Fraczkiewicz said he’d love to see local businesses sponsor youth who otherwise would not be able to afford to participate in water sports, and urged any interested businesses to contact them.
Looking at the big picture, Fraczkiewicz wants to foster the growth of water sports on Rainy Lake.
“I want everyone to enjoy what’s around us right now,” he remarked, referring to the scenic beauty of Rainy Lake.
“We are out on the lake, it’s glassy, it’s calm, and it’s sad there’s no tubes out, no boarders out. No nothing.”
Fraczkiewicz said he’s aware waterskiing used to be very popular on Rainy Lake, and he wants to rekindle that of water sports here.
“I’d actually like to, in future, get some pro wakeboarders down here and do some competitions here,” he noted, adding such events can draw thousands of spectators from far and wide.
“It’d be great for this town,” he enthused.
Sunset Water Sports will keep running through the fall.
“We have heaters, we have hot water on board, we have wet suits,” Fraczkiewicz said. “We’re going right until it gets too cold to stand anymore.
“If snow starts falling, we’ll see what the next week looks like and we might still keep going,” he smiled.
“Our plan is, May long weekend next year, we’ll be back in the water.”
Looking ahead, Sunset Water Sports hopes to expand in different ways, with adaptive programming being on the radar for next year.
You can check out “Sunset Water Sports” on Facebook.