Kodi Imondi and her husband, Victor, opened Imondi Wake Zone five years ago in Fruita -- believed to be the first wakeboarding park of its size in Colorado. Kodi is a champion rider. Video courtesy Imondi Wake Zone

FRUITA • Another day at the lake finds Victor and Kodi Imondi dreaming again.

Husband and wife are thinking about adding a new activity to the aquatic business that surprises here on Colorado’s far west desert: scuba diving. They’re thinking about some kind of scavenger hunt, things to find 20-plus feet underwater.

Perhaps an old car, Kodi poses. Or some local icons, Victor offers. “A dinosaur down there? Some bicycles?”

For now, the main dream is accomplished. For the young couple, that has to do with wakeboarding. That has to do with watching people fall in love with the creation thought to be the only one of its kind between Missouri and California. Imondi Wake Zone turns heads beside Interstate 70 west of Grand Junction.

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At the moment, the Imondis are watching a teenager lap the 30-acre lake. Trent Targett has two feet strapped to a board and two hands on a line that’s zipping him along. It’s a horizontal tow akin to a ski lift, ferrying the air-seeking rider to ramps and rails and other features similar to those of a terrain park.

Those are helpful comparisons for Coloradans, who don’t often see the traditional wakeboarding-by-boat, let alone wakeboarding-by-cable. On a website committed to the niche, Imondi is mapped as one of America’s 25 “full system” cable wake parks, with most of them predictably clustered in year-round, warm-weather states.

“It’s the only one in the United States with a backdrop,” Victor Imondi is proud to say, looking beyond at the red walls of Colorado National Monument.

It’s the backdrop for Targett now. The fellow local leaps and twirls across the water.

“I knew Victor and Kodi before they were even together,” he reflects later. “I remember they had this big old dream to have a wake park out in Colorado, the first one ever out here. Couple years down the road, they made it happen.”

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They made it happen in 2018, claiming the six-tower, full system park to be the first in their native state. Under construction that year, the Imondis inscribed a message into one of the tower’s concrete blocks: “Wakeboarding is our love story.”

The story starts in 2008, when Kodi attended a water sports expo in Orlando, Fla. — the birthplace of what would be her championship career in wakeboarding.

Horses were Kodi’s first passion growing up in Fruita, before family vacations to Lake Powell inspired another passion. It was in Orlando where she saw her first cable park. “And I was like, This is dope. Colorado needs a cable,” she says.

A couple of years later, Victor saw his first one in Texas. He was there for another motocross race.

“I didn’t race again after that,” he says.

He got busy on a business plan for a cable park in his home state. He later discussed this during a date with Kodi, who was working on a plan of her own. They combined the vision upon marriage in 2014.

Money was one complication. A venue was another.

Beside I-70, there was a former gravel pit that filled with water after miners struck an aquifer.

“We used to drive by and say, ‘We need a cable park right there,’” Victor says.

It became possible after the landowner donated the lake to the city of Fruita. The city agreed to lease to the Imondis. So the couple didn’t have to outright buy the land, but they would have to cover everything else: the infrastructure, insurance, staff and more.

Victor had been working as an engineer, Kodi in real estate and boat shops. They had two young kids. They were about to embark on a seasonal enterprise that was totally obscure to most locals.

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“The day before I quit my job, we were laying in bed scared out of our minds. It was like, are we really doing this?” Victor recalls. “But then we thought, you know, what’s really scarier? Losing everything you own and having to rebuild, or getting old and looking back and saying, Why didn’t we try?”

After depleting their savings and retirement, they poured in the sweat equity.

“If the sun was down, we were working on this,” Kodi says inside the rental shop. “And if the sun was up, we’d be out there.”

“And then we’d sleep a few hours in between on a blow-up mattress,” Victor says.

The bet is paying off.

Entering their fifth season, the Imondis report revenues up more than 400% from year one. Last year, from the start of business in April through the end in October, they say they counted about 3,500 riders, with thousands more coming for the inflatable “aqua park.”

The local economy comes most alive in the cooler spring and fall, when mountain bikers flock to the valley. But recently, leaders have been crediting Imondi Wake Zone for a regionwide uptick in the summer. Some might call the park the Grand Valley’s grand thrill to beat the heat.

The word is out among the sport’s most ardent followers, who see cable parks as more efficient and cost-effective than a boat. None of that waiting for the boat to turn around after a fall, none of that gas and maintenance required.

The biggest fans are known to travel from cable park to cable park. Once, a pro rider from Argentina took to Instagram to rave about the Imondi view. Not long ago, one came from Boise, Idaho, to experience his home’s closest park of its size. And a wakeboarder from Las Vegas has occasionally ridden all morning before driving back for his late-night bar shift.

It is a fiercely committed bunch, much like the Imondis. Just as they are expanding the business — the aqua park, the bar service, the pending scuba diving — they are aiming to see more cable parks around Colorado.

“Ultimately, we want to introduce everybody to the sport and grow the sport like the ski and snowboard industry,” Kodi says. “But the ski and snowboard industry couldn’t grow with one resort.”

Winter is an obvious barrier to wakeboarding. And not every lake has a generous aquifer as Imondi Wake Zone boasts (docks were recently replaced due to high water).

“Looking at the water situation in the southwest,” Kodi says, “it’s hard to commit and make those investments when we just don’t know.”

For now, the Imondis are introducing everybody they can to the sport here in their unlikely home. It’s all for the freedom, they say, the fun and carefree time that wakeboarding provides.

“It’s the only time I’m not thinking about everything else,” Victor says.

But first-timers don’t get that right away. They typically struggle, as one does now. He falls, but Victor is there to encourage as ever — the mentor that Colorado wakeboarding needs.

“All right! Wanna give it another try?” he asks. “Let’s do it!”

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