For years my main sport was snowboarding, although I also dabbled in other board sports such as surfing, skateboarding, mountainboarding, kite boarding and kite surfing. Wakeboarding had been on my radar, but I had never had the opportunity to try it – until this year!
The first opportunity was on a rainy weekend in August with my closest friends on Ali’s stag do. I knew that Ali also wanted to try wakeboarding, so we decided to book at Sheffield Cable Wake Park, and planned a big night out in Sheffield afterwards. Unfortunately our booking was cancelled at the last minute, due to algae or something. So we ended up at Pier 52 near Cannock, which ended up being a blessing in disguise, as their two pier set up is better suited to beginners than the larger set up in Sheffield.
We had exclusive hire of the cable for an hour, between four of us, with the cable operator also acting as instructor. None of us knew what to expect, but Richard stepped up (down?) and got into the water first. The three of us on the dock were pleased to see him standing up on the board and getting to the end of the cable fairly quickly. However it did look like it was hard work!
After Rich it was my turn to lower myself into the cold reservoir, lie on my back with my arms stretched out and hold on for dear life! On my first attempt I went straight over on my face. The second attempt went better and I was up on the board, heading towards the pylon at the end of the cable. Once I was up on the board it felt like riding a snowboard on a bumpy piste, I could move the board left or right and adopted a kite boarding position, to the left of the cable. Then I realised that I did not know what to do at the end of the cable, so when the cable stopped I dropped down into the water and floundered about in the water trying to turn round, whilst my feet are attached to a board and without dropping the wooden handle – all whilst quite a way from the shore! After getting back to the pier, I was given some pointers – to stay under the cable – and dragged back out to the middle of the lake for another dunking. This all makes it sounds bad, but when I was up on the board with the spray on my face it felt great! Towards the end of my first session the instructor tried to explain what I needed to do at the end of each run to turn around, however I was too tired, from being dragged around the water, to understand it. Partho and Ali went out after me, with similar results – after our session we were all tired, but in a good way! We compared notes, and watched some other riders, and all went into our second session feeling more confident!
We switched over to the longer “Bay cable” for the second session. Rich went first again and made good progress – I think he got the best turn out of the four of us. I was up next and liked starting sat on the dock, rather than lying in the water. The water felt choppier on this side of the pier, but the longer cable felt faster and therefore better! The best bit was on the first run, when I was still dry from the dock start – it felt like I knew what I was doing, until getting another dunking at the end of the cable. I got quite close to making turns, particularly at the pier end of the cable, but as I slowed down the board sank into the water slightly too much. By the end of the session I knew exactly what I needed to do, but lacked the energy/strength in my legs to complete the turn. Ali went out and had a good session, but Partho had a stinker – with the biggest and most spectacular slam of the day, which marked the end of our session. After getting dried off and warmed up we drove up to Sheffield for the night out part of the stag do! We have all vowed to have another wakeboarding session, as it was so much fun and we all left with unfinished business – nailing those turns.
My next opportunity to get on a wakeboard came the next month when I was on holiday at Bluestone in Wales. Pembrokeshire Wake Park snared me with their clever targeted advertising on Facebook – pointing out that they were located right next to the Bluestone resort. As much as I wanted my next wakeboarding session to be with my mates, I was right next to what looked like a decent wake park, the weather was lovely and it felt like too good an opportunity to miss! After the success of the previous trip, I booked two sessions, thinking it would be a case of one to remember how to do it and one to nail the turns.
I cycled round to the wake park, I thought this would be a good warm up, and less hassle than taking the car. The wake park seemed perfect – a chalet with a cafe and changing rooms next to a purpose built lake with two tow-pier cable wakeboarding set ups with the Serendome at Bluestone, where Jen and the boys were spending the afternoon, visible past the end of the lake! The sun was out and the water was flat calm (I later learned that this was due to the island in the lake spearating the two cable runs) – the complete opposite to the conditions on Ali’s stag do.
I explained to the instructor that I wanted to work on turns and that I thought I knew what to do, but struggled to actually do it. I strapped the board to my feet and assumed the position, lying on my back in the water. When the cable started to pull me along, I managed to stand up and was whizzing down the lake, towards the Serendome in the distance. When I passed the last obstacle on the left, I dug my heel edge into the water and carved towards the bank, the cable sped up, then when it slowed down again I rolled to my toe edge and all of a sudden I was heading back towards the dock. I had nailed a turn on my first run – I could barely believe it! Then I repeated the turn at the dock end and again at the Serendome end. I was stoked, feeling like I had wakeboading nailed! I went to do another turn at the dock end, but the instructor put the brakes on my fun, stopping the cable, pointing out that I had obviously nailed turns and should work on something else!
I spent the remainder of the session working on riding switch (swapping from left foot forwards to right foot forwards) – the idea was that I would ride towards the Serendome end, turn, try to ride back switch then swap back to left foot forwards before turning and doing it again. It was easier said than done! Pretty much each attempt at riding switch ended up with a spectacular slam, initially on the swap to right foot forwards, then riding right foot forwards, then on swapping back. I probably managed it sucessfully once, but I ended my session happy!
I had a short break to recharge before my second session, and it was lovely sitting by the lake in the sun! For the second session the instructor suggested trying ollies – getting some air between the board and the water! Again I was to ride towards the Serendome end, turn then try the ollie on the way back towards the dock. I found it hard to get the board out of the water – it is the same technique as on a snowboard, but the action needs to be exaggerated. On the times I did get the board out of the water I had to be careful on landing – if the front of the board dips too far into the water you are going to get dunked! I felt shattered by the end of the session, but I had just about managed a half decent ollie – and landed it. I was most pleased by the fact I had nailed all of the turns at the Serendome end, although I struggled to understand how it was so much easier than at Pier 52!
For the ride back, the guys at Pembrokeshire Wake Park told me about an offroad “shortcut” back to Bluestone, except that I must have missed a turn, I ended up dropping a lot of vertical and having to climb back up to Bluestone – not an easy feat after a couple of wakeboarding sessions! Then I ended up going for another long ride, with Owen on the Mac Ride – I slept well that night!
I am really hoping that I can get out for another wakeboarding session in 2020, ideally with the lads! I want to get ollies and riding switch nailed!