In the wake of a... splash

Stephen Heard tries the be­hind-the-boat sport of wake­board­ing.

Sunday News - - WELLBEING -

The first ac­cel­er­a­tion in­volved a dra­matic face plant. The boat re­turned... The sec­ond at­tempt was much of the same.

Orig­i­nally given the ram­shackle ti­tle, skurf­ing, wake­board­ing is a hy­brid of wa­ter­ski­ing and snow­board­ing that came to life in the 1980s. The sur­face wa­ter sport in­volves be­ing strapped into foot bind­ings and towed by a high­pow­ered mo­tor­boat. The wake cre­ated by the boat pro­vides an ideal en­vi­ron­ment for high-flying stunts, and with ded­i­ca­tion and prac­tice you could soon be pulling off tricks with names like Blind Pete, Hoochie Glide,Toot­sie Roll and Roast Beef. Con­di­tions were per­fect for this wake­board­ing ad­ven­ture; the wa­ter was glassy and the wind nonex­is­tent. Af­ter watch­ing a 15-year-old ef­fort­lessly land 360s and my equally in­ex­pe­ri­enced brother-in-law stand up on his first at­tempt, it was my turn to hit the wake. Get­ting into the sop­ping bind­ings was the first dilemma and could be likened to squash­ing mince into wet sneak­ers. Be­fore jump­ing ship, can­did ad­vice was given to ‘‘point the board in the di­rec­tion of the boat’’ when the tow rope is pulled.

The rest of the ac­tiv­ity was de­scribed as ‘‘snow­board­ing on wa­ter’’, and us­ing the edge of the board would help me turn should I be­come ver­ti­cal.

In the wa­ter the boat crept for­ward as I at­tempted to find the end sec­tion of the tow rope. The hand grip em­bar­rass­ingly floated past out of reach, which prompted the skip­per to dou­ble back and try again. Once in pos­ses­sion of the tow rope it was a quick tran­si­tion to the start­ing po­si­tion, squat­ting with my back to the wa­ter and the board par­al­lel to the boat.

The first ac­cel­er­a­tion in­volved a dra­matic face plant. The boat re­turned. Ad­vice in­cluded bend­ing my knees closer to the board in the wa­ter and turn­ing it faster to­wards the boat on take­off.

The sec­ond at­tempt was much of the same. The third at­tempt lasted sec­onds longer and it was rec­om­mended I lean back and put more weight on my back leg. The fourth at­tempt wel­comed a sub10-sec­ond mo­ment of surf­ing joy be­fore the dis­mount. The fifth at­tempt was sim­i­lar though ended with a face-down jour­ney in the wake and my board flying off into the dis­tance. The skip­per sug­gested that I’d had enough. My wa­ter­logged si­nuses agreed. STEPHEN HEARD While my wake­board­ing de­but proved rel­a­tively un­suc­cess­ful, the brief mo­ment up­right was an ad­dic­tive thrill. The sport re­quires bal­ance, flex­i­bil­ity, hand-eye co-or­di­na­tion, a mod­er­ate level of swim­ming and up­per-body strength when cling­ing on to the tow rope.

Dis­ci­plined re­turn­ing riders can ex­pect im­prove­ment in all of these ar­eas. All that plus the ben­e­fits that come with breath­ing fresh air in the great out­doors. Like any ex­treme wa­ter sport, there are risks with wake­board­ing. The main con­tender here is the wa­ter it­self and ex­tra cau­tion should be taken ac­cord­ingly.

Life­jack­ets are a must for riders as well as spec­ta­tors wait­ing for their turn on­board. The com­bi­na­tion of high speed and solid wake­board cer­tainly in­creases the risk of head/body con­tact, and com­mon in­juries in­clude scratches, bumps and bruises to the more ex­treme loss of teeth. Wear­ing a hel­met is also rec­om­mended. Wake­board­ing is a very ac­ces­si­ble wa­ter ac­tiv­ity in New Zealand. For more in­for­ma­tion about the sport, visit

A brief mo­ment up­right pro­vides a wake­board­ing thrill for Stephen Heard.

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