Wake Up to wa­ter­sports in Royal Docks

Wake up to a fast-grow­ing sport that’s tak­ing Lon­don by storm – adren­a­line junkies are tak­ing life by the horns and fly­ing high above the wa­ter at WakeUp Dock­lands

The Wharf - - Canary Wharf - Erica Bush Go to wake­up­dock­lands.com

The wa­ter in Royal Victoria Dock is a lot warmer than one might think.

I know, be­cause I’m float­ing in it, wet­suit and hel­met suit­ably donned, wait­ing for an elec­tric ca­ble to swing round and pick me up.

I’m at WakeUp Dock­lands try­ing to wake­board – a sport that sees a rider skim over the wa­ter on what is ef­fec­tively an adapted snow­board, pulled ei­ther by boat or, in this case, a ca­ble.

The club has been at Royal Victoria Beach since 2012, part of a bid by then-mayor Boris John­son to in­ject life into Royal Docks ahead of the Olympics, but has re­cently been taken over by Rider Ltd.

Its founder, Jon Byrne, has been rid­ing at the club since 2012 and praises the com­mu­nity of like-minded mem­bers as its sell­ing point – a legacy he is keen to con­tinue now he’s at the helm.

“I went through a big change when I found this place,” said the 36-year-old.

“It was after a cou­ple of re­dun­dan­cies that hap­pened in very quick suc­ces­sion when I re­ally started spend­ing a lot more time in the docks and coach­ing.

“I de­cided very con­sciously I didn’t want to go back to my dig­i­tal ca­reer and that if I could have any pur­pose in what I was do­ing, it had to be coach­ing peo­ple and shar­ing these sports and ac­tiv­i­ties that we love.

“What I find here is that peo­ple can have fan­tas­tic ca­reers and be in other in­dus­tries across Lon­don and the UK but there is the com­mon­al­ity that we all ab­so­lutely love these board sports.

“And we’ve started grow­ing a small com­mu­nity over the last few years that is re­ally sup­port­ive and en­gag­ing.”

He ex­plained: “I haven’t found any­thing out­side of a ski sea­son that has this kind of com­mu­nity vibe to it.

“After a long day in the of­fice and you’ve been slog­ging it out on the trans­port net­work to get here and you turn up and see peo­ple rid­ing and ev­ery­one smil­ing and en­joy­ing the wa­ter and the sun­shine, it doesn’t feel like you’re in Lon­don.

“It’s a lit­tle oa­sis.”

I haven’t found any­thing out­side of a ski sea­son that has this kind of com­mu­nity vibe to it Jon Byrne, WakeUp Dock­lands

Even on the grey­ing af­ter­noon we at­tend, WakeUp Dock­lands makes you feel like you are some­where else en­tirely.

Lucky, be­cause that’s ex­actly what Jon is try­ing to achieve.

“The idea for Rider Ltd was to start it as a brand rather than a com­pany more than any­thing be­cause we wanted to get peo­ple into these types of rider sports,” he said.

“The rea­son be­ing is that you see the trans­for­ma­tional health ben­e­fits of peo­ple who are out on the wa­ter – they be­come an­i­mated, they’re not con­cen­trat­ing on their day-to-day wor­ries.

“It’s a fan­tas­tic way to re­con­nect with your­self.”

De­spite ben­e­fit­ing hugely from Whar­fers and City-go­ers keen to es­cape the cor­po­rate land­scape, Jon said WakeUp Dock­lands was still, for some, very much a hid­den gem.

“We’re vis­i­ble from the Emi­rates Air Line that lands here from The O2, so we’re be­ing seen by peo­ple who don’t nec­es­sar­ily ex­pect to see wake­board­ing,” he said.

“Nor­mally, if you’re go­ing to go wa­ter­ski­ing or wake­board­ing, you think, ‘I’m go­ing to go to the lake to­day’ – it’s a pre­med­i­tated ac­tiv­ity.

“Whereas we ben­e­fit from a lot of foot traf­fic go­ing to the Ex­cel cen­tre and also Lon­don City Air­port so we’re ex­pos­ing the sport to a range of peo­ple who wouldn’t nor­mally see it.

“Ev­ery day we get peo­ple come by and say they never knew this ex­isted. They want to get in­volved – it’s great.”

Tempted? With the club now open for the sea­son and plans for an out­door bar set to be com­pleted by June, sum­mer is the per­fect time to play.

“I would say to those who have seen it and are maybe ten­ta­tive about try­ing it, you don’t need to be the world’s strong­est swim­mer, you don’t need to be the world’s strong­est per­son.

“Although it’s a phys­i­cal sport, the more you can re­lax with wake­board­ing, the more you’ll find there is a rhythm and a flow to it that is re­ally quite some­thing.

“Of all the board sports, I would say ca­ble wake­board­ing specif­i­cally like we have here at WakeUp is prob­a­bly the most ac­ces­si­ble and it’s also the one with the quick­est pro­gres­sion tra­jec­tory.

“If you don’t try it, you’ll never know how much fun it is.”

Jon Byrne, founder of WakeUp Dock­lands, says the sport has a great vibe

Jon Byrne takes a fly­ing leap, demon­strat­ing how ca­ble wake­board­ing can be a huge leap of faith

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