What Snowboarders Do in Summer
Wakeboarding - My First Time Out
by Lauren Traub Teton
More Photos of Wakeboarding
Lauren wakeboards, first time out...
I had been hearing how much fun wakeboarding is from a friend, for
a couple of years. So I decided to take a lesson, on a small lake in north
central Massachusetts near Lowell. Chad Dooley is an expert wakeboarder,
certified instructor, and college student who teaches wakeboarding there.
He is outfitted with a gorgeous new wake boat, and has a selection of
equipment to fit all size riders. We had a sunny day, and 80 degree
water, and we were all set!
I had never even seen anyone wakeboard before I tried it. Wakeboarding
is to water-skiing what snowboarding is to snow-skiing. Same idea, but
you face sideways on one board and carve back and forth over the wake
while holding onto the tow rope. The wakeboard is like a short snowboard,
with high rubber bindings attached and you slip your feet into them with
the help of a soapy liquid (slime). You ride sideways, as in other board
sports. As in snowboarding it is possible to jump the wake and get
enough air to do the same kind of aerial tricks that can be done in the
halfpipe or off a kicker. Of course you have to deal with holding onto
the rope too.
But we're getting ahead of ourselves. I slipped the board onto my feet and
slid off the boat's platform into the water as my teacher instructed. I
lay back in the water, being floated by a flotation vest with the board's
toeside edge floating on the surface and my toes pointing up to the sky. I
held the handle of the tow rope and when the line was taut as the boat
moved forward, I gave the signal and I waited for the boat to pull me
up into a standing positon. SPLASH! The boat circles back and you get
back into position and try again. Again, and I was almost up for a second,
and SPLASH, THUD. At least water is the softest of the surfaces I've
fallen on in my boarding career.
Embarassment, defeat, and wet demon thoughts of *why am I doing this?
* I'll never get up * maybe my arms aren't strong enough * remember
the time I tried waterskiing as a teen and couldn't get up * and * I
thought this was supposed to be fun * started to gather around the edge of
my brain to ridicule and haunt me.
Just then Chad reminded me to keep my knees deeply bent. Hey, that's the
secret in all the board sports, isn't it? He said "have your heels
actually touch your butt in the water while you're waiting to be pulled
up. And don't stand up. Let the boat pull you up."
I did that on the next try, and miracle of miracles, the next thing I
knew I was standing on the surface of the water and skimming along at 19
miles an hour across the lake! WOOHOO! I couldn't believe it! What a
great feeling! Chad had said I'd have to turn the board from the starting
position (where I'd be facing the back of the boat when I first got up) to
the sideways (snowboard/skate) position with the board tip pointing at the
boat. I don't remember doing that. It just happened naturally. It reminded
me of riding my first rail on snow last season. Seems if you're in the
right position, some things just take care of themselves through physics,
Chad's brother Trebor spotted me and took pictures so I could prove this
amazing feat to my friends. Then Chad's buddies Eric and Pete joined us
and I got to see Chad do some stunning tricks like jumps, grabs, and a
tootsie roll. Eric demonstrated "wake surfing" where he rode a surf
wakeboard - no bindings, behind the boat holding a short tow rope. After
the boat's wake reached the right shape, he let go and just was carried
along on the wake - no hands!- for a minute or two.
Since I was taking a private three-hour lesson, I had the opportunity
to ride as often as I wanted to. I had about seven rides, each lasting a
few minutes, but they seemed endless! Sometimes I would just drop the tow
line for need to rest from this exhausting endeavor. I was glad to have
the other riders along so I could stall and take a break! I learned to
carve up on my heel edge (which put me over on the left side of the
boat since I ride regular). Chad had me practice making S-turns, just like
you do in your first snowboard lessons. The toe side is more of a
challenge, as it is for many snowboarders on snow. It's a physical
challenge just getting into the body position to go toeside. Letting go
with my back (right) hand helped me a lot to turn to the right, to get
near my toe edge. Crossing over the wake scared me at first, but if it
wasn't white water, it was amazingly smooth, gentle and effortless.
Crossing multiple wakes was a different story.
This sport is adrenaline city. I can't think of too many other
sports where you go this fast your first time, except maybe skydiving. I
was also amazed at my early success. I was actually doing some facsimile
of wakeboarding my first day out. Which as you know doesn't happen with
snowboarding. There are still plenty of challenges ahead for me in
wakeboarding, should I choose to continue. And over time riders build up
the strength and stamina to ride longer and better. After my session and
the next day I was plenty sore from using muscles not normally called into
action. Aspirin, arnica, bromelain and hot baths helped. But wakeboarding
gave me my best day of this summer, so far. Chad asked me if I'll be back
this season. I have a feeling the answer is YES!
Click here for wakeboarding
teachers we recommend.
Chad will be competing at the INT League competition in Sturbridge, MA, on
Aug 21-22, in the Outlaws Class. http://www.intleague.com/
takes to the air:
Eric Wake Surfs