I’ve had a few back-of-the-boat tows on holidays over the years, but cable park wakeboarding was a completely new experience, so I jumped at the offer to check out Foxlake Dunbar with a couple of Freeze’s resident wake-experts and see what the hype was about.
Hyperlite and Ronix were running their demo day and the weather could not have been better - the wind was down, and the sun was shining. Ideal for a cable park session, I was told.
A scene to be seen
I was interested see what the wakeboard scene was like. Most people know that every sport has its cliques, and after a fair few years trying to understand (and unsuccessfully avoid) the trappings of snowboarding and surfing cool-isms. A fair few young rippers were hanging about, riding, and getting involved with Foxlake’s Advanced Coaching sessions. It was cool to see a bunch of parents and adults getting involved too – chatting to the brand reps and testing some gear out themselves. It might have been the side-effects of a sunny day in Scotland, but everyone was happy, inclusive and definitely having a good time.
The Freeze expert-in-wake, Blair Fraser, and local pro-ripper, Eve Smith-Lang, took me through some of the more complicated wakeboard terminology, and I quickly realised that my ‘couple of tows’ were a mere ripple in the vast expanse of the world’s ‘fastest growing watersport’. The differences between boat and cable wakeboarding, it turns out, are quite vast. Aside from the obvious lack of large jet-powered floating machine towing you, cable wakeboarding has evolved to focus on hitting obstacles like rails, boxes and kickers – much like freestyle snowboarding, if you ignore the overhead cable and motor for a moment. Before ‘big plastic boxes and booters, people would get spinny with Air tricks’, Blair informed me, ‘you load tension into the overhead line to get lift, watch me’. A simple enough concept, I thought, but it turns out it’s pretty hard to make it look as smooth as he does.
Able to cable?
The bluebird day and 14°C water made a deep-water start a lot more appealing than it should’ve been for Scotland in May. So far wakeboarding was getting a positive review. Foxlake Adventures use a System 2.0 cable which means someone controls the speed, brings the handle back to you, and shouts advice when you bail. Very helpful. A cable park generally runs a bit slower than being towed behind a boat, making it a lot more forgiving. It also means it’s not as bad when you do fall. You’re still going to get water up your nose, but it’s a lot less likely to feel like jet-powered irrigation. It’s also a lot quicker to get back up and riding again, with a few tips from the dock on what went wrong. Progression came quickly with the helpful advice of the Foxlake staff, and by the end of the first 15-minute session I was standing up, riding, and definitely smiling. It was easy to see how this could get addictive.
The story of wakeboarding is pretty gripping too, even though it’s mostly the chronicles of one innovative guy named Herb, who did some interesting things… and started most of the industry’s brands along the way. I’m not one to turn down some tech-talk either so I spent the afternoon finding out about the flex, construction, shape and technologies that go into wakeboards and bindings. Then it was time for the true test – could I tell the difference between an entry-level wakeboard and this year’s Kinetik Project? Definitely, even if my ability meant the true potential of both boards wasn’t quite exhausted.
There’s more to a wakeboard than meets the eye
So, a big thanks to Foxlake, Hyperlite and Ronix. And to Blair and Eve Smith-Lang for advice, stoke and an introduction to the world of wake. I’ll admit it. I was certainly dubious about wakeboarding. My memories of being tugged about behind a boat weren’t the most exciting, and in the years between I’d found alternative shapes and sizes of boards to ride, on different things, that I thought were pretty cool. How did cable-park wakeboarding stand up to the pure source of swell-hunting? Well, it’s a lot warmer in the water than the North East of Scotland. Aside from that it was just entirely different, and a whole lot of fun. So, would I do it again? Hell yeah, again and again.