Wakeboarding in Surrey

Back in June I went wakeboarding with my PhD supervisor and my officemate. Having never been wakeboarding before in my life, I should probably have been less excited and blindly optimistic than I was, but it was such a gloriously sunny day, and I’d just had ice cream.

JB Ski – who run the wakeboarding centre we went to just next to Thorpe Park – operate a rectangular cable line circuit that hangs above the lake. It’s this cable line that the wakeboarding handles are attached to that pull you along (wakeboarding handles is probably not the technical name, but you get the idea…) Since they anticipate beginners having some problems being able to wakeboard straight away, they started us out on kneeboards. These are essentially the same as wakeboards, but shorter and padded – designed to be knelt on rather than stood on like a wakeboard.

After getting kitted up in a wetsuit and forced to watch the typical cheesy health and safety video I’ve come to expect before any activity run in the UK, we headed to the starting dock with our kneeboards. I knew my chances of getting over 10 metres on my first try were pretty slim, and after watching a few of the more experienced guys make a good getaway I started to realise how much of a fool I was about to look. But nevertheless, I still walked forward and took my pathetic beginners pose on my kneeboard.

This was it. I was on my kneeboard at the starting dock with the handle gripped in my hands. I knew I had about 5 seconds before the handle would hook into the cable and I’d be sent wizzing off on the water. And all that was going through my head was the possibility of stacking it straight away. If I could at least get 10 metres I’d be happy. And then it happened. The handle clicked into the cable and I was tugged violently forwards. Before I knew it, I was off! Rushing along the water at a considerable speed, bumping into small waves and trying to keep my balance. I’d done it! Wooosh went the bouys as I flew past, still trying to get to grips with why on earth I wasn’t neck deep in water yet. Approaching the first corner I knew I had to get out wide, so I carefully glided the board into position and then… SPLASH!

There we go. That’s more like it I thought as I popped my head up from the water. Thankfully the weather was so good that the water was more refreshing than freezing. At least I stacked it away from the crowds. For a first attempt that wasn’t bad, it could have certainly gone a lot worse. And my god that was fun! Time for take 2!

I got back to the jetty, keen to give it another shot. I just needed to get further out on the corner and I’d have nailed it. It was some consolation that my officemate hadn’t made it round the first corner either, but not that our supervisor was already waving at us as he went past the dock for his second lap!

Attempts two and three saw me fall to a similar fate as the first try – failing to make the first corner – despite my sheer determination to claw, white knuckled, onto the handle even after the kneeboard had long since left my knees.

Attempt four however I was getting the hang of it. Having spoken to the instructor I figured that if I treated each corner like a new start by going back into the starting position then I would probably have the balance to stay on. And I did! I’d nailed it!

With my new knowledge I managed the full full three laps of the circuit successfully, and it felt amazing! The water rushing past so close and the bobbing from the waves was just such a great feeling!

Now I’d conquered the kneeboard it was time to put on my big boy pants and try wakeboarding.

I put on the board and hobbled to the start. Attempt one: I stacked it after 10 centimetres. Attempt two: I stacked it at 5 metres. Attempt three: I stacked it at 10 metres.

After the third attempt we’d run out of time. I need to go back and get more tries under my belt, those wakeboarders look like they are having the time of their lives!

(left to right) Me, John and Stuart – still alive after two hours of intense wakeboarding

until next week,


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