WAKEBOARDING is the world’s fastest growing watersport.
Around five million devotees around the globe regularly grab the line and pull a stargazer from a double-up on a kick-ass rocker (no, me neither).
It’s becoming so popular that even those bigwigs sat around the table of the Olympic committee are considering it for the 2020 games, along with eight other Olympic contenders, notably baseball (only the Yanks play that don’t they?) and squash, which I could have sworn was in the Olympics anyway.
Nick stomped those kickers and rails like a pro. The only problem being that Nick was beginning to pull quite the crowd around the basin, and I was up next. A complete beginner, underdog and most probably, the park’s first drownee.
Imagine Waterskiing and Snowboarding somehow copulating and procreating, this bastard child is Wakeboarding, and Olympic or not, it’s a bloody blast.
Down on the Quays they’ve fully embraced this latest sporting phenomenon and launched a 195m long Wake Park at the Salford Watersports Centre on the Ontario Basin. Complete with two kickers, rails and pads the park has substituted the traditional use of a speedboat for that of an electronically controlled cable running between two pylons placed at either end of the basin.
The Terminator-like sounding Sesitec Cable System 2.0 is a handy addition for beginners as the pulling speed can be catered entirely towards ability, and particularly useful when you faceplant and need the cable to act as your very-own Hasslehoff circa-Baywatch, swooping on back to rescue you. Flapping and spluttering, naturally.
Having mosied on down to experience the Wake Park first hand, my initial concern arose when I realized that I had a whopping great hole in my wetsuit. Which considering the temperature of the water that very day (7°C I’ll have you know, yes I’m a hero), just wasn’t going to cut it. The decision to swap my wetsuit was instantly justified as I dipped in a toe to quite literally, test the water. It felt as though I’d been given a toe-job by Jack Frost. It was testicle-clenchingly cold.
This didn’t seem a problem for demo-rider and all-round Wakeboard aficionado Nick Williamson as he popped straight into the water. Pulling off an impressive array of stunts and tricks, Nick stomped those kickers and rails like a pro. The only problem being that Nick was beginning to pull quite the crowd around the basin, and I was up next. A complete beginner, underdog and most probably, the park’s first drownee.
Once Nick had finished warming up the crowd, most of which had congregated outside the Beefeater pub across the water, it came to the main event, my lesson.
My instructor for the day, Matt Concannon, talked me through the basic principles of wakeboarding, which was to effectively assume a frog-like position with knees up by my nipples until I had a feel for the water, and of course, hold on for dear life. Got it.
Dipping myself in to the water with a certain amount of trepidation, Matt informed me to "Just drop yourself in, take the initial shock, that’s the best way."
Easy for him to say, stood there in the blazing sunshine, all dry in his board shorts and sunglasses. But to his credit, he was completely right. Much like when you go off on holiday and force yourself to take a dip in the pool, even though it’s tepid at best (the brochure said it was bloody heated). Just get in and deal with it.
As it transpired, I was what they call, a natural. Through the expert instructions barked at me from the floating platform it was fairly easy to pick up, and most importantly, fantastically fun.
I’m almost sure I could hear a spatter of light applause hailing from the Beefeater as I completed my first run of the whole course without falling. Or maybe I imagined it, either way it hadn’t been the embarrassingly incompetent display that I’d conjured up in my head.
Though I did take my fair share of wet slaps from the surface of the basin and potentially swallowed around half of the quay.
Then again I’m always told it’s important to stay hydrated during strenuous exercise.
Rachel Tallon, Head of Development for British Water Ski & Wakeboarding said “We’re looking to promote Urban Wakeboarding within populated areas and believe that the Quays will become an iconic venue. It offers a fantastic location, which will really be able to showcase the sport of cable wakeboarding.”
The easily accessible location, served by the Salford Quays tram stop, opens the sport up to us urbanites and Greater Manchester folk who have never previously had the opportunity to give such sports a good going over. Mainly because we don’t live in Newquay, or Abersoch, or other such places where people say narly and rad.
The Wake Park launches on Sunday 26 May, entry is free and you can meet all the Pro riders and watch the British Wakeboard Team go head-to-head with a host of the other pros in a Wake Battle. Totally tubular man.
More information here.
Salford Watersports Centre, 15 The Quays, Salford, M50 3SQ
0161 877 7252
Skilled Salford Community Leisure instructors hold classes for beginners, improvers and advanced Riders.
Current opening hours: Wednesday & Friday 4.30pm to 8.30pm and Saturday & Sunday 10am to 5pm. Call 0161 877 7252 to book a session. Cost £30 beginner lesson and £15 subsequently for one hour on the water.
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