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Combine the thrills and skills of surfing, water-skiing and snowboarding into one and you have the high-adrenalin sport of wakeboarding. Roderick Eime reports on this growing phenomenon, which has a dedicated language all of its own.

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Putting you in the picture, wakeboarding is a surface water sport and a wakeboard rider is generally towed behind a motorboat, in the same way as a water skier. Depending on water conditions, the rider’s weight and the board size, speeds range from around 18–24 miles per hour. To the uninitiated, a wakeboard looks just like a snowboard, but on closer inspection you can spot the subtle differences – while the snowboard is thin and narrow with a smooth bottom for gliding over the snow, wakeboards are short, fat and thick, with fins underneath for cutting through the water. The fins can also be changed according to what the rider is aiming to achieve. SERIOUSLY TRICKY The first serious wakeboarding developments are credited to San Diego-based surfer Tony Finn, who began experimenting with designs based around hybrid water ski/surfboards in the early 1980s. In Texas, another surfer named Jimmy Redmon was simultaneously experimenting with his own ‘water-ski board’. Quite independently, the pair decided that by adding straps, the rider would enjoy more control and could perform difficult manoeuvres, turns and jumps – all referred to as ‘tricks’. Toby’s ‘Skurfer’ and Jimmy’s ‘ski board’ quickly gained a following, and the sport of skiboarding – as wakeboarding was known in the early days – soon took off, with the first championships televised by US sports channel ESPN in 1990. The design and construction of wakeboards improved rapidly, making the sport more accessible to amateur and recreational users rather than super-fit athletes alone. Having observed the growing interest in wakeboarding, watersports entrepreneur and manufacturer Herb O’Brien invested in new designs to counter some of the impediments to making the sport truly mainstream. His company introduced the Hyperlite – the first compressionmoulded neutral-buoyancy wakeboard – which had the rugged construction required plus allowed ‘regular’ users to make otherwise strength-sapping deep-water starts.

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As the sport gathered increasing interest from television stations, resulting in more championship events, sponsors and professional wakeboarders regularly working the circuit, recreational riders also embraced wakeboarding as an exciting weekend pastime. Dean Smith, aged 25, and his sister Hayley, 23, originally took up wakeboarding for fun but soon turned professional and now travel the world circuit. The pair grew up in New South Wales, on the Port Hacking River, where their dad would take them training before school. Dean is sponsored by homegrown surf brand Rip Curl and is arguably Australia’s best wakeboarder, with a raft of pro titles to his name. His style is variously described as “big, floaty and aggressive”, and he’s noted for pushing hard into new ‘trick’ territory, which means plenty of spins, slides, grabs and rolls with a Dean Smith signature twist. ANYWHERE, ANYONE, ANYTIME If you like the idea of wakeboarding, it’s worth knowing that the skill level you opt for can be as challenging or chilled as you choose. As with all water sports, it’s your responsibility to understand all associated risks and safety regulations, to wear a lifejacket and helmet at all times, and to know all you can about the waters you wakeboard in. Sydneysider Michael Van der Jagt runs a commercial cleaning business but sets weekends aside for wakeboarding expeditions with his family. “A friend first introduced me to the sport about eight years ago, and 12 months later I’d bought my own boat,” he enthuses. “I love the sheer thrill, excitement and challenge

WAKEBOARDING HOTSPOTS Many of Australia’s rivers and waterways are regular venues for waterskiing and wakeboarding, but if you don’t have a boat, cable-ski parks are a great way to start. Try one of the following locations:

• Cable Ski Cairns

Lot 5 Captain Cook Highway Smithfield, Cairns, Qld

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You can start with a slob, roll into a roast beef, attempt a chicken salad and give a Canadian bacon a go before finishing with a hoochie tailgrab. No, I’m not recounting the words of a drunken waiter in a Three Stooges film – I’m talking about the exhilarating watersport of wakeboarding and identifying some of the ‘grabs’ that define a wakeboarder’s style.

i love the sheer thrill, excitement and challenge of it, but what i enjoy most is how it works as a family activity.

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• Cable Ski Logan 80 Ferry Road Carbrook, Qld

of it, but what I enjoy most is how it works as a family activity. The boys are now 20 and 22 and at university, but along with my wife and now the boys’ girlfriends, we still get away together on weekends and holidays to go wakeboarding. Although it is physically demanding, us oldies can still keep up with the young ones – for a little while anyway!”

• Cables Wake Park

• Sydney Waterski and Wakeboard 1558 River Road Lower Portland, NSW

Twenty-something Renee Bou-Samra, who works as a marketing and communications manager for a five-star Sydney hotel, is another keen wakeboarder who enjoys getting out onto the water in her spare time. “Wakeboarding is such a great sport to be into for so many reasons. Like surfing and snowboarding, once mastered it gives you a major buzz, and it’s great for your fitness because it’s technically challenging … And it’s so much fun,” she explains. “I would encourage anyone of any age to try it, as it really does give you a sense of freedom and excitement. I’ve been riding since 2004 and no matter which country I’ve wakeboarded in, the feeling is always the same – awesome!”

Above: Depending on your skill and dexterity, you can twist, turn and backroll your way through the water.

Panthers Leagues Club Mulgoa Road Penrith, NSW

WALK THE TALK Like many elite sports, wakeboarding has its own unique terminology to describe equipment and tricks. Here’s a quick guide sourced from

• Backside spin: A spin whereby the

like surfing and snowboarding, once mastered it gives you a major buzz … and it’s so much fun.

rider rotates with the back of their body towards the boat first. For a left-foot forward rider this would be clockwise.

• Blind: Landing blind is also like

landing wrapped – the rider does not pass the handle so they land with the handle behind their back and their back facing the boat.

• Boardslide: A slide on an obstacle – or wake – where the nose of the board travels over the obstacle.

• Butter: A term used to describe smooth water.

• Corked (or off-axis) spin:

When a rider spins and leaves their vertical axis, and the board rises up to shoulder level – or higher – while spinning.

• Faceplant: A fall where you catch

your toeside edge, causing you to drop very quickly so your face slaps the water hard.

• Grab: A grab is performed when

a rider clasps the board in various locations with their hand while they are in the air. There are many different types of grabs and they can be either done alone or added to other tricks.

• Inverts:

When the rider goes upside down while up in the air.

• Lipslide: A slide on an obstacle or wake whereby the tail of the board travels over the obstacle first.

• Mobe or mobius: An invert that also contains at least a 360º spin.

• Special K: A toeside backroll to blind approached with both hands behind the back.

• Surface tricks: Performed

while the board is on the surface of the water.

• Tantrum: A heelside backflip. • Three-stage rocker: A board shape whereby there is a flat spot in the centre and the tip and tail curve up. This makes for a more abrupt/ vertical pop and usually a slightly harder landing.

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Subaru Symmetry Magazine  

clipping from Winter 2010 - Wakeboarding

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