Wakeboarding in Wilderness
For New Year’s I was lucky enough to be invited to join a friend and his family camping in Wilderness, a coastal town just beyond George along South Africa’s Garden Route. Approximately a 5 hour drive from Cape Town I have often driven through Wilderness on my way to Knysna but never really stayed there. My friend and his family have been going to the same camp site for the last eight years so are basically locals and I was the newbie. As the name suggests, Island Lake camp site is on the edge of a lake that is used for a variety of water sports and we had our own speedboat. As excited as I was at the opportunity to water ski, having never done it before I was a little trepidatious but willing to give it a good go.
Not one for being able to sleep in I was up at first light every morning which is great for sunrise photography and also the best conditions for skiing before the wind gets up and disturbs the water surface. The early bird catches the worm and my first morning there I got a space on the boat and off we set. The others, who had skied before, all had a go and then it was my turn. I had planned to water ski but the wake board rope was out and so I though why not try that first. I jumped into the lake, which was surprisingly warm, and strapped myself to the board while trying to listen to advice as what to do. All ready the boat started to pull the rope taut and this was it, ‘hold on and let the boat pull you up’ I was told.Well I held on as long as I could but I wasn’t coming out of the water and eventually the rope was ripped from my hands while all I had succeeded in doing was creating a large wave of water. After a couple more attempts it was decided I should try skis which should be easier and it was. I got up on the second or third try and even managed to venture out of the wake. It is a lot more tiring than it looks and after only a few minutes my arms were finished and I just didn’t have the strength to keep going.
After my success on the skis it was time to try the wake board again and with a few more tips from another accomplished skier in the group I managed to get up first time the second day. Although it might not have looked pretty I was up and we could work on posture and style later. I was wakeboarding!!
I was very unstable to begin with but with each run I got more and more confident and started to venture out of the wake which was much harder for me than it was on the skis but eventually got it.
Progressing fairly well, it was time to try a jump or two. I’d seen it on TV, how hard could it be? Go out wide, turn back and ramp the wake.
So the jumps might take a bit more work but for a first time ever being towed behind a boat I was thrilled just to have gotten up and thoroughly enjoyed the experience. I even started to look the part by the end of it.
So in two days I had water skied and wakeboarded so on my last day the challenge was to try slalom skiing, the most difficult water skiing discipline. It was on New Year’s Day so most of the people were still sleeping but I was keen to get out on the water and give it a try. Most people will water ski as normal on two skis and then once they’re up they will drop one ski and then ski slalom but I decided to try get up from the water on a single ski. With lots of advice as I strapped myself into the slalom ski I sat ready in the water as the rope was pulled tight and then held my breath as it accelerated to full speed. I was engulfed with water and struggled to hold onto the rope as I was dragged along. As the boat picked up speed the ski started to lift me out of the water I felt like I was nearly up but couldn’t hold on any longer as I let go of the rope and sunk back into the water. Everyone on the boat said I was close so I tried again but had my feet positioned all wrong and messed up the second attempt totally. Waiting for the boat to turn around I ran through all the advice in my head again telling myself this would be my last attempt before switching to the wake board and having some fun. Again I was close but lost my balance at the critical point and lost a hold of the rope. As the boat came back I signalled I was done and wanted to wake board instead but ‘Coach Ray’ simply said, “one more try.’ So I grabbed the rope and prepared for one last attempt to get up on the slalom ski. The rope went taut, the motor growled to full power and I was surrounded by water , holding my breath and hanging on with all my strength. And then I realised I was up, I was skiing. I was skiing on one ski and it was incredible. I focused as hard as I could to keep my balance and stay up but once the boat had reached full speed and I started to feel comfortable I couldn’t keep the smile off my face. It was the best start to 2014 I could have asked for.
So 2014 began with a whole lot of firsts for me and hopefully there will be many more firsts as the year continues…