Next time you walk into a sporting goods store, try this- ask the first five people you run into if they know what wakeboarding is. There are two general answers that are almost always the response that you’ll receive. Half of these people will have no idea what you’re talking about, to which you may respond with something such as “you know, like a snowboard but on water behind a boat, like waterskiing”. More often than not, they’ll try and comprehend what you’re saying and then probably never really think much about it again. The other half of people will say they absolutely know what it is and they are “totally stoked” on the idea. In reality, half of those people actually are picturing kneeboarding.
So what exactly is wakeboarding? What does is mean to be a “wakeboarder”? Wakeboarding is both a sport and an art- it’s physically demanding and yet still allows each athlete to ride with their own unique style and grace, as they appear to effortlessly dance across the water. Whether you grew up on a lake or hopped on a cable sometime in your twenties (or even thirties), we’re all in the same metaphorical boat- at some point, we strapped on a board and felt that unique surge of energy while gliding across the water or soaring through the air, and fell completely in love with everything about the sport.
I ask myself all the time why it is I bother chasing this passion for wakeboarding- a passion that has become permanently cemented into my roots. Similar to many other riders I know, I have a tendency to spend all of the money I have either on gas to put in a boat, or a pass to get on the cable. I spend all of my time either daydreaming about riding, actually riding, or watching videos of riding. I spend all of my energy trying to show people why I love it so much, and becoming overwrought with joy when I watch a fellow rider- a friend- land a new trick for the first time. Why it’s worth getting up at five-thirty in the morning (sometimes when it’s forty degrees outside) to make it to the lake by sunrise- giving you just enough time to catch that cool, calm water. Every now and then I’ll sit back and ask myself “why am I doing this?” The desire to excel in something unique, or the adrenaline rush, maybe… but I have come to realize that it’s about more than the act of riding itself. The sport of wakeboarding has created this community of people unlike any other- people who are passionate about not only the riding, but also what it does for us as human beings. It teaches us to appreciating breathtakingly beautiful places in the world, it encourages friendships, helps us to push each other to improve, push ourselves, and provides us with a measurable goal. It’s impossible to beat that feeling of flying across that glassy water, with a glowing sun just barely visible over the horizon, looking down at your reflection in the water and feeling weightless, forgetting about everything except being right there in that moment, realizing just how wonderful it is to be part of such an incredible world. We, as riders, can’t help but develop an unconditional love for our sport and the community it has created.
Reread that carefully. It’s our sport that’s growing. Not “the sport” or “that sport”- it’s ours. It’s our sport because we- the people who are crazy enough to chase it- these are the people who are helping it continue to grow. It’s a very young sport, with endless potential. This year was the first year during which members were officially inducted into the Wakeboarding Hall of Fame- a huge step to legitimizing the industry and the sport overall. Left and right, volunteer groups and companies involved directly with wakeboarding are evolving, paving the way for our expansion. In order to benefit our sport to it’s fullest potential, there lies an increasing requirement for more stability and structure, provided not only by organizations such as the WWA that have dedicated their brand to the sport, but that is also encouraged by each and every individual involved in the industry.
As the change and growth in the industry continues increasing exponentially, in the background brews the continuous buildup of excitement that you can practically see, taste, and touch. You can feel an atmospheric change when you walk through a group of riders- a tangible energy in the air around you. You can see it in people. In the clothes they wear, in their hairstyles, in the excitement that’s shared when a new edit is shown or when an award is given, even in the way they greet each other. Being a “wakeboarder” becomes part of who we are- part of each of our identities, and it should be something that we thrive to share with the people around us. To show them why it’s worth setting your alarm before the sun comes up. Why it’s worth trying that trick over and over- suffering through the painful falls- to finally experience the thrill of the landing. Show people how easily it is to form some of the closest friendships you’ll ever make by sharing a love for such a wonderful sport. So how do we do that? The answer is simple: get involved.
It’s about so much more than dropping a boat in once a month and getting behind it on a board for ten minutes, or grabbing an all day cable pass once a summer. All of us want our sport, and our athletes, to be recognized for what we have and what it takes to be a wakeboarder. There’s one way to make that happen- share the joy and the sport of wakeboarding with the people around you. Getting involved within the world of wakeboarding is so much simpler than it may appear. If you live on a lake, or near a cable, put together a local competition for the kids in the area- ask for volunteers and they will come. Start coaching private lessons for those who want to learn or to improve their current skill set. Pass the handle to someone new, and let him or her experience the thrill of wakeboarding. The love and passion is contagious- it just has to start somewhere. Introduce people to the community and encourage them to participate in a nearby upcoming event. Help riders set goals for themselves, and give them a place to show off their individual style and talent. Send your kids to one of the hundreds of summer camps that are offered. Start a camp yourself. Get involved in this community of crazy, wonderful athletes. In all of our goofy ways, there’s a bond that can’t be broken. So embrace it, for everything that it’s worth, and let’s share it- every part of it- with each other and the world around us.