Whilst the idea of flying across a freezing cold loch with only a thin wetsuit to protect you from the Scottish elements may not tempt everyone, I’m here to let people know why they should be getting involved in one of the most exhilarating and more accessible sports around.
Originating from California, which is definitely the more stereotypical location for all things rad, the sport was born out a lack of waves and a desire to further one’s surfing skills. Wakeboarding is a high speed watersport, where the participant is towed primarily behind a purpose built speed boat whilst attached via bindings to a board. The wake created by the boat gives the boarder a guaranteed clean wave to ride along, which you can then progress to doing tricks across.
It’s not just purpose built boats that allow wakeboarders to practise their skills; pulley tows, cable parks and jet skis can also be used, and Loch Lomond Wakeboard, as well as Fox Lake near Edinburgh, offer the facilities to kickstart your love for wakeboarding.
Loch Lomond Wakeboard, Scotland’s first purpose built wakeboarding school, uses three Nautique boats, including a brand new 210 super air which provides a pro-sized wake. Based on the shores of Loch Lomond itself, the loch provides calm and flat water for people to practise on, which in contrast with surfing (where cross-shore winds can be a complete nightmare) means that you are sure to get a clean wave every time. A session amounts to 15 minutes of wakeboarding, which in the grand scheme of things is a very long time. If you compare that to surfing, where a surfer will only catch a wave for a couple of minutes at a time, this means you are likely to progress at a far more rapid pace. This consistency means that, no matter what level of experience or fitness you have, wakeboarding is immediately accessible to everyone.
Meanwhile at Fox Lake, Scotland’s only cable wakeboard park, wakeboarders are pulled across the lake via an overhead cable, cancelling out the need for power boats and noise. With the addition of kickers and jump trails, you’ll have honed your surface 360s and boardslides in no time.
Out of wakeboarding have come several hybrid board sports, including wakesurfing and wakeskating. Wakesurfing is where a surfer trails behind a boat, surfing the boat’s wake, whilst not being directly attached to the craft itself. The boat’s wake mimics an actual wave, and after setting themselves up on the wave through using a tow rope, the wakesurfer then proceeds to drop the rope and ride the face of wake. One of the key differences in wakesurfing to surfing is that the board itself is far shorter and wider. From wakesurfing, tanker surfing was born, with wave-starved surfers over in America using the enormous wake of passing oil tankers to fuel the passion for surfing.
Wakeskating is the little brother of wakeboarding adaptions. It’s very similar to its predecessor in that the rider is towed behind a craft of some description, and uses a board to do tricks. However, unlike wakeboarding, the style of board is inherently different; the top surface of the board, like a skateboard, is covered with griptape or a soft, high-traction, foam covering. Wakeskaters normally wear specialised shoes while riding, giving them more grip and ability to master some steezy tricks. Another difference in wakeskating is that it doesn’t really require a wake, and riders prefer to use a cable system or jet skis to create as small a wake as possible.
Wakeboarding and the rest of the board sport family is far more popular and well recognised with our friends on the other side of the Atlantic; even across the border, the English wakeboarding community is much larger, with Red Bull hosting the annual Harbour Reach event in June at the Albert Docks,Liverpool. The event plays host to fourteen of the UK’s greatest wakeboarders, allowing them to showcase their skills. Even Wales, playing host to the summer festival Wakestock, is in on the act, but Scotland isn’t one to be left out when it comes to showing off its sporting prowess and partying skills. Loch Stock, a wakeboarding tour begun in 2008, “brings together all the pockets of riding from around Scotland for one epic weekend a month during the summer…a Loch Stock weekend is the perfect place to get into the summer spirit, and enjoy good music and company at the water’s edge.”
The future is looking bright for wakeboarding. It is currently being considered for a place at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics alongside seven other sports. The International Olympics Committee (IOC) will see whether cable wakeboarding will be a viable sport to add to the swelling numbers of sports featured in the prestigious Games. Des Burke-Kennedy, of the International Waterski and Wakeboard Federation, said: “The IOC is committed to supporting youth-centred events to ensure their fan base thrives in the future…Cable Wakeboard is a youth-focused lifestyle discipline from the booming board sports category.”
Wakeboarding is most definitely worth giving a go, especially if you’re a keen skater, surfer or snowboarder. The University of Glasgow is fortunate enough to have its own wakeboarding society. Over the past couple of weeks, the club has been hosting a ‘Wake What’ event, with the society’s head honcho Justin Mayes taking a few lucky students over to Loch Lomond for an afternoon of wakeboarding and good banter. With music blasting out of from the boat over the loch as you land your first gnarly Ollie Backside 180, it’s no wonder that the buzz you get from wakeboarding has translated into it being the fastest growing watersport, with over 3 million participants worldwide.
So, if after all this spiel about wakeboarding in Scotland means you’re keen to give it a go, I have one final thing to add: as I’ve been reliably told, ‘wakeboarding isn’t just a sport, it’s a lifestyle.’