I’m a 36-year-old adventure sports enthusiast; at least, that’s how I’d like to be described by my friends and family. I’ve recently given up my internet job to start my own personal training business, Aspyr Fitness. Deciding to trade a large wage for doing the things I am passionate about – teaching, training and inspiring fitness in the sports I love.
How did I get into adventure sports? Well I played team sports through school – netball, hockey, tennis and rounders, but the rest of my family wasn’t really into team sports. As there were 6 of us, we needed a sport that we could do that was more individual and wouldn’t cause a fight (between my brother and myself!).
My mum had always wanted to learn how to windsurf, so one cold weekend, we went to a lake and learnt the basics. I was awful at it. The kit was heavy, it was cold and I was only 8 years old, so got frustrated very quickly. My parents, on the other hand, loved it and immediately went out and bought a number of boards and sails for the whole family to use. From that moment onwards, most weekends were spent down at the beach windsurfing. Much of the time I stayed in the van or was on the beach, watching what they were doing. Looking back, now, that wasn’t necessarily time spent unwisely – I’ll come to that later.
Within a year, they’d also taken us skiing in Scotland, as well. Now this was a completely different sport and other than walking up a mountain (or what seemed like a mountain to my 8 year old self) in ski boots, I loved it! There was a dry ski slope nearby, so my parents took us there every so often and I was fortunate enough to go on ski trips nearly every year.
Towards the end of school, I finally got strong enough to enjoy windsurfing. At this point I realised that the time spent watching on the beach and hearing my family talk about their struggles with a new trick hadn’t been a complete waste of time. I was picking up tricks really quickly and soon started to get quite good. This obviously increased my interest in the sport. Have you ever noticed when someone tells you that you’re good at something, how you start to want to get even better and do it more? At least, that’s what I find.
About this time, I remember hearing about snowboarding from my local windsurfing shop, Whitstable Windsurfing. It seemed like a very cool sport and obviously, I wanted in. I finally got my chance when I was 18 and my school was running a ski trip to Les Deux Alps in January 1998.
Unfortunately, it rained on the green runs most days, froze over night and was possibly the worst snow I’ve ever been on in my life. Naturally, I came back from that holiday completely addicted and looking forward to the next time I’d be able to go!
Over the next 10 years, I went snowboarding as often as I could. At the same point in time, I started hearing about kitesurfing. Having seen the early days of kitesurfing and witnessed some really terrifying accidents, it took me a long time to want to learn to kitesurf. I believe it’s the most dangerous sport I do, as things can go wrong very quickly. Not only that, but kitesurfing is getting more and more popular, resulting in less room and more chance that an accident can happen if fellow kitesurfers aren’t aware of their surroundings.
After seeing my husband learn to kitesurf, I wasn’t one to be left out and decided that I wanted a piece of the action. We both love kitesurfing, however, it’s a very unpredictable sport. You’re reliant on tides and wind to play ball, which requires time and patience. Something my husband has little of when he wants a sporting adventure. He therefore turned to wakeboarding, which was similar to kitesurfing, but more reliable and closer.
Well…I had tried wakeboarding behind a boat in 2006 and really enjoyed it until the following morning. I woke up with a really sore neck and decided that wakeboarding was not the sport for me!
For a long time, I refused to go wakeboarding and said I wasn’t interested. That was until my husband entered the Grassroots competition. The Grassroots tour is a wakeboard event that brings the wakeboard community together; both beginners and pros alike compete. It’s more about people having a great time and sharing their passion of the sport, than it is about competing against one another.
I was totally blown away by how much he’d progressed and a little piece of me wanted to give wakeboarding another try. It looked like so much fun and not the neck aching experience I remember from my past trial.
The following week, I’d booked a beginners session and within a month, I had my own wakeboard.
Wakeboarding is a high adrenaline sport, where you use a large amount of energy on a short burst of activity. It provides a rush of adrenaline and endorphins, creating a wonderful exhilaration afterwards. There really is nothing like the fear of the unknown followed by the rush of success afterwards. I love the exhilaration of pulling off a new trick.
I think my first trick was mastering turns, the next was a surface 180, after that I was trying a few ollies. All of these in the same 15 minute beginner session I’d booked. The progression was really quick, thanks to the collection of board skills I’d picked up in previous years.
By last year I’d started to work on 540s and 360s off kickers (jumps). Being able to improve so quickly was incredibly satisfying. There was also a great vibe from the people who wakeboarded, too. You felt like everyone was cheering you on, wanting you to land that trick. There always seem to be a party atmosphere and it always felt like summer, even when it was freezing cold!
If you want to try wakeboarding, there are a couple of things to consider. The first being, can you swim 50m? If you’re not comfortable swimming and being submerged in water, I’d recommend having some swimming lessons first. This is a really great skill to have and will make you more comfortable when wakeboarding.
The second recommendation is go to a good wakeboard cable, which has a system 2 cable in place. A system 2 cable is an out and back cable. There are other cable types e.g. round cable, or full cable, but as a beginner I’d avoid these, as it takes more coordination to start with.
The third is go to a wakeboard cable with good instructors. I’d recommend Hannam’s Wake Hub, as the Hannam brothers really know what they’re talking about when it comes to wakeboarding and are excellent instructors. They may have seen that trick done thousands of times, but if it’s the first time you’ve pulled it off, they’re as ecstatic about it as you are.
In the summer (May 2017 onwards), I’ll be organising some beginner trips, so feel free to get in touch – contact details below.
I hope you’ve enjoyed reading and that this has inspired you to join in the fun. Whatever your interests, give it a go … doesn’t matter if you’re good at it or not, we all have to start somewhere!