Wakeboarding, the sport once reserved for those fortunate enough to have access to a boat, an unlimited supply of petrol and no sense of time, is not what it used to be. Filling the boat up the night before, the early morning sets to get that flat water and a lifestyle fit for a king is becoming a part of the past, in a world dominated by time and accessibility the rise of cable wakeboarding is fast and steep. In the recent past for the want of something easier, faster and more accessible, came cable parks, the answer to all the kids who had tried wakeboarding once when they went away with their friends family, but other than that thought a boat was something to fish off. But as with all things time begins to tell a different story and the line in the sand that once stood between boat wakeboarder and cable wakeboarders, continues to become increasingly blurred with every summer that passes.
Cable in the beginning was once a form of middle ground it was wakeboarding but it wasn't, i know i used to look at it as a kid and think thats not cool, why would you go to a park to wakeboard, how can it be wakeboarding without a wake?. This was the infant stage of cable wakeboarding and it was infant, it didn't look cool, put simply it was like someone looked at snowboarders and said well if they can do it why can't we?, they wanted to be like the snowboarders but lacked the style, we saw overhead winches towing riders around and around, the main features consisted of a flat bar, maybe an A-Frame and a kicker, and that trademark sketchy makeshift kinked rail for good measure, just to see if someone had the cohone's to try test it.
The likes of Chris O'Shea, Daniel Watkins, Keith Lidberg though, they gave rails a vision, something to aspire to and reinvent the image that infancy creates. To this day Keith Lidbergs rail section, even if it was a tow in showed the massive potential for what could be gained through cable wakeboarding, the urban landscape style that it presented, a more grounded nature to wakeboarding. Free riding exemplified what it was that a more grounded approach provided, no longer did some wakeboarders want to compete in competitions, they wanted to develop their craft, create a style that wasn't present before, then they could start change and make people pay attention to this beast that was flying under the radar, develop a competitor to the traditions that the godfathers of wakeboarding had spent years developing.
The sudden rise in cable park attendance, and what seems like a new cable park opening up every summer has led to exactly to what free riders across the globe have pushed for, a progression in style and pushing the boundaries of what is possible with a wakeboard. The big game changer which began around 2009 when cable started to show itself as a growing underground style presence, were boards specifically designed for cable, more flex = better on rails. Cable boards became part of the territory as the phrase cable rat began to die out, and cable riders began to be considered legitimate wakeboarders, with more wakeboarding films beginning to shoot parts impossible before the creation of the quick set up Sesitec 2.0 return winch, as well as days spent building massive features that blew the early days of cable features out of the water, leading to a complete overhaul of layouts for cable parks and the possibilities for what wakeboarders can now attempt. With the creation of varying wall rides, step up to step down rails and high set flat bars, you name it, there's a good chance someone at a cable park somewhere has built it.
The evolution of cable parks across the world have become a major attraction for almost all wakeboarders as a way of broadening their abilities, none other has pushed the boundaries of both sport and rider much like Lake Ronix, with some of the most unfathomable and riskiest features the wakeboard world has ever seen. The likes of the Prime Wakeboard movie shows a portion of what the athletes lake has to offer thanks to the relentless work of Brad Smeele, who provided a vision and helped build the features that has created the lake, yet through Lake Ronix we are also shown a dark side to the sport we all love, with Brad Smeele's suffering an injury whilst testing his creations that left him a quadriplegic. Every sport has a dark side that can rear it's ugly head now and again though despite this mark on an incredible progression, cable wakeboarding has and will continue to progress, with a slowing in innovation in boat riding, the machine that is cable wakeboarding shows a bright future that is capable of one day possibly overtaking the boat scene. While only time can tell on that prediction, one thing is for sure, cable wakeboarding is now a fully fledged and and accepted part of the wakeboarding scene and will continue to be long into the future.
To Donate to Brad Smeele's Recovery head to: http://www.bradsmeelefoundation.com/
Written by Tony Stark