The Wakeboard industry as much as we want it to be this big money making machine, isn't close to the NFL's, AFL's, NBA's, it doesn't quite make the cut. It's definitely growing and since it took over the waterski industry 16 years ago has continued to show growth and commitment to the sport as an elite and self sufficient sporting body. So what's the issue, why are we not seeing a massive boom period like we have with so many sports before? It's a simple answer, the money isn't there.
Now i know where this may lead people to think, yes there are more and more ginormous wakeboard boats filling our rivers and lakes, yes we continue to see more people buying wakeboards. The issue lies further down the line than that, retailers are like a cameo in the movie, providing the small grinds at shop floor level, the reason wakeboarding is suffering is from those in the starring roles, the heavy hitters, the big guns, you get where i'm heading its all about the big companies. Massive companies such as Hyperlite, Liquid Force and Boat Companies such as Mastercraft, Nautique, Malibu, for so long were comfortable hedging their bets, continuing on the belief that it's only a recreational thing, we're making money, people are buying product, foolproof what else would they need.
Competitions for a long time were seen as a farce, look at the failed Australian Pro Tour, dieing a slow and painful death at the hands of little sponsorship, lack of prize money as well as some poor handling. Only in the past few years have we seen a greater prize pool in major competitions thanks to the major boat companies in Nautique and Mastercraft, with a greater push to grow the sport and create a worldwide stronghold that through the 70's and 80's was dominated by slalom skiing. Yet as the boat companies start to push for a greater governance over the sport, creating something more legitimate, the hardware brands who push for people to go out, provide a lack of support towards untested athletes and up and comers. This isn't a team sport, we can't have some form of draft where each brand takes a punt on who thinks might be the better talent from a crop of juniors, but they could do well to look at how sporting clubs make it worthwhile with rookie salaries.
The need for vital support for the next generation of wakeboarders is more apparent than ever, with the likes of cable wakeboarding making the sport more available to a wider demographic, brands need to start looking into the future of their image, finding the next big thing. It's not simply about throwing a board or 2 at the new kid and saying congratulation your sponsored, there needs to be some sort funding as a support basis for riders to ease financial stress, wether it be a capped fund from the brand which goes towards funds and flights comes down to how the brands choose to look at the future of their brand and how it supports the sport, but they do need to start looking at how their athletes are compensated for supporting brand image, for as the sport grows, the brands who live in the past will be quick to fall behind, smaller companies who've most at risk in getting their name out there are willing to take the plunge, its now for the larger board companies to follow suit
Change is coming to the sport of professional wakeboarding, and for the sake of the sport let's hope the next generation are able to call wakeboarding their job as much as some consider it a way of life, a title that at the moment is only reserved for the best of the best.