When the sun is shining in the UK there’s nowhere I’d rather be than waterskiing or wakeboarding on Heron Lake near Staines. While I should probably be blogging, editing videos, or getting my life admin done in some other way. Both waterskiing and wakeboarding give me so much enjoyment, I just can’t get enough.
I love the way that there’s always progress to make, you never stop setting challenges for yourself. These include having the boat go faster when skiing slalom or aiming a more difficult trick. I switch between the two disciplines slalom and trick (on a wakeboard for sit skiers), depending on how I’m feeling (or, more accurately, how well it’s going). On the whole, I’m a stronger waterskier as I’ve been doing it longer.
Heron Lake is home to the British Disabled Waterski and Wakeboard Association and is kept going by volunteers. These include boat drivers, observers (who sit on the boat to watch skiers/riders and let the driver know if they’ve gone down), as well as many others behind the scenes who keep the place running. There’s a brilliant atmosphere down there and it’s particularly great on a summers evening when the sun is going down after a good ski session. I spend a lot of time down there in the summer, so either after work or on a free weekend, chances are you’ll find me there.
There is a great community down at the lake with people of a range of ages and abilities (some able bodied, others with a range of disabilities). While there are some competitive skiers and riders there, others just down there for fun. There are some die-hards who ski right through the winter, and some more fair-weather like me. I know I’ll be sad when the water gets cold come October though.
How I got started waterskiing and wakeboarding
I started a few years ago, as I was preparing to head out to Winter Park, Colorado, to spend my first season skiing. A friend asked me one day if I wanted to come and try out waterskiing. I’d heard of people with disabilities going there and having a great time. Often it was for weekends where people would ski lots, and party lots in the evenings. I love a party so I was well up for that element, but wasn’t so sure about the waterskiing. I think it was because it was out of my comfort zone as I was unfamiliar with it. I simply couldn’t see the fun of being essentially chucked into a lake somewhere near Staines, especially if it wasn’t warm.
How you can get going
A great way to get started is with a charity called Access Adventures who run waterski and wakeboard camps there over weekends. It’s a fantastic organisation who cater for people with a wide range of physical disabilities. They have the equipment suitable for many different disabilities and needs so if you’re wondering whether they would be able to accommodate you, just get in touch with them. The British Disabled Waterski and Wakeboard Association at Heron Lake also run a number of novice days throughout the summer where there are buddies available to help out those who need it on the water.
If you’re not feeling like water skiing or wakeboarding they have lots of inflatables for you to get behind the boat on. And it’s not limited to people with disabilities either. I’m always getting my able-bodied friends down there to get back on a wakeboard or try out water skiing for the first time. It’s very inclusive.
They have all the kit to borrow on site, if you don’t have your own, including skis, boards and frames if you are a seated skier/rider. As well as wetsuits, buoyancy aids and helmets.
Newcomers are really encouraged so if you think you’d like to give it a try, get in touch with me or the BDWWA.
Even though now I am skiing and riding a wakeboard (mostly!) consistently well, it took me a LONG time to be able to get up behind the boat independently. There are a few things to remember like keeping your arm out to stabilise you and not rushing to sit up (letting the boat do the work) but people often have their own way of doing it.
I use a strap to keep my torso closer to my legs because of my level of injury (T3/4) being quite high. Before this my torso would go over to one side, or ‘on a wonk,’ as I tried to start. I would get very frustrated, but, being the determined (or crazy) person that I am, I refused to give in. Much of it is about being relaxed when getting up. Even now when skiing it’s important for me not to try too hard or be too aggressive. Just like with snow skiing, much of it is about being progressive, which sometimes feels counter-intuitive.
Why I love waterskiing
For me, it’s absolutely great as it’s not too far from where I live or work, so I’m able to pop down there and get my adrenaline hit. I love the way there are always things to improve on. With waterskiing it’s technique, length of line, and speed, and with wakeboarding, it’s tricks. I’m working on getting a 360 right at the moment. But after that there’s so much further to progress.
I really never thought I’d be a die hard waterskier and wakeboarder. But I guess you never know what the future brings! I can’t recommend you try it enough! Get in touch with me, Access Adventures or BDWWA for more information.
So, as promised, here are the six reasons to try waterskiing and wakeboarding:
Waterskiing and wakeboarding provides a great challenge, and continues to be one as you improve.
They’re suitable for a huge range of disabilities and abilities with lots of equipment available to help.
There are lots of options of what to do – different tricks to try, different rope lengths and speeds in slalom, etc.
Interestingly there’s actually not that much difference between able-bodied and disabled waterskiing and wakeboarding.
(Okay this is solely for UK based people…) There’s availability to do it without travelling abroad – a few lakes around the country are affiliated with BDWWA.
It’s a great adrenaline hit. Nuff said.