Try 1,000 Things: Cable Wakeboarding

Wakeboarding Dublin Nerd At Large

Nerds + Extreme Sports

We nerdfolk aren’t typically known for our athletic prowess or active lifestyles, so extreme sports might not be what you’d expect to find on a geek travel blog. Throughout my childhood I fit the mold of the stereotypical nerd who is hopeless at sports and is always picked last when choosing teams. One of the most vivid memories I have of Grade 7 is when I scored a 3-point shot in basketball…on my own team’s net (hey, I got dizzy and confused!)

So yeah, I never really considered myself an athlete, even though pretty much everybody in my family is an athletic superstar of some kind or another. For many years I shied away from physical activity unless it involved cool costumes or weaponry. Then I made a tremendous breakthrough. I may always be utterly hopeless at team sports, but it turns out that I can kick some butt at individual sports when I put my mind to it.

Nonetheless, my default, ingrained assumption when trying some new physical activity is that I’m going to be hopeless at it. Luckily one of my major strengths is that I have no reservations about making a fool of myself. Another helpful attribute is that I am mostly fearless. Well, not completely fearless but I’m afraid of stupid stuff like Spongebob Squarepants, Gremlins, and persecution, but not heights, falling, or death. I have made my peace with mortality, but a flaccid-nosed anthropomorphic sponge sporting lederhosen is more dissonance than my psyche can handle.

Wakeboarding in Dublin?

I was genuinely shocked to discover that in Dublin there are oodles of opportunities to do adventure sports. I was determined to go beyond the usual, well-trod paddywhackery, but when I began researching this trip, that’s all I found. I kept looking and chanced upon Wakedock cable wakeboarding park in Dublin’s Grand Canal Dock. Their website made it seem as though learning to wakeboard might be something I could actually pull off.

The Obligatory Angst

Still, I was mighty nervous leading up to my wakeboarding initiation. I fretted about whether my lacklustre swimming skills would hold me back, and whether I would be able to get in and out of a wetsuit without causing a major disturbance in The Force. I worried that I would be wasting everyone’s time, or that I wouldn’t be able to properly capture the experience for the blog. As soon as I arrived, all of my anxieties were assuaged by Nina and Colin who run Wakedock. Even the fact that in obsessing over what camera gear to bring on the day, I neglected to pack my swimsuit and towel turned out to be no big deal. They thought of everything.

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Soon I was suited up and out on the Wakedock pontoon in the middle of the canal dock, ready to try wakeboarding in Dublin. Peter was my instructor and cable operator. He gave me a quick tutorial on the stance I needed to aim for, and then within five minutes I was in the water holding on to the cable and starting my first run.

Okay, “run” is an exaggeration. The first six times or so I could not get upright. Then I did. The next few times I got upright, I immediately fell on my face. Then I didn’t. With each go I got better and better. Next, I was staying upright and riding down the course with the board perpendicular to the cable. Then I learned how to turn the board so it was in line with the cable. As the lesson drew to a close I was learning to steer and able to do a full run of the course without falling. Have a look:

Why Cable Wakeboarding Rules

Going in I was skeptical of how much could be accomplished in a session lasting less than an hour, but I was amazed by the progress I made. I attribute this rapid learning to the cable wakeboarding system Wakedock have in Dublin. With cable wakeboarding the rider is not towed by a boat. Instead, there is a permanent, fixed system with a frame and motorized cable that pulls you along. Because the system makes very little noise, Peter could give me immediate, useful feedback that I could implement straight away. Since you don’t have to wait for the boat to circle around and get back into position when the rider falls, a lot more boarding can be fit into a short span of time. Given my propensity for falling at the start, this made a huge difference. Peter also had a great deal of control over the speed and he adjusted it accordingly as I progressed and stopped it instantly whenever I fell (did I mention that was a lot?)

Wakeboarding Dublin Peter pontoon

What You Need to Know to be an Overnight Wakeboarding Success

One of the cool aspects of constantly trying new things is that the more I do it, the more I find that I’m not starting from square one at all. When Peter was teaching me the movements required for wakeboarding, I found that every time he gave me a new instruction I was able to draw a parallel with something I already knew, and these transferrable skills were invaluable. Holding on to the cable while turning the board was just like tango, where your torso and lower body are often required to move in different directions. The stance was similar to ones I’ve learned in martial arts, fencing, and weightlifting. The way I needed to move my feet to control the board was a lot like operating a Segway, and so on.

Wakeboarding in Dublin was a fantastic experience. Though I fully expected to be hopeless, I turned out to be “impressive” according to Colin (Before you ask…no, he wasn’t trying to sell me anything) and he suggested a whole raft of other hotbeds in ireland for extreme sports (though Wakedock is the first cable wakeboarding park in the Republic of Ireland.)

Maybe someday I will be able to do this:

Club night at Wakedock. Photo by Steph Spencer
Club night at Wakedock. Photo by Steph Spencer

Acknowledgements and Disclosure: I am very grateful to Colin and Nina at Wakedock for hosting my wakeboarding experience and providing me with complimentary tuition for the purpose of this review. Many thanks to the stellar Kris Goodbody who shot all of the photos and video in this post except where noted, and to Peter Taylor for showing me how to wakeboard and not drowning me.

Try 1,000 Things: Bacon Ice Cream Sandwich

Bacon Ice Cream Sandwich

The opening on the Canadian National Exhibition in Toronto has me thinking of outrageous food. It’s a tradition at the CNE that every year they unveil some new and preposterous indulgences available at the Food Building. One year it was deep-fried butter making the headlines. This year they have sweet potato and Nutella poutine, bacon milkshakes and mac-n-cheese bunwiches among their repertoire, along with a Food Truck Frenzy.

I do love me some crazy food experiences, but odds are that the only frenzy I will be taking part in this weekend is a packing frenzy, since I leave for Dublin on Sunday night. But all this wacky food talk got me thinking of the out-there dessert I tried recently.

I was visiting my family in Barrie, Ontario and Jane and I went out for lunch at The Potted Pig. After stuffing ourselves with various delicious pork-laced dishes, the server asked what we wanted for dessert. Dessert!?! I’d forgotten there was dessert. Barrielicious was on and our prix fixe meal included appetizers, mains, and dessert. I was about to take a pass on it, until he uttered the magic words… Bacon. Ice Cream. Sandwich.

It sounds crazy, but bacon really does make an ice cream sandwich better. The chewy chocolate chip cookies and vanilla ice cream were a treat, but the candied cubes of salty, smoky bacon were what made this dish. Maybe next year they will turn up at the CNE.

Try 1000 Things: Buying Books From A Vending Machine

Buying books is great fun. Perhaps too much fun, as my overflowing library attests. I try to go for a browse in a bookshop in every place I visit. I’ve bought books online, through the mail, and on the street. I’ve bought random lots of books not having a clue what they contained. But until recently I’d never bought books from a vending machine.

Monkeys Paw Toronto Book Store

When one of the gals in my book club mentioned it for the first time, buying books from a vending machine didn’t sound all that appealing. The best part of visiting a library or a book store is the sensory onslaught of looking at all of the interesting covers, touching all the smooth covers and running my fingertips over the textures of the embossed or cloth-covered volumes, the sound of the pages as they turn and the faint creak the spine makes. Don’t get me started about New Book Smell. When the new library opened in my neighbourhood I was there almost every day just soaking it up. I’ve managed to restrain myself from licking any books thus far, but the thought has crossed my mind. So the notion of books encased in a machine seemed cold and sterile to me, almost cruel. Monkeys Paw Vintage Typewriter A Nerd At Large

In my mind’s eye I imagined a glass-fronted vending machine with the latest popular fiction, teen supernatural romance (that’s a genre apparently, according to Barnes & Noble), and flavour-of-the-month business and self-help books inside. Perhaps I’d seen such an unappealing thing in an airport somewhere in my travels.

What I could not have conceived of in a million years was the BIBLIO-MAT. My book club gang eventually did organize a field trip to investigate this novel contraption we’d heard about. I set aside my initial misgivings once I saw this cool video:


The BIBLIO-MAT from Craig Small on Vimeo.

The BIBLIO-MAT lives at The Monkey’s Paw, which is an antiquarian bookstore on Dundas Street West in Toronto. You insert two dollars worth of coins and it makes some delightful whirrings, clunkety-clunks, and a loud BRRRRRINGGG as a bell rings when the book is released, before the emphatic thud that punctuates the book’s arrival at the bottom of the chute.

The book you get is completely random. The BIBLIO-MAT is a lucky dip into old and unusual books. The four of us arrived with pocketfuls of toonies, so we gave it a good road test. Madeleine was the first to give the BIBLIO-MAT a whirl. As the photos convey, it was an exciting experience. On her first go she got a weird old book on heredity.

Biblio Mat Monkeys Paw Mad A Nerd At Large

I went next and received a book called Six Months In Italy for my trouble.

BIBLIO MAT Book Monkeys Paw A Nerd At Large

Madeleine had another go and got a book on oriental rugs.

Shelley’s turn yielded Carburetors, Volume 1 which is bound to be a cliffhanger.


Tracy had a go and got a book on lacquerware that she seemed rather pleased with.

BIBLIO MAT Monkey's Paw

I had another turn and was rewarded with Modern Marvels Encyclopedia, which is both fascinating and bewildering.

Madeleine went again and received Engines from the same series as the carburetor book. Luckily engines only require one volume apparently, so she won’t be left wondering at the end.


Shelley doubled down after her automotive disappointment and got a book on the Red River that was more to her liking.

As awesome and entertaining as the BIBLIO-MAT is, the setting enhances the experience. The Monkey’s Paw is a fun shop to explore and it definitely satisfied my sensory inclinations. They sell an extremely eclectic and carefully curated assortment of old books. The vast majority of books were non-fiction and the proprietor seems to value specificity more than anything. There were very few general books, but oodles of titles on highly specific and esoteric subjects. For instance, I was drawn to a book on the history of the word “decadence.” On one wall there is a whole series of of tiny booklets on topics like How to Cane and Upholster Chairs, Prostitution in the Medieval World, and The Spirit of Brazilian Literature.

Monkeys Paw Cookbooks Campbells Soup Box A Nerd At Large

The whole store has a pleasant retro vibe, from the beautiful old wood bookcases, to the vintage desks like my granddad used to have, and the cool and surprisingly useful magnifying glass at the front desk. There’s a whole display of vintage maps that undoubtedly stir the wanderlust in anyone. The only new items for sale in the entire store are biological specimens encased in Lucite that are engrossing to examine.

biological specimens in lucite

So, I’m glad I tried buying books from a vending machine. I can’t say that it will become my go-to method of biblioacquisition, but it was certainly an entertaining and memorable experience. If you’re visiting Toronto and looking for something nerdiliciously offbeat to do, I’d recommend stopping by and taking the BIBLIO-MAT for a spin.

Monkeys Paw Toronto Vintage Maps

beer tasting

Try 1000 Things: Beer

Until this year I was an alcoholic virgin. Hmm, that sounds way trashier than I intended, but I think you know what I mean. Although I’m well past the legal drinking age, I only started drinking in April 2012. There are several reasons for this, all of which are boring, so let’s just say that it boils down to the fact that I never started.

pints of beer at an Irish pub
The natural habitat of beer experts – photo by vermegrinio

I was set to visit a land with a greater than average concentration of experts on the subject, so I decided that my trip to Ireland would be as good an occasion as any to start drinking.  Since my first glass of Proseco in Dublin I’ve tried many different alcoholic beverages. I enjoyed most of them, but not beer.

A sip of a friend’s pint of Guinness at a pub in Ballycumber was my first hint that beer might not be my drink of choice, but then again lots of pople dislike Guinness so I wasn’t prepared to write it off just yet. Nevertheless, trying more beers fell considerably lower on my list of alcoholic explorations.

Then June I went to TBEX in Colorado and there was a reception for us at Wynkoop Brewing Company where I tried beer in earnest with a glass of my very own. They were quite tickled that my first beer was one of theirs. I wanted to like it and make them proud. But I didn’t. I started to feel weird after drinking half the glass, probably due to the combination of altitude, jet lag, not having eaten, walking all day, and being on edge after a run-in with a creepy dude just prior to the event. So I stopped and focused on making new friends instead.

beer tastingI still didn’t feel like I’d given beer a fair shake, so when I went with friends to The 3 Brewers for a pre-TIFF dinner I was coerced decided to have their beer-tasting flight, featuring a white, blonde, amber, and brown beers. As instructed I drank them from lightest to darkest. The light one was supposed to taste fruity, and it kind of did. To me it tasted like I imagine it would if you took a pineapple and a load of old shoes, threw them into a washing machine, and then drank the rinse water. In the spirit of experimental enquiry I drank every one of the beers in front of me and kept hoping that the good part would come with the next sip, but it never did.

I have nothing against the brewers of the beers that I tried. No doubt their wares are delicious to people who enjoy beer, I just don’t happen to be one of them.

It’s official. I don’t like beer.