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.
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?)
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:
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.