Always wished you could walk on water? Well, now you can

Wakeboarding is the fastest growing watersport in the world. And you don't have to have rippling muscles to do it. By Alister Morgan

FOR MANY people the major obstacle to participation in adventure sports is accessibility. Surfing? Sounds great if you have time to travel to Cornwall. Skiing? Snowboarding? Weekends in San Anton can be expensive. Just ask Fergie.

Wakeboarding is a new watersport that offers the chance to try something different without needing superhuman strength, travelling to the ends of the Earth or buying hundreds of pounds' worth of expensive equipment that is destined to gather dust in your attic.

Wakeboarding combines elements of surfing, snowboarding and waterskiing. And when you're good at it you can perform tricks straight out of a Batman comic. The board measures around 4ft in length (it resembles a water- adapted snowboard), and protagonists slip their feet into rubber bindings before being towed, sideways-on, behind a speedboat.

The important difference between waterskiing and wakeboarding is that waterskiing boats have hulls designed to cause as little disturbance to the water as possible. The concept of wakeboarding is the reverse: hulls are specially designed so as to create as much disturbance, or "wakes", as possible.

While wakeboarding equipment is by no means cheap, it is possible to have a go at it for as little as pounds 15 a session. Best of all, wakeboarding tuition is available at thousands of reservoirs and lakes around the UK.

Like all good sports, wakeboarding is fun for beginners and experts alike but as a complete novice, the first and most important lesson I learned was to keep my mouth closed when wiping-out (crashing) at speed - reservoir water isn't too tasty.

Starting on a training bar attached to the side of the boat you begin in a stationary crouched position with your knees pressed to your chest. As the boat slowly gains speed the water presses against the board forcing you to stand. Once in an upright position you turn sideways and try not to fall. I'm pleased to report that it's not as difficult as it first appears.

From inside the boat the instructors told me to try to stand upright. With knees slightly bent and my weight spread evenly between both feet I finally managed to do so - and maintained a relaxed position.

It's an incredible feeling to look down and see your board gliding over the water - you feel triumphant, indestructible ... until you become complacent and wipe out.

Soon, I was ready to ride on a rope behind the boat. The process remains the same, apart from the small matter of riding the wakes. With the correct posture there is little jerk while riding and as a constant thin film of spray hits your face your senses are alert and you can feel the water passing underneath.

You can increase your speed by steering wide of the boat before "carving" (as in carving turns in the water) back in, but hitting the wakes at speed is a heart-in-mouth experience. When you fall it's usually because you tensed up. You need to be loose and flexible to ride over the turbulent water.

Turning is smoother than snowboarding as you don't have to worry about catching an edge, but riding (and later jumping) off the wakes requires considerable skill and training.

The feeling of carving through the water is second to none and as my confidence grew I became more adept at making turns across the wakes, bending my knees to absorb the turbulence.

Advanced riders use the wakes to launch themselves into the air, performing a host of exotically named manoeuvres such as "raleys", "hoochie-glides", "tantrums" and "s-bends". Most people who have tried wakeboarding (it's now the world's fastest-growing watersport) describe the experience in glowing terms.

Nick and Julz Heaney are both former waterskiing champions who switched to wakeboarding a few years ago. The brothers are among the best in the world at their chosen event. "There is a lot more free riding, compared with waterskiing," Julz, 20, told me. "In waterskiing you have to be very controlled and perform tricks in a certain way. Wakeboarding is about going out there and doing what you want. In competition you get points for style and creativity so you're encouraged to ride against the norm and try something new."

The brothers' success means that they rarely see their native Newcastle upon Tyne and regularly have to suffer extended trips to sun-kissed locations such as Orlando, in Florida.

"You feel so free out there," said Nick, 22. "It feels like you can actually walk on water. When you're on the edge of your board, it's an amazing rush. The more you do it, the better you want to get."

Wakeboarding is growing rapidly in the UK with many retailers currently selling five wakeboards (costing between pounds 200 and pounds 600 each) for every pair of waterskis.

But many clubs offer tuition and equipment hire at reasonable prices and, considering the price of equipment, it's by far the best way to begin.

Wakeboarding is tiring on the arms and after a few minutes riding you can understand why top riders train every day. But while gasping for breath on the bank, it's one of those activities that you'll be desperate to try again and again and again.

Lea Valley Watersports Centre, Banbury Reservoir, Harbet Road, Chingford, London E4 (tel: 0181-531 1129), weekdays (before 3pm), pounds 8 for first timers, pounds 11 for others. After 3pm and weekends pounds 11 first timers, pounds 14 others for 15 minutes' boat tow. Prices include tuition and equipment hire; sessions must be booked in advance. The British Waterskiing Federation (tel: 0171- 833 2855) has more information on wakeboarding and details of where to find your nearest club.

The Independent travel offers: Discover a world of inspiring destinations

News
Susan Sarandon described David Bowie as
peopleSusan Sarandon reveals more on her David Bowie romance
Sport
Arsenal supporters gather for a recent ‘fan party’ in New Jersey
football
Sport
sportDidier Drogba returns to Chelsea on one-year deal
Arts and Entertainment
The Secret Cinema performance of Back to the Future has been cancelled again
film
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
Balmain's autumn/winter 2014 campaign, shot by Mario Sorrenti and featuring Binx Walton, Cara Delevingne, Jourdan Dunn, Ysaunny Brito, Issa Lish and Kayla Scott
fashionHow Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain
News
people
Arts and Entertainment
Christian Grey cradles Ana in the Fifty Shades of Grey film
filmFifty Shades of Grey trailer provokes moral outrage in US
News
BBC broadcaster and presenter Evan Davis, who will be taking over from Jeremy Paxman on Newsnight
peopleForget Paxman - what will Evan Davis be like on Newsnight?
Life and Style
fashionCustomer complained about the visibly protruding ribs
Voices
The new dawn heralded by George Osborne has yet to rise
voicesJames Moore: As the Tories rub their hands together, the average voter will be asking why they're not getting a piece of the action
Sport
Dejan Lovren celebrates scoring for Southampton although the goal was later credited to Adam Lallana
sport
News
newsComedy club forced to apologise as maggots eating a dead pigeon fall out of air-conditioning
Arts and Entertainment
Jo Brand says she's mellowed a lot
tvJo Brand says shows encourage people to laugh at the vulnerable
Life and Style
People may feel that they're procrastinating by watching TV in the evening
life
Travel
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
Independent Travel Videos
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Amsterdam
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Giverny
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in St John's
Independent Travel Videos
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    C++ Software Engineer - Hounslow, West London - C++ - to £60K +

    £40000 - £60000 per annum + Pension, Healthcare : Deerfoot IT Resources Limite...

    VB.NET and C# developer (VB.NET,C#,ASP.NET)

    £30000 - £45000 per annum + Bonus+Benefits+Package: Harrington Starr: VB.NET a...

    Visitor Experience volunteer

    Unpaid voluntary role: Old Royal Naval College: To assist the Visitor Experien...

    Telesales Manager. Paddington, London

    £45-£55k OTE £75k : Charter Selection: Major London International Fashion and ...

    Day In a Page

    Evan Davis: The BBC’s wolf in sheep’s clothing to take over at Newsnight

    The BBC’s wolf in sheep’s clothing

    What will Evan Davis be like on Newsnight?
    Finding the names for America’s shame: What happens to the immigrants crossing the US-Mexico border without documents who never make it past the Arizona desert?

    Finding the names for America’s shame

    The immigrants crossing the US-Mexico border without documents who never make it past the Arizona desert
    Inside a church for Born Again Christians: Speaking to God in a Manchester multiplex

    Inside a church for Born Again Christians

    As Britain's Anglican church struggles to establish its modern identity, one branch of Christianity is booming
    Rihanna, Kim Kardashian and me: How Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain

    Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain

    Parisian couturier Pierre Balmain made his name dressing the mid-century jet set. Today, Olivier Rousteing – heir to the house Pierre built – is celebrating their 21st-century equivalents. The result? Nothing short of Balmania
    Cancer, cardiac arrest, HIV and homelessness - and he's only 39

    Incredible survival story of David Tovey

    Tovey went from cooking for the Queen to rifling through bins for his supper. His is a startling story of endurance against the odds – and of a social safety net failing at every turn
    Backhanders, bribery and abuses of power have soared in China as economy surges

    Bribery and abuses of power soar in China

    The bribery is fuelled by the surge in China's economy but the rules of corruption are subtle and unspoken, finds Evan Osnos, as he learns the dark arts from a master
    Commonwealth Games 2014: Highland terriers stole the show at the opening ceremony

    Highland terriers steal the show at opening ceremony

    Gillian Orr explores why a dog loved by film stars and presidents is finally having its day
    German art world rocked as artists use renowned fat sculpture to distil schnapps

    Brewing the fat from artwork angers widow of sculptor

    Part of Joseph Beuys' 1982 sculpture 'Fettecke' used to distil schnapps
    BBC's The Secret History of Our Streets reveals a fascinating window into Britain's past

    BBC takes viewers back down memory lane

    The Secret History of Our Streets, which returns with three films looking at Scottish streets, is the inverse of Benefits Street - delivering warmth instead of cynicism
    Joe, film review: Nicolas Cage delivers an astonishing performance in low budget drama

    Nicolas Cage shines in low-budget drama Joe

    Cage plays an ex-con in David Gordon Green's independent drama, which has been adapted from a novel by Larry Brown
    How to make your own gourmet ice lollies, granitas, slushy cocktails and frozen yoghurt

    Make your own ice lollies and frozen yoghurt

    Think outside the cool box for this summer's tempting frozen treats
    Ford Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time, with sales topping 4.1 million since 1976

    Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time

    Sales have topped 4.1 million since 1976. To celebrate this milestone, four Independent writers recall their Fiestas with pride
    10 best reed diffusers

    Heaven scent: 10 best reed diffusers

    Keep your rooms smelling summery and fresh with one of these subtle but distinctive home fragrances that’ll last you months
    Commonwealth Games 2014: Female boxers set to compete for first time

    Female boxers set to compete at Commonwealth Games for first time

    There’s no favourites and with no headguards anything could happen
    Five things we’ve learned so far about Manchester United under Louis van Gaal

    Five things we’ve learned so far about United under Van Gaal

    It’s impossible to avoid the impression that the Dutch manager is playing to the gallery a little