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 Banksy image in Folkestone before it was vandalised
Life and Style

Sales of the tablet are set to fall again, say analysts

football West Brom vs Man Utd match report: Blind grabs point, but away form a problem for Van Gaal
Arts and Entertainment
Gotham is coming to UK shores this autumn
tvGotham, episode 2, review
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Bloom Time: Mira Sorvino
tvMira Sorvino on leaving movie roles for 'The Intruders'
Brian Harvey turned up at Downing Street today demanding to speak to the Prime Minister

Met Police confirm there was a 'minor disturbance' and that no-one was arrested

Arts and Entertainment
George Lucas poses with a group of Star Wars-inspired Disney characters at Disney's Hollywood Studios in 2010

George Lucas criticises the major Hollywood film studios

Chris Grayling, Justice Secretary: 'There are pressures which we are facing but there is not a crisis'

Does Chris Grayling realise what a vague concept he is dealing with?

Life and Style
A street vendor in Mexico City sells Dorilocos, which are topped with carrot, jimaca, cucumber, peanuts, pork rinds, spices and hot sauce
food + drink

Trend which requires crisps, a fork and a strong stomach is sweeping Mexico's streets

ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
Life and Style
The charity Sands reports that 11 babies are stillborn everyday in the UK
lifeEleven babies are stillborn every day in the UK, yet no one speaks about this silent tragedy
Blackpool is expected to become one of the first places to introduce the Government’s controversial new Public Space Protection Orders (PSPOs)

Parties threaten resort's image as a family destination

Life and Style
Northern soul mecca the Wigan Casino
fashionGone are the punks, casuals, new romantics, ravers, skaters, crusties. Now all kids look the same
Life and Style

I Am Bread could actually be a challenging and nuanced title

Nigel Farage has backed DJ Mike Read's new Ukip song
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
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

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

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    SCRUM Master

    £30 - 50k (DOE) + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a SCRUM Master to joi...

    Franchise Support Assistant

    £13,520: Recruitment Genius: As this role can be customer facing at times, the...

    Financial Controller

    £50000 - £60000 per annum: Sauce Recruitment: A successful entertainment, even...

    Direct Marketing Executive - Offline - SW London

    £25000 - £30000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: A fantastic opportunity h...

    Day In a Page

    Oscar Pistorius sentencing: The athlete's wealth and notoriety have provoked a long overdue debate on South African prisons

    'They poured water on, then electrified me...'

    If Oscar Pistorius is sent to jail, his experience will not be that of other inmates
    James Wharton: The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

    The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

    Life after the Army has brought new battles for the LGBT activist James Wharton
    Ebola in the US: Panic over the virus threatens to infect President Obama's midterms

    Panic over Ebola threatens to infect the midterms

    Just one person has died, yet November's elections may be affected by what Republicans call 'Obama's Katrina', says Rupert Cornwell
    Premier League coaches join the RSC to swap the tricks of their trades

    Darling, you were fabulous! But offside...

    Premier League coaches are joining the RSC to learn acting skills, and in turn they will teach its actors to play football. Nick Clark finds out why
    How to dress with authority: Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear

    How to dress with authority

    Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear
    New book on Joy Division's Ian Curtis sheds new light on the life of the late singer

    New book on Ian Curtis sheds fresh light on the life of the late singer

    'Joy Division were making art... Ian was for real' says author Jon Savage
    Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

    Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

    The Bafta-winner talks Hollywood, being branded a psycho, and how Barbra Streisand is his true inspiration
    Tim Minchin, interview: The musician, comedian and world's favourite ginger is on scorching form

    Tim Minchin interview

    For a no-holds-barred comedian who is scathing about woolly thinking and oppressive religiosity, he is surprisingly gentle in person
    Boris Johnson's boozing won't win the puritan vote

    Boris's boozing won't win the puritan vote

    Many of us Brits still disapprove of conspicuous consumption – it's the way we were raised, says DJ Taylor
    Ash frontman Tim Wheeler reveals how he came to terms with his father's dementia

    Tim Wheeler: Alzheimer's, memories and my dad

    Wheeler's dad suffered from Alzheimer's for three years. When he died, there was only one way the Ash frontman knew how to respond: with a heartfelt solo album
    Hugh Bonneville & Peter James: 'Peter loves his classic cars; I've always pootled along fine with a Mini Metro. I think I lack his panache'

    How We Met: Hugh Bonneville & Peter James

    'Peter loves his classic cars; I've always pootled along fine with a Mini Metro. I think I lack his panache'
    Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's heavenly crab dishes don't need hours of preparation

    Bill Granger's heavenly crab recipes

    Scared off by the strain of shelling a crab? Let a fishmonger do the hard work so you can focus on getting the flavours right
    Radamel Falcao: How faith and love drive the Colombian to glory

    Radamel Falcao: How faith and love drive the Colombian to glory

    After a remarkable conversion from reckless defender to prolific striker, Monaco's ace says he wants to make his loan deal at Old Trafford permanent
    Terry Venables: Premier League managers must not be allowed to dictate who plays and who does not play for England

    Terry Venables column

    Premier League managers must not be allowed to dictate who plays and who does not play for England
    The Inside Word: Brendan Rodgers looks to the future while Roy Hodgson is ghost of seasons past

    Michael Calvin's Inside Word

    Brendan Rodgers looks to the future while Roy Hodgson is ghost of seasons past