Volunteering to learn an invert at wakeboard camp seemed like a dream come true. Sharing the experience with the readers seemed even better. I was made for this assignment.
The concept was simple: Learn an invert and reveal the secrets to the public. I felt I could learn any trick blindfolded. This was the kind of thing I had been waiting for. A chance to prove my worth to the boss, plus five whole days to learn something I could probably do my first time out. Working for WaterSki magazine was about to pay off big time. My mug would be all over four pages in an international magazine, and man, wouldn't I look good nailing a tantrum?
My riding was already near perfect, and adding a couple more impressive-looking tricks could almost pass me off as a pro. Sponsors would be offering me the world in just a few days. This was going to be cake. Could life get any better?
Bam! Like a freight train hitting a parked car, the horrible truth about my riding was revealed the first morning at P.J. Marks' The Wakeboard Camp – I stunk.
My first coach immediately pointed out several flaws in my riding. It was obvious that someone had been lying to me about my abilities. Was this some kind of sick Twilight Zone episode? I realized that I was going to have to cut through ome pretty thick self-denial before there could be any movement forward. Fixing my flaws would be crucial if I was going to make a tantrum by Friday.
At the end of the day, I met P.J. in his office to go over what I needed to accomplish that week at camp.
“Everyone thinks they have to do an invert to prove their ability,” were P.J.'s first words. “Riding should be fun for the individual. If you're not ready and you move on to learn a more advanced trick, you're only going to cause more bad habits that are going to be even harder to break later on. You have to remember that every trick works off the basics. If you don't have those down, you cannot progress correctly. Here at camp we bring the rider back to the basics, then build on that.”
The expertise of four different coaches had pulled me into reality – and much better riding by the end of the second day. It was tme to start trying the tantrum. Three days to go. No problem, I thought.
The next three days were filled with many disastrous attempts and some “almosts” thrown in. I understood the dynamics of the move and what I had to do to make it. My body just wouldn't cooperate.
I was trying to “throw” the tantrum insteadof letting the wake do all the work. When I approached the wake, I completely changed edges and stopped all my momentum up the wake. I was staying bent over and not standing tall at the top. Worst of all, my instinct for “self-preservation” kept me looking over my leading shoulder instead of straight back. The pressure was building. I didn't want to look like an idiot. A camera was the audience I needed.
The morning of the photo shoot arrived and my confidence was waning. Several rolls of film and a few dozen falls later, I still hadn't made the tantrum. It was painfully obvious that the invert would elude me for another day. I was closer, so much closer, which made it even harder to get back in the boat.
No, I didn't make the invert, but my riding improved 100 percent. If there is anything you can learn from my experience, it's this – ride because you love to. Attempt tricks when you're ready. Stick to the riding fundamentals and everything else will fall into place. Most important, leave your ego on the dock.