No boat, no board, no problem: Cable parks have you covered.
Some of us are fortunate enough to have bought our on-water freedom by acquiring a boat. Some of us have the boat-buying bug, but haven't found the perfect ride yet. Others may not be so lucky and the price of a boat is out of reach. Fortunately for the unfortunate souls marooned onshore, there is another outlet slowly building up momentum in the United States — cable water sports.
No boat, no equipment and no boat bro needed. Cable water sports have been big in Europe and elsewhere for years, with over 160 operating cable systems worldwide. Now the United States is starting to jump on the bandwagon with four parks opening in the past 10 years.
Cable parks offer a great alternative riding experience for all riders, but beginning and intermediate wakeboarders especially can gain a lot of benefits by giving cable parks a try. And here's why.
The fi rst thing that sets a trip to the cable park apart from a traditional wake session is how easy it is. Compared to gathering your gear, friends and boat, all the equipment, including boards, can be rented, and the cable takes care of the pull.
“The cool thing about cable parks is when you get there you find this awesome wake community,” says Matt Hickman, west coast editor of WakeBoarding magazine. “A cable park is a common ground for water-sports enthusiasts to meet and easily make new friends with similar interests.”
There's simply no better way to meet people in your area interested in riding. Plus, you don't need to wait your turn. Downtime only lasts as long as it takes you to get back to the dock, so you get a lot of water time.
Apart from the surplus of riding time, cable parks deliver the ability to tackle obstacles (rails and kickers) like no other. As wake sports become more popular, many riders learning the ropes want to test their skill by riding a rail or grinding a box. And for this, cable is ideal.
“You can go elsewhere on lakes and ride rails, but beginner and intermediate riders are better off starting in a controlled environment,” says Hickman. “The problem with poaching rails on a lake or river is you don't know who built them or how well they're constructed. You go to a cable park and you can hit rails and kickers and know they're perfect.”
Especially for a beginner, another advantage to cable parks is the consistency in pulls. In open water, the ride is affected by not only the driver's skill, but the amount of traffic that might rough up the conditions. At a cable park, neither is an issue. This makes it easier to get the hang of things.
“The guys who work at KC [Watersports] have taught so many people to wakeboard,” says Mike Olson, who owns the cable park right outside of Kansas City. “People learn very quickly. They start off in the sitting position instead of a deepwater start, and the cable is so consistent. It's very conducive to learning.”
Since the cable pulls the same every time, after a few runs you know just what to expect. And with many fellow wakeboarders around, you can bet that everyone, from the staff to advanced riders you meet, will offer up helpful advice and tips when needed.
Wakeboarding isn't free, but cable parks make it a whole lot easier to try the sport out and learn without breaking the bank. For about $30 to $40 per day you can wake until you drop.
“There's a huge difference between buying your kid a baseball glove and ball to see if he likes it,” says Hickman, “to buying a $40,000 to $90,000 wakeboarding boat to see if he likes it.”
While that's an extreme example, cable parks are a great way to try wakeboarding out without too much commitment. And whether you're committed to the sport or not, parks are an ideal place to demo boards and other equipment to see what gear is right for you. Most cable parks have a wide selection of current boards, so finding your first or next board is simply a rental fee away.
Pro Quotes: Cable Parks
There are currently five cable parks in the United States, with a sixth opening up this year. Here's what some pros have to say about each.
Hillsdale, Kansas 913-783-4300
“This park definitely has the hometown vibe. Everyone there is super cool and the owner [Mike Olson] will do everything in his power to make sure you have a great time. Their cable is set up really nice to accommodate beginners as well as the advanced riders looking to boost some air.” — Kyle Reed
Orlando Watersports Complex
Orlando, Florida 407-251-3100
“OWC is such a great park to go [to] because it really accommodates riders of all types of abilities. I enjoy riding there because there are two cables — one that is long and at a slower speed for beginners and another cable with obstacles for intermediate to pro riders.” — Tom Fooshee
Deerfield Beach, Florida 954-429-0215
“This is the first wake park in Florida, to my knowledge. [It is] home to Donald Shelbrick and Rob Mapp, as well as Shannon Best — the original gangstas of cable in the U.S. It's still producing talent unmatched by any other cable park in the states.” — Keith Lidberg
Texas Ski Ranch
New Braunfels, Texas 830-627-2843
“Best put, TSR is wakeboarding heaven. I spend at least a week before every season riding out there because I know I'm going to leave a better rider. TSR has a great variety of rails and kickers with plenty of room for air tricks as well.” — Andrew Adkison
Central Oklahoma Wakeboarding Center
Guthrie, Oklahoma 405-282-WAKE
“This place is just starting out, but has already done a great job. The water there is very smooth and the pop off the towers is sick! They have a couple of rails and kickers in there right now but they plan on having plenty more for summer, which is going to make it a legit park.” — Tom Fooshee
Revolution Cable Park
Fort Myers, Florida 239-656-3000
Revolution Cable Park is scheduled to open April 2008. Head on down there yourself and form an opinion of your own.