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Wing Winch Park
Text and Photos by Sim Bradley
Winter can be an arduous time for a wakeboarder in the British Isles. The cable parks are closed, everyone’s boats are winterized and it rains too much to skateboard, while not snowing enough to snowboard. And all this while your friends are off in Thailand, the Philippines or Australia getting some warm-weather riding in. So what are the options to a desperate and deprived water boarder? One of the best plans I’ve heard in recent years was that of ‘Solid’ Jim Sedgwick, who found a small lake, broke up the ice and scavenged some rail building materials. Faster than you can say ‘chronic pneumonia’, Wing Winch Park was built.
Obviously it is not as simple as just deciding to build a rail park, you need a winch to start with, some water is usually good and materials to construct your park with. Luckily for Jim he had access to all three. This whole thing started while working at a stately home/fishery/caravan park in the small village of Wing near Leicester. Odd jobs for Solid included gutting out rooms of the house and clearing storage areas, so it wasn’t long before he had an abundance of wood and metal to work with. As it was winter, the fishing lakes on the property were not being used too much, and as there were three lakes there, Solid decided to turn the smallest into something a lot more exciting than a fishery.
With the help of winch owner and rail collaborator, Toby Oliver, they began building some rails, starting off with a nice flat bar. The advantage to it being a private park was they could dabble with ideas and if something didn’t work out it could be improved on the next day. So the flat bar was soon extended to twice the original length, and work began on an incline rail at the side of the lake.
The intent for this incline was a gap rail, originally using some corex pipe dubiously balanced on the back of a towable trailer resting on the bank. Needless to say, this sketchy setup didn’t last long, and the welder soon came out to make a 15 foot steel handrail, firmly planted into the bank of the pond. After some more trial and error with other parts of the park Solid was ready to unveil it to the public, which is where we come in.
I had seen photos and videos of what they were building and straight away new that this would be something fun to session, especially as it was still February very few people were riding anywhere. So we got a group together made up of Solid, Toby, Ollie Moore, along with Box End Park locals, Tom D’Cruze and Drewe White. Day one was amazing, it was the best weather of the year so far with no wind and clear skies. The location of this pond made for pretty much the most unique lighting I’ve ever shot at. The sun seemed to beam down on the rails themselves, leaving the background and foreground bathed in darkness, which came out amazing in the photos. We had a good session to start off with while running around trying to keep warm. Ollie took to the banked ledge on the far side straight away, and even though it was over a foot high ollie on and he hadn’t ridden since last summer, he charged at it switch for a textbook boardslide first go. It was clear this would be a good day.
Before long Ollie was reeling off front boards, shuvs, switch boardslides and bigspins out on the ledge, but it all came undone when he tried a frontside lipslide. It turns out the ollie was quite big and it all went wrong, terribly wrong. Ollie ended up upside down flying towards the shallow water and the bank, while his wakeskate gave me a nice reminder to never get too close to boards without bindings when shooting with a wide-angle lens. Lesson learnt for both of us.
Solid Jim was amped for a proper session with different riders and with the new extension of a curved corex pipe off the top corner of the banked ledge, he set about getting some steezy frontside boardslides while trying not to fly out the top and land on the bank. Unfortunately Toby wasn’t as lucky when he ended up facedown in the mud with his board stuck in the ground a few tries later! We had a great session that day, and when Solid’s better half Bianca brought us a magnificent pile of hotdogs, we took a break and waited for dark.
Having a set up like this where it is private and there’s nobody around to complain or inflict rules, is fantastic. We positioned about 10,000 watts worth of lights around the rails under the night’s sky and commenced part two of the days antics. It was so much fun to hang out with these guys and shoot wakeboarding for the first time in what felt like ages after winter.
Two weeks later and I returned to the park with Solid and Toby, this time with the company of Jonty Green, Lee Debuse and CK Koester. Any photo shoot with these three guys is going to be good, so when you throw in some smoke grenades, huge floodlights and a few fireworks into the mix, it is destined to be one hell of a day. The boys were all stoked on the park, except Jonty at first, as for some reason he was convinced Solid had bought two System 2.0’s, we still have no clue where that idea came from, but you can imagine his confusion upon seeing a lonely Monkey Wench at the far end of the pond and no towers! However after getting a grasp on the situation, Jonty was just as amped to ride as everyone else, which really says something about the rails, as it’s hard for anyone to be amped to ride in 4-degree weather!
LDB and CK took to the park first, mostly playing with the flatbar before moving onto the daunting gap rail. All of the guys made it look far too easy, but I guess that is why they are professionals. The day time flew by, and by 4pm we thought it was time for lunch and headed into the nearby town that I can’t remember the name of, for possibly the best pizza I’ve ever had. It was some tiny little Italian delicatessen that sold anti-pasta and pizza, and it was magical. Fuelled up and ready for round two, we went back to the park to put up the lights and wait for the sun to set while standing around the mobile fireplace in a pit of mud.
We had an awesome session in the dark that night, everyone rode well on the most part, with a few inevitable crashes between the dark and the clouds of smoke I unleashed on the guys. I won’t reel off all the tricks that went down, the photos will give you an insight to that long list. Shooting at Solid’s park was a great way to kick off the new season, it was unlike pretty much any other wake shoot I’ve done, and the freedom we had to work with combined with the fantastic team effort between Solid, Toby and all of the riders, helping to drive the winch, pull out the rope, set off grenades and just keep the whole session running smooth, was what made it all work.
So next winter, if you find yourself with a pile of scrap wood and metal, find some water and put the effort in to make something for yourself. The winch park cost absolutely nothing to make, as all materials were salvaged or borrowed, right down to the generators and floodlights courtesy of a stage sound and lighting company Toby works for. So you have no excuse, it can be done if you try hard enough, and when you do it you will wonder why you didn’t do this sooner. With sessions like this one, I can’t wait until next November now, and that is something I never would have said before.