One of the huge disadvantages of wakeskating compared to skateboarding is that you can’t just walk out your front door and practice on any street corner. You may see sweet rails or interesting obstacles you’d like to hit on a walk through downtown, but good luck hitting them on your wakeskate. It is a sad truth of wakeskating that it is not the most convenient sport. It requires a body of water, a watercraft to pull you, and another person to operate that watercraft. Luckily there are cable parks! The cable park is to wakeskating what the skate park is to skateboarding: it provides a place to hit obstacles and meet new people who also ride. On top of that, the cable is one of the best places to improve your game for several reasons. First off it’s there, running whenever you want to go ride. You don’t have to stop at the gas station and you don’t need anyone else to pull you. Riding the cable is something you can do entirely independently. Secondly the cable runs at the same speed around the same obstacles endlessly. This means that you get to try new tricks repeatedly. And repetition is undeniably the best way to learn anything. In a sport that cannot boast of being the most convenient, the cable serves as a helpful solution. So here are some pointers to get you started at the cable.
Don’t Be Intimidated
Sure there are always cable rats who spend every single day at the park. It may seem like everyone else there knows what they are doing. But here’s the thing: every one of them showed up at the cable for the very first time just as intimidated and clueless as any beginner would be. We all have to start somewhere. Don’t get the impression that everyone is watching you. They aren’t. Everyone else is too busy concentrating on their own riding to notice a mistake made by a newcomer. A lot of cable parks have several cables, one for beginners and another more advanced one. Don’t be too proud to start on the slower cable. You can always move over to the more advanced cable once you get more comfortable.
The Cable Operator Is Your Friend
Talk to the cable operators, ask them for advice – it’s what they are there for! Cable parks hire operators who are social, outgoing and like to teach. They are paid to sit and run the cable. So they are free to watch you and are knowledgeable on how to fix your mistakes. I asked my local friendly cable operator, Sascha Peschi, how he felt about people asking for advice and this is what he told me: “ I’m not psychic. I can’t tell if it’s your first time. I can’t tell if you’re struggling. If you need help, just ask! It’s what I’m here for. I’m not just a monkey pushing buttons!” So there you have it.
Getting up at the cable is a lot like dock starting so if you have ever tried to dock start, you should have a good idea of what it’s like. Sit with your feet on the board, keeping the board out in front of you. Keep your knees bent and the handle in towards your lead hip (You’ll hear me say this A LOT because keeping your knees bent and the handle in are important for everything you do on the cable). Don’t worry about trying to stand up. Let the cable do the work and pull you up. If you try to stand up on your own rather than letting the cable pull you up, you’re probably just going to face-plant in front of the start dock. Which isn’t a huge deal. Lots of people fall trying to get up their first time. According to Sascha, even on a slow day at least a dozen people fall getting up. So if you do fall just swim in and get back in line. As the saying goes: If you fall of your horse….etc, etc.
Taking the Corners
Going around the corners is one of the trickier aspects of riding the cable. Here’s how you do it: Edge out in between the buoys (those buoys are there for a reason!) Keep your eye on the cable and watch to see when the cable pulling you makes the turn around the corner. Just before the cable makes the turn, turn your board in the direction you are going to go. Once again, make sure to keep the handle in and your knees bent!
Almost all cables have a box and in my opinion, this is the best slider to begin with on a wakeskate. However hitting any slider involves the same basics. Start under the cable and take a direct edge to whatever obstacle you are going to hit. Just before you hit it, flatten off. KEEP THE HANDLE IN AND YOUR KNEES BENT. If you come off of the slider early, away from the cable, you probably edged too hard. If you come off towards the cable, you probably edged too soon or possibly cut back in before you hit the slider so you need to wait a little longer to take a direct edge out. If you want to try to hit some kickers edge the same as you would towards any obstacle. When you reach the top of the kicker suck your knees up otherwise you will lose your board. Then make sure to bend your knees and absorb the landing.
Remember the best thing about the cable is that you aren’t relying on anyone else or taking up anybody else’s time by riding. It’s just you out there so enjoy it! Don’t put too much pressure on yourself right off the bat. It’s better to start with the basics and as you get more comfortable you can try more complicated maneuvers like frontboards, backlips, spinning, and doing tricks onto and off of the sliders. If you run out of ideas for things to try, watch others for inspiration. Don’t be intimidated get out there, and have fun!
Inspired? Here's a list of the cable's here in the US of A. If you live in the rest of the world, you have even more options.
Ski Rixen — Deerfield Beach, FL
Orlando Watersports Complex – Orlando, Florida
Texas Ski Ranch –- New Braunfels, Texas
KC Watersports -– Kansas City, Kansas
McCormicks — Tampa, Florida
Revolution Cable Park –- Ft. Myers, Florida
Wake Nation –- Cincinnati, Ohio (under construction)
Santee Lakes – Santee (San Diego area), California (proposed)