Enter Area 52
If Area 51 is for military testing and hiding aliens, Area 52 is for shredding faces, blowing stokemeters, and drinking Not Beers. Thanks, Kevin, for not giving a shit about flying saucers! Photo: Rutledge
Note: This article appears in the Oct/Nov 2014 issue of Alliance Wake
In today’s world of social media driven egos and fast-talking thumbs the phrase “blood, sweat, and tears” has lost some of its potency, but when it came time to describe Kevin Henshaw’s year-long effort to create his own wakeboarding paradise I couldn’t think of anything more appropriate. As cliché as it might sound, Henshaw literally bled, sweat, and cried while designing and building the property he purchased near his Florida home. Looking at the countless man hours and dollars that went into the compound many might call Kevin crazy, shortsighted, irresponsible, or all three. Having spent the better part of the last decade pushing wakeboarding in his own way though, Kevin would simply call it passion. Looking at the results, I have a hard time arguing against him.
Tighten up Photo: Cortese
The personal/private park isn’t a new concept – all we have to do is look at places like Shredtown and Battle Falls to see that, but Kevin’s is a first of its kind in the pro scene around Orlando and there are a few things that set it apart. For one, it features a unique top pool and 60-foot gap to the bottom pool; two, Kevin’s place isn’t limited to just a particular team of riders; and three it’s landscaped and thought out in ways that are signature Henshaw – right down to leaving one tall pine poking out into the bottom pool.
The 60-foot gap from top pool is no laughing matter. Brenton Priestley going up to get down Photo: Cortese
The first time I saw Kevin’s place in person was well into the construction process. Actually he was almost finished. It didn’t take a rocket scientist to realize just how much work it had taken for Henshaw and his crew of helpers to get to that point though. As soon as I turned the corner down the dirt driveway and saw the System 2.0 lined up over the pools I knew this place would be a game changer – partly because of how unique it looked, but mainly because I knew that with this type of setup and his ability to build unique, creative, and legit rails Kevin would be able to unleash some insanity upon the wakeboarding world. Add in the creative efforts and stoke of some of the sport’s best park riders and you’ve got a recipe for magic.
Friends who shred together stay together Photo: Cortese
Clayton Underwood gapping to the top Photo: Cortese
Have high-reach, will jib. Dylan Miller with some extra curricular activity Photo: Cortese
I spent a few days with Kevin Henshaw and some of his building crew and riding buddies just after construction of the first few rails was complete. The photos speak for themselves in this article, but you can tell it was almost a sensory overload. There is a lot that can be done in this small space – from traditional kicker hits, to gaps up to the top pool, to gaps down into the transition of the stairs, to rail slides, and on, and on, and on. The riders almost have a hard time deciding what to do next. I had a hard enough time concentrating on where to shoot from each time a rider tried something. And you know with Kevin and his buddies’ brains constantly spinning, there will always be something new and cool being added or changed around. So get used to this little place affectionately called Area 52, it’s gonna be around for a while.
Trevor Bashir proving a point Photo: Cortese
Henshaw reaping the rewards of his hard work and dedication Photo: Cortese
For most athletes taking the time and money Kevin did in order to make this dream a reality would be career suicide, especially considering that Kevin is now an “elder statesman” of the sport. But for as long as we can remember Kevin has never been a fan of being told one of his ideas was a bad one, so he did his research, made calculations and estimates, worked with some key players, and jumped in without hesitation. Over half a year later that dream is a reality and in my estimation the sport won’t be the same ever again.
This was the original vision for Henshaw’s cover on the Oct/Nov issue, but it didn’t make the cut. It still made for a cool photo though Photo: Cortese