Words: Bettina Menzel

The first time I met Madison was in a little bus in the Philippines that was going from the junction of the 7-Eleven close to the cable park CWC to Naga City. A group of more than 20 wakeboarders were on their way to get food in town and maybe a few beers after that. With 18 people sitting on top of the bus, for adventure´s and adrenalines´ sake, that only left two guys from England, a couple of locals, me and lots of empty space. We all weren’t sure whether the bus is going to tilt at some point due to the unequal weight. In the end, we figured that as long as the driver doesn´t seem scared, we should be fine.

I had just arrived and since it was my first time in the Philippines, Madison gave me tips on what to visit around the park. At this point, I had no idea who she was. To me, she was just a friendly, open and funny girl from England. She may only be 19 years old, but seems more mature. Judging from her stories and her confident attitude, I reckoned she has already seen the world at this young age.

I learned that the quirky girl from England grew up in a family of wakeboarders. When Madison first tried wakeboarding, it was behind a boat and she was 14 years old. A year later, she found out that there was a cable park ten minutes away from her house. “It took me around two months to get off the dock and my dad learned it faster than me – that was annoying” Madison laughs. Once she was up and going, she started to learn quickly and did 360s and tantrums in her first year, scoring her a little sponsorship from a local shop. Today, she is participating in competitions all over the world like Plastic Playground.

Bettina: You dedicated your life to wakeboarding. When did you make this decision?

Madison: After my first year wakeboarding, I got a little sponsorship from a shop and they pushed me and motivated me to carry on with wakeboarding. Starting from there, I took it a little bit more seriously. I went to the Philippines after I left school at 17 and I came to CWC. It was supposed to be just a little holiday, but I actually started to learn a lot of new tricks. I made an edit called “When the Sun Goes Down” and was happy to see how well it did. After that, I started doing competitions, like Plastic Playground and I´ve also competed in the World Championships last year.

Bettina: What has been your best result so far?

Madison: Unfortunately, I crashed in the World Championships last year, but I participated in three stops of Plastic Playground. In the last one, I just got to the quarterfinals. I got knocked out in a head to head. In the other stops, I made it to the semis, which made me realize that I am good enough to carry on with this. I like competing but I prefer to make edits, videos and posts on Instagram. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy competing, I just enjoy free riding with my friends more.

Bettina: Why are you not a fan of competing?

Madison: It takes the fun out for me. I go wakeboarding because I sincerely enjoy it. It is all fun and no pressure. When it comes to a competition, you really have to get this one lap as clean as anything and it really builds up the pressure. That takes out the enjoyment for me. I still try and do as many competitions as I can, but not too many to get stressed out. I am slowly learning not to let the pressure get to me.

Bettina: What´s your trick to cope with the pressure?

Madison: My trick is to say: “Oh I am just going out for a lap with no one else around, just to have some fun.” It does work for me but I have to be in the right frame of mind to do that. Still, if you crash, it’s upsetting! Nobody likes to fall.

Bettina: Do you train in a specific way for competitions?

Madison: I don´t really like the word “training” honestly because it sounds too serious. To be honest, I learn more when I am riding with other people than anything. I can learn so much from my friends and they inspire me to try different things. That´s why I prefer to say I am just riding. A lot of people are asking me: “What are you training for?” I’m not! I’m just having a good time right now. I take it seriously of course, but not too seriously, because when you do, it knocks the fun out of things. It´s like being in school and it becomes stressful. I know that a lot of people are having lists on what they like to do but that’s just not me. I just think of stuff and then I go for a ride and if I feel like trying it, I do it. I try not to put any unwanted pressure on myself.

Bettina: Why do you think there aren’t more girls that are into riding?

Madison: When I started wakeboarding, I also thought that the boys could be very intimidating. You’re on the dock and there are all these guys throwing double flips and doing these massive presses on rails and you’re like: “I just want to get off the dock without feeling anxious…” I totally understand! I´ve been there as well! Girls sometimes don´t give it a chance because they get too nervous about it but as soon as you are off the dock, it’s so much fun and you forget about all the people watching.

Bettina: What are your goals?

Madison: My goal is to become an international professional rider. I want to make a living out of wakeboarding, because I love it so much and I think I have the potential to make it. I really want to wakeboard as long as possible. It’s easy to give up wakeboarding after a while, but I will stick with it, because this is something I want to do for the rest of my life.

Bettina: Is it hard to become a professional?

Madison: It is! Especially as the standard is getting higher and higher. On the one hand, it is amazing to see that the girl´s level is improving all the time but on the other hand, it makes it really difficult. Concerning the mental side of it, you do start to compare yourself to other girls and sometimes think you’re not good enough. Just because someone might beat you in a competition, does not mean you suck! It just means they might have a different style or they have done a better run than you. It is definitely hard to become a pro. I think once you put your name out there, all you can do is to have a good attitude, good friends and good vibes and hopefully you´ll get noticed. At least that´s what I hope. That´s my dream.

Bettina: Were you scared when you went on your first solo trip to CWC?

Madison: When I was younger, I suffered really badly from anxiety. I´d get very nervous about even going to the shop on my own. So traveling on my own was a massive deal! I went with a few friends, but being away from my parents was scary. After I had done that trip, I found confidence and my anxiety disappeared with traveling. This year I traveled to the Philippines, Bali, Turkey and so many different places all by myself. Considering that two years ago I could not even walk into a shop on my own, traveling has taught me so much. Wakeboarding has helped me learn lessons I could have never learned any other way.

Bettina: Do you ever feel lonely when you are traveling so long on your own?

Madison: I am here without my family, so I do feel lonely but thank God for FaceTime! If it weren’t for that, I would not be able to do it for so long. I literally call my parents every night, I tell them how my day went and they tell me about theirs. I am here in CWC for a month, then I am heading over to Australia for a couple of weeks over Christmas and come back to the Philippines after that. Even though I miss my family, I don’t have a date on when to go back. I am just going with the flow, which is a good way to live.

Bettina: Do your parents support you a lot?

Madison: Yes, they are so supportive! My whole family wakeboards, my little sister rides too! She is 15 and I just taught her her first 360! My mum just learned a 180 and she is claiming it hard. It is very cool that my whole family does it. If they didn´t then they wouldn´t understand. My dad is very supportive and I am really lucky to have a family like that.

Bettina: Did they push you in any way in this direction? Did they tell you that you should become a professional wakeboarder?

Madison: Well, you see a lot of pushy parents. It’s nice that my parents are not like that and they are not pressuring me into learning new tricks. They totally understand that sometimes tricks are hard, sometimes they hurt, but they always give me motivation. There is no pressure, they just want to see me happy.

Bettina: What are your fears?

Madison: Yeah, I am a bit of a wimp when it comes to crashing. I had a really bad crash in Australia. I transferred, came up short, smacked my hip and thought I had broken it. It was black and blue and I could not go to work for a few days and had to stay in bed. Transfers in general not my favorite thing to do and now I am a little bit wary of it. That´s the thing with wakeboarding though, you can´t take it easy. Wakeboarding is a tough sport. You’re going to take slams no matter what. This just comes with the sport, it´s part of the game. Of course I still do transfers now, but I am more cautious about them and that´s not necessarily a bad thing. If I go out for a ride and I don´t feel too energetic or confident, I don´t do it. If you are going half-hearted or don´t really feel like doing something, that´s when injuries happen. Too bad I found that out the hard way!

Bettina: Who inspires you a lot?

Madison: Anna Nikstad is one of my favorite girl riders. She is the bravest and toughest female wakeboarder I have ever met. Her style and her tricks are amazing; she just ticks all the boxes of a good female wakeboarder. She has the right attitude and she is a lovely person. With the boys, Wesley Jacobsen and Quinn Silvernale of Valdosta inspire me a lot. I have never met them, but I watch them on Instagram and they give me so many ideas. They really motivate me to try and get stylish. They are so good to watch!

Bettina: What about the Peacock brothers?

Madison: They are my friends. We have a love-hate relationship, they are like my brothers that I never had and they are so annoying! They really try and push me into learning new tricks.

Bettina: Do you have a favorite trick?

Madison: I am not a fan of learning new tricks on the kicker, because it hurts so much when you fall and it takes so much effort. I do enjoy kickers but learning new kicker hits takes some time for me. My favorite kicker hit is a switch toe back 5. On the rails, I like a good 270 front board with a little hand plant on the end. It’s just an awesome feeling trick when you get it right. I had some near death experiences there, as I sometimes slip out, but I’ve survived so far.

Bettina: What´s your homespot?

Madison: I don´t really have one, but I would say that CWC is my winter spot. Every winter I come here and spend at least two months. My second favorite place is Hipnotics in Turkey.

Bettina: You easily make new friends and meet a lot of people, but is it hard to keep friends when you are traveling so much?

Madison: It is quite hard because my friends at home don´t really understand. The normal thing to do when you finish school is to go to college and all my friends did that. I also went for a few months but, I was doing a sports course and it was somehow all about football (which I’m not a fan of) so at one point I just decided to travel to CWC and I never went back. All of my friends from home are still in college and they just didn’t get why I dropped out to travel the world. Sometimes it affects me and I wonder if I should have maybe stayed in college or if I should do something with my life. On the other hand, wakeboarding is my life and I can´t complain about it. Even though I don’t have many friends at home, I have so many friends around the world from several different countries.