So, architecture is your backup plan?   Photo: Rutledge  Words: Sophie Hogben

Orlando, USA: for wakeboarders it’s the land of dreams and opportunity. Yet it’s here most of all that I am reminded of the importance of diversification and balance in your life.

The main standing point from which I write this article is to reiterate to people within the industry and to those who want to pursue wakeboarding as a career, that above all our sport is meant to be fun! I think sometimes it’s easy to get lost in the world of “trying to make it” ­ chasing that dream and hoping for another “big opportunity” ­ that we forget how lucky we are and in turn take our opportunities and experiences for granted. Secondly I want to speak the seemingly unspoken, “What if you can’t wakeboard anymore?” What do you intend to do with your life? I guess it’s a pretty uncomfortable question for most, we all just want to live the life while we are young and not tied down, but I think this question is an important one, not only for the fact that obviously your body can’t wakeboard forever, but in order to have a healthy balance in your life, you need to consider where else you can focus your energy.

Coming from soccer where I played at an international level I learned that too much focus on one facet of your life can lead to burnout. I was so competitive and serious at an early age, that by the time I was 16 my competitive drive was running on fumes. That was the point where I took a step back and moved on to pursue my degree in architecture. After completing my degree I became more interested in wakeboarding and was able to follow my dream of chasing the never­ending summer, knowing that if i was injured or could no longer ride that I had other life skills and qualifications to fall back on.

Not only did completing my degree give me the tools to communicate to a diverse range of people (which we definitely have in wakeboarding), it taught me to have discipline and dedication to something other than a sport. I’m not saying that a degree is the answer to a balanced life, but it is one route. Really it’s about a diversification of skills and having options for other opportunities. I think so many people within our sport have done this so well and the rest of us can learn a valuable lesson from them. Look at Rusty and Rattray, they have their own CrossFit gym. The Pasturas have put so much time into Water Monsters ­ not for financial gain, but because they love it, and they’re doing something a bit different within the sport they love as riders. I think my favorite example is Aaron Reed, his woodwork is amazing. If you haven’t already seen it, take a second to see his work and appreciate the time and effort that goes into the pieces that he creates. I really respect the people who spend time to develop skills that aren’t necessarily related to the industry. It’s something I think we should all try to incorporate into our lives a little more because I believe a life with balance in multiple areas brings about more stability, which in turn allows each of those areas to grow and prosper. And most importantly it prevents burnout.

What really cemented my thoughts on this matter was the moment when I learned of Brad Smeele’s tragic accident last year. I’ll be honest, it scared me to my core, and I think I can speak for the entire industry when I say it made us put things into perspective. I remember hearing the news and having this sinking feeling in my stomach. I spent time with Brad at Australian events and he was one of the first people to encourage me to travel to the States to wakeboard, but not before completing my degree that I was halfway through at the time. Although there were times that all I wanted to do was wakeboard and not complete my studies, it was people like Brad who encouraged me to use my other skills and finish my degree. I’m beyond thankful for that advice, because even if I never use my degree, it was a valuable experience that taught me a lot about commitment and working on two hours sleep, and those experiences can be put to use both in pursuing a career in wakeboarding, as well as afterward when I can’t ride anymore.

As much as we would like to be pro wakeboarders forever, we all know that isn’t possible. The sport is hard on the body and competing at a top level can be hard on the mind, as well. We are all going to experience ups and downs, whether we are pro riders or not, so having a balanced life is important. Traveling so much the past few years and meeting so many people has made me realize that having other outlets in life is just as important for your riding as time spent on the water. If you’re constantly riding and not developing other skills then your entire focus is on that one facet of your life. That is when burnout becomes a factor, and why should you turn something as fun as wakeboarding into something that gives you stress and anxiety? So get out there and pursue other hobbies and interests. Learn about them and grow other skills, I promise it will help your wakeboarding because you’ll get back on the water more excited to ride than ever.