Boarders to spectators: Wake up

Wakeskating works anywhere and is ready to ‘blow up’

Wakeskater Taylor Hanley performs a flip on Elk Lake.

If it’s a body of water, Taylor Hanley can ride it.

From roadside ponds to Elk Lake, the flexibility of wakeskating means even a flooded culvert is ideal for the new sport.

Wakeskating is a cross between wakeboarding and skateboarding. The “skater” is pulled by a boat, Sea-Doo or even a 30-metre winch, and skims the surface of the water on a board with no bindings.

Wakeskaters even wear ordinary sneakers.

“The better they drain, the better they’ll work,” said 19-year-old Hanley. “Nike makes some mesh shoes but if there’s nothing else, Van’s classics will do.”

In August, Hanley flipped his way to a national title at the 2011 Canadian Wake Championship on the Thompson River in Kamloops. Most events involved wakeboarding as wakeskating has yet to “blow up,” Hanley said.

“Wakeskating has grown rapidly over the last five years but its still under the wakeboarding (category),” said Kim McNight, executive director of Water Ski and Wakeboard B.C.

“Wakeboarding is still growing, but wakeskating is growing faster.”

McNight and the committee oversee towed watersports in B.C. and are based in Esquimalt on Admirals Road.

McNight figures about 15 per cent of wakeboarders are wakeskating.

In fact, the sport has actually been around since the late ’90s but is mostly big in Florida and the U.S., the home of pro wakesports.

The opportunity to do more tricks on a wakeskate, like spinning the board underfoot while in mid-air, is what attracted Hanley to the sport four years ago.

“I wakeboarded a lot but there’s just so much more freedom on a wakeskate, I never went back.”

Still, despite being national champion and with a few sponsors already, the money isn’t enough to keep the Claremont grad afloat. Hanley is apprenticing as an electrician and hopes to make it to Florida next year, where pro wakeboarders like Saanich’s Kevin Henshaw have a permanent residence.

Fortunately for Hanley, he won’t have to practise alone. Three years ago he convinced his girlfriend to take up the sport.

Hayley Zedel had no board riding experience when Hanley insisted she try wakeskating.

“I couldn’t stand up,” said Zedel, a UVIc student who graduated from Stelly’s in June. “We had to put me on a wakeboard until I got the hang of the muscle memory out there. Then I switched back and it’s been wakeskating ever since.”

Zedel tied for second of the four girls who competed in wakeskating at the championships in Kamloops, and she won the provincials in Deep Cove (Vancouver) earlier this summer.

The two continue riding the warmer waters of the fall, with neoprene socks and gloves as they continue into the colder months. Most often they wakeskate behind a Sea-Doo on Elk Lake but they try to make as many trips to Sproat Lake as possible.

And now that Hanley has a winch, he can turn any old bog into a water park.

reporter@peninsulanewsreview.com

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