This past week my two sons, Cole and Jacob, attended a wakeboard camp in Florida. For those not familiar with the sport, wakeboarding is a type of water sport such as skiing or kneeboarding.
My wife, Amy, and I have been waterskiing for over 20 years and it is a sport we really enjoy as a family and naturally our boys followed suit learning at a very young age to ski. I believe both of our sons could either ski or kneeboard by age three or four. Cole and Jake really enjoy the sport and Amy and I encourage them to continue to develop their skills on the water.
So every morning for three straight days last week we arose early and headed to the lake for the boys to work on their wakeboarding skills with the pros. The training would start with three one-hour practice sessions behind the boat, with a 30-minute break between each session, followed by continued training on the cable park. For the first two days the boys worked on turning hard (or edge) toward the wake, created by the boat, to attain higher jumps off the wake. For two days Amy and I watched them basically attempt the same jump over and over and over with little improvement, despite encouragement from us and the trainers.
Adjacent to the boat area was the cable park. The park is basically a system of cables that rotate around a small lake with a pulley system that grabs a ski rope and pulls the skier around the lake as many times as desired. The cable park also features ramps and grinds or rails. We also witnessed Cole and Jacob ride on the cable park for two days practicing their cutting technique, but neither would attempt the jumps or rails very much.
After more encouragement from Amy and me, one of the boys insisted, “It’s not easy, you should try it.”
Never one to back down from a challenge I assured Cole and Jake that I would try the cable park on the third day and would even jump the ramps if only they would push a little harder during the next training session and they both agreed to the challenge. The morning of the third day arrived and I realized that my spine, which is referred to as a train wreck by my chiropractor, had a derailment. I could barely bend over to put my shoes on before heading out to the lake.
During the morning boat sessions, my reverse psychology appeared to be working as both Cole and Jacob were close to and even clearing the opposite side of the wake on their jumps. Then that faithful moment arrived. As soon as the boys finished their morning boat sessions, they immediately started in on me to get ready to hit the cable park. My brother-in-law, Keith Stalvey, also played a part in the reverse psychology technique to get the boys to try harder and he too had promised to also take part in the cable park challenge.
After a few attempts at getting the boys to forget what we promised to no avail, we both changed into our swim shorts, grabbed our boards and headed out to the park. I must admit I was somewhat worried that I would embarrass myself as I had watched others attempt the cable park the two prior days and many failed to even get off the starting platform successfully. But a promise is a promise and I would give it my best.
As I approached the starting platform I looked at the teenage operator and told him it was my first time and he responded with some teen lingo such as, “It’s all good my man, you’ll be fine,” with a smirk on his face as he turned around. That was not reassuring at all as I prepared for the cable to snatch me off the platform. Then he said, “Ready yourself for a cruise, man (or something like that).”
The next thing I know I was off the platform and in the water riding like a pro on my first try. I turned around because I wanted to see the dismay on the young surfer dude’s face and of course he was probably texting on his cell phone by this point. I traveled around the cable park an entire round before I mustered up enough courage to attempt one of the ramps. On my very first attempt at a ramp…I crashed and burned and had to take the walk of shame back to the starting platform to face off with the surfer-talking teenager again, like many others before me. However, on my second, third, fourth, fifth and on attempts at the ramps I landed my jumps like a pro and the best part was my boys got to witness their “old man” keeping his word and leading by example.
The bad part is the back railroad crews are still trying to clean up my derailment even as I write this column. Oh the pain!