It’s nearly the 1998 summer here, and while 90 percent of me is pumped about the long days of riding ahead, the other 10 percent is bumming about the fact that the days of butter are over. At least in the off season you could count on getting good water, but if our early season down here in Florida is any indication of what will happen in the rest of the country, allow me to tell you that this year your lake is going to be a damn zoo.
On one hand it’s great that wakeboarding is getting so popular you can barely see a body of water without someone riding, but on the other hand finding good water to yourself is getting about as easy as finding a good wave you don’t have to share with countless other X-Gamer wanna-bes. And with the increased crowds is going to come increased tension. Trust me.
Just the other day pro rider Farrah Dawson joked to me that she’s going to start guarding her line with a little more aggression (I think her actual words were “with a BB gun”) than she had in the past. Of course, that means she’ll be guarding it from my friends and me, since we ride on the same lake, but no matter. BBs don’t hurt that much.
Of course she was joking, but her point was that tension can get so high that violence could be the next step. Darin Shapiro, who knows territorialism from both his surfing and wakeboarding, thinks going to that extreme is stupid. He simply says “water should be shared.” Mike Weddington is somewhat more aggressive by saying “if you run a consistent line, you own it.” Weddington says other riders should recognize the fact that you have been running your line, and they should go to a different part of the lake. “It’s that simple. If we are there first, it’s ours until we are done. So if someone comes and tries to mess with us, we’re going to mess with them.”
But both pros also realize that rough water is a fact of life, and they have their solutions for dealing with it. Darin says you just have to ride according to the conditions. When he gets a section of good water he tries his hard stuff, and when it’s rough he just doesn’t go for his biggest tricks. His attitude is if he is out there enough, he’s eventually going to get the good water. Similarly, Weddington says riders should just practice fundamentals and easy stuff when it’s rough so that when it’s good you will have a base for doing the hard tricks. “When you get to a level where you do a bunch of hard inverts, you tend not to try basic fun moves like grabs and simple blind 360s and stuff like that. But when I’m in rough water, that’s all I do. It helps me when I incorporate them into the harder moves when I get the good water.” Pro rider Anthony Monaco just breaks out his wake skate when there’s too many rollers and works on his ollies and 180s off the rough water.
Of course, you can always just get up a little earlier (someone is going to be out there first – it might as well be you) or stay out a little later or move to Minnesota and get your own lake, but don’t stress about the water this summer. It’s going to be rough; that’s a given. Everyone’s just going to have to learn to stay mellow so no one gets run over, stabbed or shot. That will put a quick end to all the rollers because your local cops will slap a “no-wake-zone” on your lake faster than the rotation on a Speedball.
The better solution is to get everyone to run parallel, idle on turn-arounds and put double-ups in corners where they’ll dissipate. Before you know it, it will be fall again, when you and your wetsuit can ride in peace.