Star Power

If you've ever come to Orlando hoping to meet up with some of the stars, you might have run into some difficulty. It's not that they're unsociable, but the pros tend to ride on secluded lakes, at strange times and far away from the throngs of public onlookers that could spoil their water. And as far as getting a ride with one of them, get in line. But times are changing.
Case in point: The Orlando Watersports Complex. The OWC has put out three new sliders in its cableway lake, drawing in dozens of pros on a daily basis. Most drive less than a half-hour from their secluded, private-lake hideaways to this new hot spot adjacent to the Orlando International airport. Name a Florida rider and they're probably a regular at "The Cable."

Why are they out there? Because the riding is good, and the wait is short. Where wakeboarding has always been a "hurry-up-and-wait" proposition as your friends took 45-minute sets, the lines at OWC move fairly quickly, and you're out on the water for as long as you can hold on. Then it's back to the dock to go again.

Although recent dredging has created a non-pollutant brown tint to the water, no one seems to care. They're all just stoked to be there. With the off-season slider renaissance and the advent of the new structures at OWC, this cable park is the most convenient way for riders to hit sliders ... pros included. Most slide simply for fun, but some are there to prepare for the new Tour format.

(Riders: Shane Bonifay, Brian Kennedy. Click to enlarge. Photo: Kevin Michael)
The other night I pulled up to OWC for a session and ran into about 15 pros who were, unfortunately, all packing up for the night (Darin, Parks, Cobe, Shane, Erik Ruck, etc. I think I even saw Perez). "Hey, Kev, wanna go eat Sushi?" yelled Shane. Eating raw fish and seaweed actually sounded more appealing than the face-plant I was about to risk by trying a new blind slide down the rainbow, but I had come to ride, and that's what I did. Not even five minutes had gone by and a new batch of luminaries rolled in -- Chase, Staker, Nick & Julz and Collin Wright. I'll bet Chase planned that out precisely. The quote stands true, "If you build it, they will come."

(Rider: Gerry Nunn; Photo: Bill Doster)
But back to you, do you have a chance to see all these guys? Absolutely. As out-of-towners invade O-Town this spring break, they're sucked right into OWC's tractor beam due to the easy access and low cost for unlimited water time. Being able to mingle with pros is obviously an added bonus. On any given day, star-struck faces populate the deck as the worn out pages of their latest WBM come to life.
Last weekend, a carload of Appalachian State students rolled into OWC in their sport-utility vehicle which was wrapped tightly in a collage of wakeboarding stickers. They were fresh off the road from Boone, North Carolina, in search of some riding. These guys were quite the WBM gurus, and as they stepped out of the car, they bumped straight into Tony Smith, editor of Wake Boarding magazine. "No freakin' way!" muttered one of them. Points go out to them for actually knowing who Tony was; we often try not to claim him. Seconds later, "Back Cover Boy" Matt Staker walks up, and these guys were bllown away. They looked like a bunch of little kids on Christmas morning.
Two days later, these spring breakers were back. This time, they got to ride with Darin, Shaun, Parks and about ten more of their idols. Videographers and photographers lined the banks as Parks busted out the "Indian" line. This line is so short that it doesn't even reach the water hanging straight down (Parks has been known to reach heights up around 35 feet as he flies around the corners). This was so amazing to the North Carolina boys that one actually dropped his board straight to the ground as Parks busted his first S-Bend.

(Rider: Parks Bonifay; Photo: Kevin Michael)
But wait, is it just a trend? Will OWC and the whole slider craze get old fast? Who cares? All I know is that I'll be out there on that PVC this weekend and probably with a bunch of guys who are WAY better than I am!

OWC - 407-251-3100
1 Hour: $19.50
2 Hours: $25.25
4 Hours: $30.50
All Day: $ 36.50
Weekly: $ 196.00
Monthly: $ 399.00
Half-Year: call for special rates
Yearly: call for special rates
Full site image courtesy of Performance Ski & Surf