In March, Kevin Henshaw was scrambling to find a marquee project to anchor his section in the new Billabong wakeboarding video, Out of the Pond. He had to hurry. Billabong team manager Chris Heffner had just issued a two-week deadline for any last-minute footage, so Henshaw had time for just one project — he would have to make it count.
With help from only his roommate and girlfriend and no budget, Henshaw assembled a monstrous C-rail under one of the Sesitec System 2.0 cables at The Projects in Orlando. The rail was truly a Frankenstein affair. Henshaw recycled the wood and Trex from some of his expired rail projects, and he built the three-part wall ride that spanned the C-rail’s center from Plexiglas salvaged from last summer’s Billabong Bus Gap.
For the next week and a half, Henshaw — along with teammates Erik Ruck, Shawn Watson and Brian Grubb — produced some of the most unique and innovative rail riding wakeboarding has seen in years. Stylish, never-before-seen presses and stalls were the norm, but Henshaw also rode out all of the rail’s 180 degrees — a feat that was previously limited to skateboarders and snowboarders. His 50-50 to back lip on the C-rail earned him an Oakley Wakeboarding Move of the Year nomination at WAKEBOARDING magazine’s 2009 Wake Awards, and the project anchored his section in Out of the Pond.
Henshaw, of course, is due much of the credit. He built the rail with help only from his girlfriend and roommate, no budget and little time — Billabong team manager Chris Heffner had just issued a two-week deadline for any last-minute footage for Pond. After five days of building, Henshaw spent a little more than a week working tirelessly to ride out the half-circle. The fact that his rail was less than ideal only lends more credence to his sense of purpose.
But Henshaw’s C-rail also owes much to three developments that led to a recent explosion of inventive riding in wakeboarding’s pro ranks. The first is the very video Henshaw and teammates Ruck, Watson and Grubb were filming for. Out of the Pond‘s premise — to take wakeboarding beyond its typical environments — led Team Billabong to embark on a series of outside-the-box projects that have given wakeboarding another dimension over the past year. Sure, some were stunty — building a 30-foot wall ride along their bus, for example — but almost all of Pond‘s projects felt fresh and gave one of wakeboarding’s most talented teams a creative kick in the pants.
The C-rail’s other two influences must be mentioned together. Henshaw left the handrails, transfer boxes and massive wall ride of last year’s Red Bull Wake Lab with plans for a slew of his own rail projects. All, including the C-rail, were inspired by Sesitec’s System 2.0, the straight-line cable that was introduced at Wake Lab. In fact, without System 2.0, Henshaw’s C-rail wouldn’t even be possible.
The two-tower cable wakeboarding system not only pulled the wakeboarders into their moves, it pulled them out of them as well — something no other towing method could have done. And as long as Henshaw, Ruck, Watson and Grubb were willing to ride, The Wake Park Project’s Matt Hickman was willing to drive, fine-tuning the direction and timing of the cable’s carrier to accommodate everything from stalls to riding out the entire C.
“With the System 2.0, you just constantly go,” Henshaw says. “You hit the thing like 70 times in 20 minutes. It’s crazy.”
Along with Wake Lab and the other projects for Out of the Pond, Henshaw’s C-rail is helping to paint a clearer picture of what the future of wakeboarding might look like. If the stylish stalls and presses that came from this endeavor are any indication, that future will look a whole lot prettier than the monster rail Kevin Henshaw built at The Projects.
Much of the inspiration for Kevin Henshaw’s C-rail came from watching snowboarding and skateboarding videos.
“I was just looking at the ledges and stuff and the ability of the riders to ride up, stop and then ride away,” Henshaw says. “It had never been done in wake, so I wanted to do something like that.”
Team Billabong actually came close last summer when they built a 30-foot wall ride along the side of their bus. Danny Harf and some of the other riders were able to whip into what was essentially a quarter pipe and stall and press at the top. But they couldn’t ride away from the wall.
That limitation was removed by System 2.0’s ability to pull riders into and out of obstacles with progression-friendly repetition. On the day Henshaw rode out the entire C, he estimates he was pulled into the rail between 40 or 50 times.
“Fully being able to ride away is something that’s insane,” he says. “It’s the coolest feeling ever.”
Words: Luke Woodling Photos: Joey Meddock