In early June, The Wake Park Project installed a Sesitec System 2.0 at Camp Woodward, the massive Pennsylvania action sports camp. Now, the hundreds of skateboarders, snowboarders, gymnasts and cheerleaders who attend Woodward every week will have a chance to try wakeboarding. We talked with The Wake Park Project’s Pat Panakos to find out why this is not only the cable park company’s most important installation ever but why it might just become a milestone in wakeboarding history.
How did it happen? Did Woodward initiate it or did The Wake Park Project? Mike Ferraro actually passed it on to us. Obviously, Mike is a huge supporter of System 2.0 and what it can do for learning and development and how fast it can help you progress. He also helps the Red Bull development team and they’ve been doing a lot of things at Woodward, because Woodward’s facilities are by far the most advanced to progress air awareness and board sports activities. The facilities are just massive — three huge warehouses full of training equipment. I couldn’t even count the number of skate parks there’s so many. So when he was up there, he realized that “Hey, these guys need a System 2. Let’s bring wakeboarding into this atmosphere also.” He told Brandon Ream, who is one of the owners, and he called us and started talking to us about putting a System 2.0 into his Pennsylvania camp.
What’s the System 2.0 setup like? They dug a 500-foot-long pond, which is enough to put a rail in and do air tricks. They have 900 kids a week come through there and they wanted to expose those kids to wakeboarding. Give them a chance to hit their first rail and learn their first air trick and things like that.
It’s a UNIT Parktech rail, right? Yeah, it’s a UNIT incline. The reason we put an incline in there is because I feel like the incline is hands-down the safest, easiest first ride on a rail a wakeboarder or wakeskater can experience. You don’t want to intimidate the kids when they go hit their first rail — you want to stoke them out. From there, you can build their body position and confidence. This is just the first tester that we drop in the water at Woodward. If you know Woodward, you can expect some pretty amazing rail setups to come in the future.
Are they going to build a wake program around the System 2.0? How is it going to fit in with the other disciplines? Right now it’s considered recreation. Their sports programs are snow, skate, inline, BMX, gymnastics, digital media and cheerleading. We’re considered a recreation sport, so that when kids have off time or they get burnt on skating or whatever they can come over and try wakeboarding. They have these activities counselors who will take the kids around to all these different activities. They have high ropes courses, they have paint ball fields, so we’ve been introduced as a rec sport. Obviously, they have to find the program and the model to work with, but they’re excited enough that we’ve already talked about implementing the program.
Would they look to you to guide that? I’ve already sat down with Mike Jackie, who’s the new program developer. In every sport, Woodward has the best pros and the best coaches helping build their programs and we’re seeing that in wakeboarding. They have Mike Ferraro; they have myself; they have Ryan Jones; they have Parks Bonifay and JD Webb. I think that you’ll see that their wake program gets developed by the best coaches and the best riders. They have plenty of people around them who are going to push them in a good way.
So there’s no timeline for a wake program, but its on the table. The idea — and to me it’s the best way — is to let it grow organically, but we’ve already started talking about the future. I don’t really want to disclose those plans, but they’re awesome. If this does take off, Woodward is really going to be in the forefront of our sport for sure.
What does this do for wakeboarding? I think it does what cable parks are doing to our sport. You open a cable park and immediately you have thousands of new hits to the sport. You get them instantly. “What is that?” “What’s going on?” They try it and they’re into our sport. With Woodward, you get that every week for 900 kids. Most of our wakeboard camps handle anywhere from 6 to 25 kids — not 900. And I think as a development center and a camp the exposure to our sport is going to explode with Woodward. On top of that, Woodward is tied with Fuel TV and they’re bringing these sports to television and helping it grow there. I just think for our sport’s growth, Woodward is such a huge asset.
Do you think this is up there with wakeboarding getting back in the X Games in terms of exposure for the sport? I think it’s more important than X Games. It’s not even the same category. It’s one of the most important things I have ever seen happen to our sport. This is something where you’re hitting not just a unique viewer — someone who’s never tried the sport and getting them into the sport — you’re also hitting mainstream media and television. People who are outside the board sports realm like gymnastics and cheerleading are going to try it. To me it’s massive for the sport.
So was this the best possible spot for a System 2.0? Woodward is at the top of the list. The cream of the crop. If we could have a System 2 anywhere, it would not be at Disney World or one of these crazy high-traffic areas. It would be Woodward.
What was it like getting that phone call? It kind of gave me chills, because Woodward was always one of those places that we thought, “Oh wow, can you imagine wakeboarding at Woodward?” I mean, geez, I’ve played a Tony Hawk game with Woodward in it and I’ve always dreamed of going there. I checked it off my bucket list — let’s put it that way.