Camp Pitch-A-Tent

By: John Clark and Paul Lizon

Camp Pitch-A-Tent started off as an idea for a couple of college friends to get together for a weekend of low-key riding early in the season. But it quickly escalated into a full-blown collegiate camping and wakeboarding event, drawing riders from all across the country for a weekend of camping, riding, and partying on the sandy shores of Lake Lanier just north of Atlanta, Georgia. Jenna Hamel, president of Georgia State Wakeboard Club took charge as head camp counselor and recruited students from Georgia State, Kennesaw State, UGA, Valdosta, Clemson, University Of Tennessee, University of South Carolina, Florida State, North Metro Tech, Mercer, West Georgia, and inexplicably, Salt Lake City Community College.

The riders, or "campers" as they referred to themselves, began trickling in on Friday for what would largely be their first wake session of the year. The campers were treated to seemingly sub-Arctic 50-degree water, but that didn't keep them, or the water cops, off the water. For the campers arriving from Boston and Ohio, 50 degrees sounded like a leisurely day in the Caribbean. Fun was had, feet were frozen and fines were levied, but it was worth it to everyone to finally shake off the rust and get back to riding.

Registration was rocking and the riding sets for Saturday and Sunday filled up quickly despite the cold water and rain in the forecast for the weekend. As night fell, the Pitch-A-Tent Pavilion was renamed the Party Pavilion as 150 or so college students began to do what they do best. Plenty of "non non-alcoholic beverages" were consumed along with some other combustible liquids made in the backwoods of Georgia.

Most campgrounds have strict rules and "quiet time" from 10 p.m. to 7 a.m., but at Pitch-A-Tent the only rule was "rules are made to be broken." Quiet time quickly turned into something akin to being at Club La Vela at Panama City, Florida, circa 1989. A quiet storm of debauchery more appropriately described the hours between 10 p.m. and 7 a.m, and the party continued well into the night even as the weather dropped to the 40s.

Saturday morning was a foggy haze for most, but that had nothing to do with the weather. In addition to the many boats brought by the campers, JOA Marine brought five Centurions, and Hyperlite brought its 40th Edition X-Star. They were all waiting in the water for the campers as they groggily emerged from their tents. To everyone's surprise, the pavilion where everyone partied the night before was filled with Pitch-A-Tent campers in boardshorts and bikinis ready to hit the water at the decidedly un-wakeboard hour of 9 a.m., even though it was 52 degrees outside.

The first group of Pitch-A-Tent campers where on the water by 9:30 a.m, taking advantage of the buttery white-capped waters of Lake Lanier. While the first set was underway, the FSU campers began assembling an A-frame rail. In short order, there were four to five winches set up along the shore next to three rails and the winch session began. The day continued with everyone brave enough to face the chilly water getting a set, and after, retreating to the campsite to thaw out. As everyone was unwinding, some suspected they were suffering from hypothermic induced hallucinations when a team of Mexican midget wrestlers rode by on bikes. Rest assured, it was real, and no one parties harder than a drunk Mexican wrestling midget, you have my word on that.

That night, camp counselor Hamel arranged for an all-you-could-eat BBQ dinner at Holiday Marina just down the road from the camp site. Haste was the word of the evening because everyone had to be back inside the campground gates by 10:30 p.m. when the gates were locked, with no way in or out, and the authorities left the site for the campers to enjoy another night of "quiet time". The Pitch-A-Tent campers all crammed themselves into any ride they could find and made their way to the BBQ dinner, featuring Slopes BBQ and tons of free give-a-ways from Oakley, Hyperlite, UGP, Audio Visual Creations, JOA Marine and Buywake.com.

Saturday night in some ways cannot even be explained by words. But it can because I am about to do so. A hundred or so people gathered under the pavilion to play Rock Band. Well, five were playing, and the other 95 were acting out the part of concert goers. Others began starting (illegal-ish) fires to help illuminate the (completely illegal) night winching session going off under the cover of darkness. Winching looked so fun that the rowdy crew from Clemson was inspired to go for the rarely seen and highly difficult attempt at launching a PWC at 2 a.m. in pitch-black darkness from a sandy beach. It did not work out, with the trailer and truck ending up stuck 50 feet from shore for the remainder of the night, but it was a good effort nonetheless.

The rest, and some would argue, smarter, of the campers enjoyed the warmth of the Hummers that Carl Black Automotive Group provided and watched a few movies from the plethora of built-in LCD screens. Around 5 a.m., the party seemed to die down and everyone retreated to their campsite to try to get some sleep. Maybe 10 percent of the campers were equipped with tents that could hold off the pummeling rain that at that very moment began to pour from the sky. The newly homeless campers quickly piled into those tents still standing resulting in 15-20 people stacked on top of each other per tent.

Sunday came early as everyone only got about 3 hours of sleep from the night before. The enthusiasm to ride was about what you would expect given that it was raining and about 40 degrees. Everyone started to pack up, and some bright young camper came up with the genius idea of hitting Cracker Barrel on the way out. You can probably imagine the reception ten carloads of college kids received at Cracker Barrel, hung over, wet, unbathed, and in general looking like death, but cheerfully asking for a table of 40 during the after-church rush.

The inaugural Camp Pitch-A-Tent was a success, and the camp counselors are already making plans for next year's event, so keep your tents handy.