Anytime you venture into the great outdoors, you’re at the mercy of a lot of different variables. Wind, rain, water conditions, light for shooting, spots to hit and staying properly outfitted can be big challenges on all fronts. We took a crew of Danny Hampson, Aaron Reed, Collin Harrington and myself into the wilderness of north Georgia, with two Yamahas in tow, to see what kind of waterways we could find to wakeskate on — and to camp everywhere in between. While we didn’t necessarily plan to scout locations to do epic stuff on wakeskates, our goal was to find lakes and different places where we could drop in the Yamahas to ride, camp and venture into parts otherwise inaccessible.
We had a few things on our side going into this trip. The two WaveRunners we were using were extremely nimble for towing and dropping into almost any location. With the low draft of the machines, you can ride tons of spots you can’t normally get to in a boat (or hike to with a winch). We also had Danny and Collin’s girlfriends, who helped out driving chase, being thirds, and genuinely organizing and keeping things in line. While riding was important, hitting the road with your friends and camping, cooking and laughing around the fire is what a trip like this is all about. There is nothing like the lifestyle aspect of sleeping in a tent to wake up, ride, and shoot photos and videos with your buddies.
The first spot we hit was on Carters Lake, a secluded body of water a couple of hours north of Atlanta and just south of the Smoky Mountains. We picked a campsite on a peninsula overlooking the lake, with water on three sides and the most epic view. The problem with staying on a peninsula like that was that we were perfectly exposed to the elements. After getting to the campsite late at night, we all woke up on the first day of the trip to 45 degrees and 30 mph winds blowing directly across the lake, right to our tents. Morale on a trip like this is a crazy thing; as the conditions change, or when there is a turn of events, the entire attitude of the crew changes. At this point everyone on the trip was pretty concerned about the next five days ahead. We knew we had to get some riding done for the trip to be a success, but we didn’t know what lay ahead as far as the weather was concerned. None of us wanted to get skunked, so we had to find some good water and take the WaveRunners out in the heavy wind to scope the lake for a good spot to ride. It was cold, choppy and … cold. We were lucky in the sense that Carters Lake has tons of crazy fingers and inlets, so finding protected water wasn’t as challenging as we had thought it would be, and we could really get into some narrow spots with the Yamahas. Aaron and Danny could take turns riding while Collin and I hiked and found spots overlooking the lake to shoot from.
After the first day riding, shooting and battling weather, we got back to our site ready for some good old-fashioned camp vibes. We grilled, cooked over the fire, and got our fire burning well to keep everyone warm as we enjoyed an epic dinner at dusk. The wind calmed down, and Carters Lake delivered a gem of a sunset right over the dam on the other side of the lake. We woke up the next morning to what would eventually be the best weather day of the trip. The sun was out, the wind calmed down, and we had a perfectly lit morning session that lasted straight into lunch. The water was chilly, but the sun and the wetsuits helped combat that. After lunch we scouted spots for the afternoon session and found some pretty cool areas to ride near the dam, with a natural rock wall chute and a few narrow passes in the shallows. It was a perfect day where we were able to ride and shoot right until we were cooking our meals under the stars and laughing about all the day’s happenings. We were in for some harsh weather ahead, so we hunkered down that night and made sure our rain gear was ready to roll.
We woke up with the rain, packed up camp and made our way out of the woods at Carters Lake and down to Lake Allatoona, about 40 miles south. On our way, we stopped over at Terminus Wake Park, and Danny, Aaron and Collin took some laps. Since it’s a Yamaha-affiliated park, we were greeted with open arms from the good people there and had an amazing few hours under the cloud cover with perfect glass and no wind. After that, it was on to Lake Allatoona and Red Top Mountain to set up our camp for the next couple of days. The crew dropped the WaveRunners in, drove them to our campsite, and met up with our chase vehicle (Danny’s Ford Tuscany van) and made our camp for the next couple of days on the red-clay-lined shores of Allatoona. This time, we were in a secluded inlet where we could keep the Yamahas beached right out of our tent doors, and we spent the next couple of days ripping around and finding new spots to ride and explore.
A camping and wakeboarding or wakeskating road trip should be in all of your plans this summer. It’s rough, it’s rugged, it takes you out of your comfort zone, and it’s the best experience you can have. Bring people you love to hang out with, and bring some new people along as well. You get to know a lot about a person after spending a few days in the woods camping and having fun. As with any trip, this one was a roller coaster with plenty of peaks and valleys and stories to tell afterward.