Thrills and spills on the water
Cutting across the glassy surface of the Caribbean Sea on a wakeboard is one of the biggest thrills on the water.
The sport – like snowboarding behind a boat – is huge in the U.S. and is now beginning to take off in Cayman.
For Chris Lebeau, who works in the finance industry, it started as a hobby. Now it has developed into a fully fledged business.
The U.S. national launched Wakeboard Cayman as a full-time operation at the end of last year. The business, with one full-time instructor, runs charters, lessons and summer camps for tourists and residents.
LeBeau says he is slowly seeing Cayman’s enthusiasm for the sport start to build.
Wakeboarding, for the uninitiated, involves strapping into a board with boots attached and being towed behind a speedboat.
For beginners, just staying up for a few minutes is a challenge. Advanced wakeboarders try spins and flips from a “simple” 360-degree somersault to a whole repertoire of exquisitely named tricks like the discombobulator, the scarecrow, the KGB, the slurpy and the slow ball.
The more advanced skills involve gravity-defying limb-twisting contortions that make a spectacle for sports photographers.
But the sport, says Lebeau, can be as extreme or as serene as you want it to be.
“We’ve had some pretty amazing riders out there. We’ve also had kids as young as five and then others like my father who is in his mid 60s. It is really all about what the person is trying to accomplish.”
LeBeau hadn’t really wakeboarded at all before he came to Cayman. Now he can complete a 360-degree back roll.
He sees more and more people – mostly residents – sharing his enthusiasm for the sport.
“Cayman is a great spot for it. You have that clear water and the surrounding reef makes sure there is often calm waters, which is essential for wakeboarding.
“I think there is definitely room to grow the sport. Everyone who has been out on the boat is really excited by it. We had one guy take three lessons and loved it so much he went out and bought his own boat.”
Wakeboard Cayman is trying to get the community involved in the sport too – they took youngsters from the skateboard park on a free trip last month. The business is also running summer camps and clinics from next month.
LeBeau said there are several good riders already on the island.
“Lewis Robertson is a really talented rider. We’ve agreed to be a sponsor of his and hope we can help get him to the point where he is competing in the U.S.”
Jess Reed, a student at St. Matthews who has already competed in national competitions in the States, is another talented wakeboarder living in Cayman, he added.
For more information about kids’ wakeboard camps in July and August or about lessons, go to www.wakeboardcayman.com.