Bobbing in the water clutching the ski-rope I was trying to focus on the wakeboarding take-off basics – keep knees up to the chest, arms straight out in front, wait for the boat to pull and turn the nose of the board forwards. It sounds simple, but I didn’t want to mess it up like last time. Wakeboarding has always conjured up the fear of failure since trying it with some friends a few years ago. To say I was terrible at it is an understatement, because I couldn’t even stand up on the board. It seems few things are more demoralising than to fail at the most basic of skiing/wakeboarding manoeuvres and have a boatload of people watching and continually doubling back to give you yet another try. But I was determined not to repeat that experience.
Luckily, Buddika Desilva, the wakeboarding instructor down at the Coral Beach Club in Manama, was on hand to talk me through the basics. Buddika was originally a surfer and started wakeboarding around five years ago in his homeland of Sri Lanka. Now he says he’s able to pull off most of the tricks in the book. ‘That’s the good thing about wakeboarding, there are so many tricks to learn because the wake of the boat acts as a jump,’ he says. ‘You can also pick it up pretty quickly. After a few times you get much more confidence and can start attempting some basic tricks.’
For me, trick number one was going to be standing up. Buddika gave me a quick rundown of what to do, and so I ended up bobbing in the water, knees to my chest, repeating his advice in my head. Was this going to be another series of failed attempts? I hoped not and gave the signal to proceed. The boat surged forward, I tried to stand, but overbalanced and my face planted into the water. I’m pretty sure that wasn’t one of the easy tricks Buddika had been telling me about.
Buddika circled back in the boat and passed on some sound advice before the second attempt. This was going to be the one, I told myself. I gave Buddika the nod, the boat began to pull me up out of the water, I gently turned the nose of the board, maintained my balance and stood up triumphantly into the crouched wakeboarding position. Skimming along behind the boat it wasn’t long before my earlier concerns had given way to thrill-seeking instinct. Fast-forward to one hour later and if it
wasn’t for a very tired back leg, you wouldn’t have been able to get me off the wakeboard.
The hoodoo of standing up on takeoff was no longer an issue, and I was starting to get a feel for turning the board. I even managed a few awkward attempts to get airborne while crossing the wake. The source of my new found success lay squarely at the feet of Buddika, who not only gave excellent advice, but also gently manoeuvred the boat to accommodate a clumsy beginner.
On my previous wakeboarding effort the boat driver figured lurching forward at the fastest speed possible was the best way to get a beginner to stand up. Buddika, on the other hand, kept the throttle at the perfect level to make it a whole lot easier. In a country that has no waves or snow, wakeboarding seems like the obvious choice of board sports for me from now on.
Coral Beach Club, Al Fateh Corniche (17 312 700). Open Tue-Sun 9am-sunset. Wakeboarding costs BD20 for half an hour and BD35 for an hour.