Wakeboarding and Wakesurfing in Thailand
by Jack Miles
Wakeboarding and Wakesurfing are relatively well-established sports that are based on the surface of a body of water, usually a lake but also at sea. Essentially a combination of water skiing, surfing and snowboarding, wakeboarding entails the rider being towed by a boat or jet ski along the surface of the water at a speed of around 20-25 mph whilst various stunts are performed with or without the aid of obstacles and fixed assets. Wakesurfing is similar except that stunts are performed after the towing in a velocity driven free-travel time as opposed to whilst being towed.
Wakeboarding is more commonly enjoyed because of the fact that the rider can get a longer time whilst being towed as opposed to relying in the residual velocity after giving up a towrope. As well as boats and jet skis there are a number of wakeboarding parks that are specially set up with cable and pulley drive systems, thus no boat or jet ski is required.
Boards are very buoyant and are usually made of a foam or honeycomb interior covered with fiberglass or wood veneer. The shorter the board the more manoeuvres can be done but the more difficult it is to control a landing back on water. Boards typically feature fins and bindings so that the board can be controlled. Fins are usually screwed in place and can be adjusted or removed and changed with new fins. Smaller fins create less drag but give up some control also. This is what makes wakeboarding more challenging for experienced riders. Different fins can be used for different tricks. The same goes for bindings, which are usually tailored to a rider’s own comfort. There are plenty of tricks that can be done without any obstacles such as rapidly moving from outside the wake to the inside by jumping up the wake. The jump is achieved by water pressure building up as the rope is pulled. Obstacles in the path of the rider provide more experienced riders with the possibility to do plenty of mid air jumps and other tricks. The more time spent in the air the more complicated the manoeuvres can be. Competition events usually allow riders to score points based on the complexity of the jumps and other tricks performed. 180 degree and 360 degree turns, flips and grabs all compete to be the most difficult and highest scoring tricks.
The origins of Wakeboarding are little known and possibly fragmented. It was originally called skurfing in the late 1980s and there is evidence that at that time, the craze started as an offshoot of regular surfing in Australia and New Zealand. Croatia in Europe also has some history of wakeboarding. The Australian connection is validated by the need for wake surfers to have specifically made boards (skurf boards) that are shorter than regular surf boards but nonetheless require much of the knowledge of surfboard construction in order to achieve strength and durability as well as control during a ride. The term skurfing was short lived and wakeboarding and wakesurfing terms took over in a sporadic fashion, having originated in Vancouver Canada, until they were the accepted norms.
There are a number of international bodies that have been set up to oversee wakeboarding tournaments and also to set standards in the wakeboarding world. The World Wakeboard Association (WWA) was founded in 1993 and emerged as the renamed World Ski Board Association from four years earlier. The International Water ski and Wakeboarding Federation IWWF also exists and has been the definitive international Olympic partner. Of the two bodies the non-profit WWA is arguably more active in arranging and sanctioning events and it overseas a number of regional wakeboarding bodies as well as offshoots such as the women’s wakeboarding federation and under 18s competition representatives.
Although many of the wakeboarding competitions are held in California and other U.S. States, Brazil, Mexico and some European nations, Thailand is one of the most popular destinations in Asia boasting a number of Wakeboarding parks in Bangkok, Chonburi, and Phuket.
The latter province has two well-regarded contenders being the International Wave Park (IWP) Phuket and the Phuket Wave Park. Phuket Wave Park features a cable drive system using 10.5 meter towers and a cable speed of 30 km/h over a 700 meter long run. Inside the obstacles include an A-frame, a transition rail, a large kicker box, a long pipe run, a fun box, a start dock, and step down obstacle and a rooftop style installation.
The International Wave Park Phuket is also a well-known destination for wakeboarders and has been active with top sponsors such as Singha beer in arranging events such as the Singha Wake Park World Series event sanctioned by the WWA. The IWP, situated near to the Blue Canyon Country Club, features a 14 metre high cable system made by Rixen Cableways and offers all inclusive packages that make use of not only the leisure facilities on the water but also dining and hotel facilities. An additional cable way known as the Little Bro provides an infinite loop and can be set for beginners to learn in the safest environment possible.
In Chonburi province, between Bangkok and Pattaya, and around 20 miles north of Ban Saen is the Wake A Lot Wakeboarding Park. It is situated at Thetsaban 6 Road, Nong Tamlung, Phan Thong District, Chon Buri 20160, and is perfect for those looking for a place south of Bangkok. Wake A Lot features airport pick up and an indoor gymnasium so that you can keep fit before going on to the water. Dining and residence options are also included as well as coaching for beginners.
Further down the coast near to Rayong is the famous Shambala Wakeboarding Resort. Shambala uses water craft on a sublime lake and offers lakeside cabins so that you can enjoy time off the water as well as on it. Shambala also offers kayaking, windsurfing and kite surfing on the water as well as mountain biking so that you can explore the surrounding countryside.
Back in Bangkok the Thai Wake Park is situated at 18/4 Soi Sudsawas, Lieab Klong 6 Rd, Lumlukka, Pathum Thani, 12150 and is not far from either Suvarnabhumi or Dong Muang airports. As a safety conscious outfit they have in place a good set of safety regulations and rules as well as staff on standby to help beginners. An airport pickup service is also offered so that you can get on the water as soon after you land at the airport as possible. Thai Wake Park hosts a number of events throughout the year including charity games events and also parties featuring wakeboarding competitions combined with delicious Thai food on site. Sponsors include brand names such as RipCurl and the events are overseen and sanctioned by the Asian Wakeboard Association.
It is quite easy to take up wakeboarding in Thailand and it could well become one of the more thrilling ways to keep fit and enjoy the outdoors.