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Waking up to wakeboarding

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By Jasmine W. Payo Inquirer MANILA, Philippines--When Reuben Buchanan took on the job to manage a wakeboard cable park in Camarines Sur, the athletic Australian also assumed the responsibility of promoting the sport to the locals. He went as far as tapping unusual talents for the emergent water sport. “We found some breakdancers in CamSur who I thought would be good to groom as wakeboarding trainers and champions,” recalls Buchanan. “Right now they are the best Filipino wakeboarders we have.” Check out this YouTube video courtesy of waketrex. Wakeboarding -- a combination of surfing, water skiing and snow boarding -- recently found a sprawling home at the CamSur Watersports Complex (CWC) in Pili, Camarines Sur in the Bicol region. Tasked to spread the word on this latest water sports craze is 30-year-old Buchanan, a wakeboarder for 11 years, who has returned to the Philippines with half-Filipina wife Sheril to manage the CWC operations. “We have a lot more training to do with them, but they are really good and are enjoying their job,” says Buchanan of the first batch of Filipino trainers and champions at CWC. “They’re doing what other young wakeboarders from other countries would pay to do.” Already, the water sport has been drawing the local A-list. “A lot of people visit our wakeboard complex just to hang out and watch the wakeboarders do air tricks and stunts with their friends and family,” notes Camarines Sur Governor Luis Raymund Villafuerte Jr., of the six-hectare site that includes a cable ski system, a beach volley venue, a campsite, a beach area and spa pavilions. The hip sport already has celebrities like Aga Muhlach, Jericho Rosales and Angel Locsin buckling their vests and strapping their bindings. Other enthusiasts have made the water sport part of their lifestyle, among them athletic couple Arthur and Martha King who have been immersed in wakeboarding even before the CWC opened in 2006. “I started six years ago,” says King, ranked 11th in the world in the wakeboarding Masters category. “I first tried it in the (United) States with my friends. We rented a boat and the wakeboards. After that, I pursued the sport. Luckily there’s a cable park in Batangas,” he adds. Continues the 32-year-old hotelier: “I like (wakeboarding) because it’s a bodybuilding sport. You get stronger every time. You always learn new tricks. It’s progressive. It’s not as boring compared to, I don’t know, maybe golf? You always want to push yourself to be better to do more extreme tricks.” Villafuerte, president of the Philippine Waterski and Wakeboard Federation, also shares this sport’s emotional highs: “Wakeboarding is really enjoyable and quite addicting. Imagine the feeling of being able to float on water. It’s really great to be able to stand on your board, go around the lake, do some basic tricks and moves.” He adds, “It’s a very relaxing sport and at the same time, a good form of exercise since your whole body is involved. You notice this with wakeboarders—most of them are physically fit.” Buchanan cites another reason to test the wakeboarding waters. “It’s very easy, easier than surfing or skateboarding. All you need to do is listen to your trainers and you’ll be able to wakeboard on your feet in no time,” notes this father of three-year-old Takiah who may be among the youngest wakeboarder in the world. “You can start with kneeboarding and that’s probably even easier than riding a bike. Some people will have five to 10 go’s before they’re able to stand up, but once they do, they get addicted to it.” A crash course is possible, says King, the first local champion in the Philippine Cable Wakeboard Nationals last year. “Everything you need to learn about wakeboarding, you learn CamSur Park. There are things you develop when you keep on riding.” Notes Villafuerte: “The basic thing you have to have is a sense of balance, which everybody can easily develop. That’s why anybody can wakeboard.” He adds: “Of course, like in any sport, you have to have the will to learn it. At least 95 percent of the people who try to learn in the CamSur wakeboard park actually manage to stand up. The remaining five percent are those who easily gave up after a few attempts.” Why, says Villafuerte, a 76-year-old Filipina even tried the sport. “[She was] able to stand up and go around the lake on her first attempt,” he recounts. “This only shows that wakeboarding is for everybody, boys and girls, young and old. All they have to do is be bold enough to try it.” Although the sport is deemed safe since riders wear protective gear like helmets and vests, Martha King however cautions newbies to know their limits in trying the flips, turns and other stunts that are part of the sport. “There’s no training, so you’re on your own,” she says. “I’ve torn my ACL (anterior cruciate ligament). I wasn’t good in wakeboarding at that time and I tried the ramp already. I fell really bad and twisted my knee.” But there’s really nothing to fear if riders abide by the safety precautions, she adds. “When you fall, you can swim back to shore. There are those who fall and panic, but there are lifeguards.” Says Buchanan: “If you fall, you don’t fall on concrete so it doesn’t hurt as much. Once you hit the water, it’ll probably hurt for a few seconds and then you can go back and try again.” The expenses, surprisingly, won’t hurt the pocket either. “We definitely made wakeboarding a mass-based sport. It only costs P120 to ride in CamSur,” says Villafuerte. “The price includes the basic equipment and free training. It would cost you at least US$ 25 per hour to ride abroad. We made it very affordable that’s why it’s getting so popular.” Buchanan agrees: “The place, the facilities and wakeboarding fees are ridiculously affordable! It’s so affordable, people from other countries stay here for months.” Yet serious wakeboarders like the King couple have invested on their own equipment that cost from P10,000-P15,000. Arthur King, in fact, is hoping to crash in the top 10 world rankings in a few years. “Filipinos can definitely excel in it,” says Villafuerte. “Last year we had our first Philippine cable wakeboard nationals and 76 people participated, a very good turnout for a first ever national competition. This year, we will be having our second nationals (Oct. 26-28) and are expecting double the number from last year. With this enthusiasm and rapid growth of the sport in the Philippines, sooner or later we will have wakeboard world champions who are Pinoys.”

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This page contains a single entry by published on September 23, 2007 7:50 PM.

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