Sydney travel diary/travelogue - 2000

Wakeboarding in Mosman Spit

Day 20 ::: Sunday 24th September, 2000

One last day of activity before leaving Sydney: today I was going to attempt wakeboarding, courtesy of Craig and his speedboat. The location for this was The Spit in Mosman, which meant a short drive through the northern suburbs of Sydney with Jo and Wendy.

When we arrived, Andy, Craig and Neil were already there having taken the boat out for a while already that morning. Considering our late night last night, Andy's much earlier start in getting the boat on the water for us must have been difficult! Before it was our turn to join in the fun, we had a picnic on the grass overlooking the water. Once fed and ready we all jumped on board and headed out deeper into The Spit.

Wakey wakey people

Wakeboarding is essentially snowboarding behind a powerboat. You stand sideways and ride in the boat's wake (hence the name) and many of the tricks that you see the professionals pull off are the same as snowboarding. I guess that one major difference between the two is the wipe-out you can expect if you foul things up. I was to be last to take a go, with Andy, Wendy and Jo as my benchmarks/tutors. Craig used to teach the sport but after his morning's boarding, he was to remain at the helm of the boat for the duration.

Getting ready to wake ...

Now, I wasn't expecting it to be easy, and I guessed that watching the others would only help so far (they were always going to make it look easy!). But I never imagined it would be as difficult as I found it.

The idea is simple - hold your arms out, grasping the baton, with your knees between your elbows and you leading foot slightly forward. As the boat pulls away, and the rope starts to pull, you wait for the board to rise out of the water then slowly straighten your legs as if you were getting out of a chair. Once you've done that, you're up and away! Or at least that's the theory.

This is how I spent most of my time ... or rapidly heading towards this position.

What actually happened was I spent all my time getting to the point of straightening those legs, then immediately toppling over be that to one side or the other or face first in the water (if the board catches in the water at the front, it's amazing how quickly you are thrown forwards, sometimes with enough force to lift you out of the board's bindings). I lost count of how many times I went up and then wiped out. Double figures. Close to twenty.

I'd love to try it again, prove to myself that I can get it with time, but today there was not enough of that but, more to the point, the boat was running low on petrol after everyone's exploits, and Craig was none too keen on getting stranded out here and having to call in the Sydney Harbour equivalent of the RAC.

Beware: sharks be here

Oh, and by the way, there are sharks in the harbour (although not usually at this time of year). My brother told me this afterwards, but I was already aware of it (I put it to the back of my mind though!). However, it is safe because firstly they don't like powerboats (it's the sound they make), and with wakeboarding you are almost continually on the go (well, maybe not me!). And when not actually riding the wake, a wakeboarder resting in the water looks nothing like food to a shark (unlike surfers who resemble seals from below, apparently). In fact, you look kind of star shaped as the board floats on the water with your feet strapped in while your body is kept afloat by the buoyancy jacket (see pic above). Great Whites? Bring 'em on! Shark attacks are a rare thing anyway ... or so I thought.

Later that evening, after packing most of our gear for the return journey tomorrow, Manda and I went to Thai Intra for another lovely meal. This was the place we had visited on our second night in Sydney with Andy and Wendy. Afterwards, we headed off in the direction of Campbell Parade for one last stroll along the sea front at night. As if to reflect the mood of it being our last night, the weather was starting to turn. It started to turn windy, and by the time we'd got to the cafés along the parade, the rain came too. People started to pile in to the café, drenched in their flimsy holiday shirts. When we finished our coffees, our stroll was rejected in favour of a mad dash back up the hill to a dry flat and a Sunday night movie.