Roger Cox: Dunbar’s new wakeboard park boasts all the bells and whistles – thanks to some dedicated cable guys
TIM Woodhead has just thrown a tantrum. Not in the shouting, screaming, banging your fists on the floor sense of the word - he’s far too laid back for that.
No, in wakeboarding parlance a tantrum is a backflip, and Woodhead has performed a textbook example, using a ramp to launch himself about eight feet in the air, then nonchalantly throwing his heels over his head before splashing back down onto the surface of the water. A cheer goes up from the spectators at the end of the lake. Woodhead grins, carves a wide, 180 degree turn and then zips off in the opposite direction, preparing to launch another mindbending manoeuvre.
This is Foxlake, outside Dunbar, Scotland’s first cable tow wakeboarding facility, and Woodhead, having overseen the installation of the tow and four floating features, is demonstrating its potential.
“Because this is the first cable park in Scotland, we’ve gone for obstacles that are more suited to beginners and intermediate riders,” he says, “but pros can still learn a lot of hard tricks on them - it’s all about making something that’s really useable for all standards.”
Woodhead is one of the fathers of the UK wakeboarding scene. Twelve years ago, he set up a music and wakeboarding festival in Wales and dubbed it Wakestock. Nowadays it attracts upwards of 20,000 people and can claim to be the biggest event of its kind in Europe.
As owner and operator of Industry Wake Parks, he has had a chance to set up and sample parks all over the world, so what does he make of the setting for Scotland’s first – a 200m long trout lake tucked away in an idyllic area of farmland behind Belhaven Bay?
“The lake itself is just beautiful,” he says. “It’s inviting to be in it, it’s nice and clean and it’s completely sheltered by the trees around it. It’s windy today, but the lake’s flat calm. For wakeboarding, you want your lake looking like this really, just completely flat.”
When it first emerged as the mutant offspring of surfing and waterskiing in the 1980s, wakeboarding happened behind boats – hence the name – but it wasn’t long before wakeboarders cottoned on to the potential of the electric cableways developed for waterskiers by German engineer Bruno Rixen. Who needs to be towed around a lake by a noisy motorboat when you could be whipped about on a glorified ski tow for a fraction of the cost?
There are several Rixen-style tows currently operating in England, pulling riders around circular courses, but Foxlake uses what’s known as a System 2.0 tow, built by a company called Sesitec. Two stanchions are set up at opposite ends of the lake and two overhead cables are strung between them. A winch then drives a “carrier” up and down the cables with a rope hanging down from it. Riders sit in the water, grab hold of the rope and are pulled along faster and faster until they’re moving quickly enough to stand. Rather than passing through a pulley at one end, forcing riders to dismount, the rope on a System 2.0 tow slows down as it reaches the end of the lake and then reverses direction, allowing you to put in a wide turn and keep on going. If you had arms and legs of steel, you could ride a System 2.0 all day long.
The Foxlake wakeboarding set-up is hugely impressive, but it’s just phase one of what will soon be a major adventure sports destination. Alex Dale, owner of the Hedderwick Hill Farm estate, has asked two friends working in the construction industry – James and Duncan Barbour – to take 100 acres of his land and develop it for outdoor pursuits. James takes me on a 4x4 tour of the area and shows me the old-growth forest where a high ropes course will be constructed, the routes some of the proposed mountain bike tracks will follow and the empty field where an enormous wakeboarding lake will be built, dwarfing the existing Foxlake 1.
“We’ll eventually have three wakeboarding systems,” he says, “one for beginners, one for intermediates and one for advanced riders with what’s known as a pool gap – a solid bit of ground in the middle of the lake with some very extreme obstacles.”
• Foxlake opens today – get there before the crowds.
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Weather for Edinburgh
Sunday 19 May 2013
Temperature: 9 C to 16 C
Wind Speed: 7 mph
Wind direction: North east
Temperature: 9 C to 20 C
Wind Speed: 8 mph
Wind direction: North