I was five years old and sitting cross-legged at my grandparent’s coffee table the first time I saw Jaws. I spent a lot of my childhood in the ocean, but never fell in love with it because I’ve never been able to shake my fear of being devoured by a shark.
Somehow, a few weeks ago I found myself onboard Wake Maui’s brand new 23-foot Ski Supreme V232 out in the deep blue off Lahaina with my hubby, a good friend, Captain Ryan Hickey, his friend and fellow instructor Quinn, two hot Canadian girls and a case of Corona.
The mission of the day was wakeboarding, a sport and pastime where the rider is towed behind a boat while strapped onto a board that looks a lot like a snowboard. On the mainland, wakeboarding is usually done on a lake, but here we do it in the ocean. The pros of this are the ocean’s vastness, beauty and buoyancy. The downside? It has a tendency to get choppy.
While heading out, replaying scenes of bone-crunching, gut-exploding action from 1980’s monster movies in my head, a few things kept me from going into a full-blown panic attack. First off, the vessel was really comfy, with a great sound-system and wrap-around lounge seats that felt more “night club” than boat. Secondly, Captain Ryan, United States Coast Guard-certified, has sun-bleached hair, an awesome physique, golden boy tan and a charming Midwestern smile; having to be resuscitated by him didn’t seem like a bad deal.
Regardless, when it came time to actually get off the boat and into the water, I wasn’t feeling very confident, but because my husband goaded me into going first (for which I will never forgive him), I put on a brave face. Quinn set me up on the wakeboard and answered all my silly questions like “What happens when I fall?” (We’ll come and get you) and “Will I sink with this board attached to my feet?” (The board floats… duh).
The concept is simple: hold on to the tow strap with both hands and sit in the water with legs extended but slightly bent. Then as the boat picks up speed and the water puts pressure on the board, roll your shoulders forward until you’re in a standing position with your left foot forward.
Then just ride.
Amazingly, while replaying the instructions in my head as I bobbed around in the water, I didn’t once think about bloodthirsty sea creatures. My competitive nature came out and I wanted to succeed. Plus, I didn’t want to look like a total dork in front of Captain Ryan.
The boat started up and began pulling me. I was concerned that I wouldn’t know when it was time to roll my shoulders and try to stand, but like going into labor or falling in love, it’s one of those moments that you just recognize. Before I knew it, I was standing.
I was riding!
I was… down.
Onboard, my friend said I did great, though I didn’t quite believe him until he told me that when he first began it took him hours to do what little that I just accomplished. Hearing that, I was hooked and attempted the process seven or eight more times.
My last ride was my best. I got up and rode for a while—the adrenaline rush is phenomenal—before finally eating it when I went over a little wave and accidentally toed the front of the board into the water. Quinn later told me that I should have balanced my weight more on my back foot.
It all happened in an instant. The board caught and the boat continued to zip in front of me, but like a dummy I didn’t let go fast enough and slammed face first into the water, which, contrary to how it appears, isn’t very soft or fluid.
I hadn’t hit my face that hard since I fractured it while riding my horse as a teenager, and it sucked. But at the same time, it felt kind of good. I had taken my first major wakeboarding hang, kind of like a badge of honor.
We spent a few more hours on the water. Everyone got a turn and Captain Ryan even busted out the wake surfboard. My buddy and husband dug the surfboard (your feet don’t strap in and it tows close to the boat), and they both enjoyed long rides. I tried the surfboard too, which is a lot easier on the muscles than the wakeboard, but found that I actually preferred the wakeboard’s more intense ride. MTW