Bobbing up and down in a life jacket with your feet strapped into the boots of a single board can only mean one thing – you’re waiting for the adrenaline rush that comes from flying across the water at twenty miles per hour. You’re on the cusp of wakeboarding.
The high intensity, extreme water sport came into its own only a decade ago. Think snowboarding on water. With the opening of Mid America Wakesports – MAWI – Edmond is now home to one of only nine wakeboarding parks in the nation.
Owner and avid wakeboarder Garrett Skeen has big plans for MAWI – formerly the Oklahoma Wakeboard Center.
“We’re planning great things and we’re changing a lot of things the old owners did, making it bigger and better,” says Skeen. “We’re using the MAWI name and going with a Hawaiian theme. Our plans are to build a tiki bar and a beach to give the place more curb appeal from I-35.” With or without Hawaiian curb appeal, the newly revamped park is sure to grab the attention of water sport fanatics and timid land dwellers alike.
In the early days of wakeboarding, boats pulled riders across the water. Just as the sport has come along way in the last ten years, so have the ways it’s practiced. The invention of cable systems to pull riders without boats made large wakeparks possible.
MAWI boasts five towers surrounding the lake that house cables suspended 38 feet in the air. Ropes attached to the cables speed riders around the park in their quest for the holy grail of wakeboarding – big air.
Skeen built the park with beginning and experienced riders in mind. Beginners can take an easy-does-it approach while learning the tricks of the trade. Or they can try kneeboarding or traditional water skiing. MAWI’s professional instructors are available to teach all levels of lessons from the basics to the more advanced.
Wakeboarding jedis can pick up the speed, and edge out their boards to the left and right, taking advantage of six “kickers,” “sliders” and rails – pulling off the stunts that give wakeboarding its extreme reputation. The challenging tricks wakeboarding offers account for its growth into a huge sport. Now featured at the X-games, the high air stunts riders pull off of big wakes offer a completely different experience from slalom water skiing competitions of the past.
“Wakeboarding is a craze that has taken over,” says Skeen. “They used to make boats with no wake for slalom skiing so you could go back and forth without bouncing over the wake. Since wakeboarding caught, they’ve designed boats to suck in water to weigh the boat down and produce a bigger wake. The bigger the wake, the more air you get. The more air, the bigger the tricks. It’s wild.”
Having grown up on a lake, Skeen’s been a water sports enthusiast his entire life, wakeboarding and skiing practically everyday. When the opportunity to open his own water park became a possibility, it was too irresistible to pass up. His enthusiasm for water sports is infectious and making them available to others fires him up.
“What’s great about the cable park is that it has fairly reasonable daily rates so people that don’t have boats or can’t go to the lake for the day can come out here,” says Skeen. “We have operators, equipment and everything people need.”
Edmond may not just be home to one of the only cutting edge wakeboarding parks in the nation. It may be the home of the next X-Games wakeboard champion.
MAWI, located on I-35 at exit 151 near Seward Road, celebrates its grand opening in April.