Dan Bright trailed behind his boss’s boat, ripping out wakeboarding tricks on Folsom Lake.
He sailed into an air railey, catching 10 feet of air in a flip maneuver. Then he launched off the wake in a whirlybird and cartwheeled his board like the hands of a clock.
“That’s a show winner,” said his boss, 29-year-old Ryan Ash, who owns Launch Wakeboarding School. “He’s inhuman.”
Like the rest of the wakeboarders on his boat, Ash spoke in awe of Bright. At 22, the senior at California State University, Sacramento, has been wakeboarding for 15 years. He has competed on the pro level and wakeboards year-round with Sac State’s Wakeboard Club.
Bright, Ash and the other instructors not only can show what you can do on a wakeboard, they can teach you to do it. They do it all on Folsom Lake, one of the region’s top wakeboarding spots.
The sport is as cool as ever. So cool, in fact, that it’s getting harder and harder to find powerboats that aren’t already outfitted to accommodate wakeboarding.
“It’s almost a must-have for boats now,” said renowned water-skiing coach Pat Kennelly, who owns Water Ski World in Citrus Heights.
The recession has slowed his store’s sales of wakeboards. New boat owners are buying just one wakeboard for the boat rather than one for each family member, he said.
This summer looks promising for water sports on Folsom Lake, said Dan Tynan, Folsom Lake State Recreation Area superintendent. Boats were already out on the lake by early May when the lake level was at a very full 85 percent. This week, it reached 466 feet, according to a Web site operated by the California Data Exchange Center (http://cdec.water.ca.gov and click “reservoirs”), which works with state and federal agencies to monitor water levels.
Tynan expects the water to hold up for boating through Labor Day, unlike the past two summers. However, the Folsom Lake SRA doesn’t control the water level.
Wakeboarding is sometimes described as snowboarding on water. It combines elements of water skiing, surfing and snowboarding. It is not as easy to learn as water skiing, unless you know how to snowboard. One of the fastest ways to progress is to work with experienced teachers like those at Launch, a Folsom Lake concessionaire.
Like many young wakeboarders, then-14-year-old Ash got into the sport so he wouldn’t feel like he was giving up snowboarding each summer. He quickly got hooked.
He and his older brother, Tom Ash, bought the Launch school in 2006 while Ryan was its manager.
Last year, they acquired a $65,000 Moomba XLV wakeboarding boat tricked out with a wakeboard tower that holds wakeboards and Loud Liquid speakers, and hoists the towrope high for bigger jumps. A bilge pump sends water into the stern to tip the bow, creating a huge wake.
Boaters can buy wakeboarding towers for boats they already own. But jumping on a trend, manufacturers now sell boats designed for wakeboarding. These bigger, more expensive, over-the-top boats dominate the market, said Kennelly.
Some water skiers, who need smaller wakes, aren’t happy with the bigger boats being sold as water-ski boats, Kennelly said.
After Bright finished his wakeboarding demonstration, Sac State student Chelsea Ison, 20, decided to give the sport another try. She’d had little luck wakeboarding with friends.
Instructor Dustin Auger, 19, of Shingle Springs coaxed her into the cold water. Ison later said she was a little scared.
With his hands on the rope, Auger pulled Ison and her wakeboard into a good start position while explaining how to overcome the first hurdle: getting up as the boat takes off. The hardest thing to learn is to work with the boat rather than fight it, he said.
Ison sat in the water in the same basic rocking-chair position used by waterskiers.
“Let your butt come all the way to the board and you’ll pop right up,” he said. “Arms straight? Legs bent? Let’s go!”
She got right up but crashed just as fast. After a few more tips, Ison could stay up. Soon she was bombing shakily over the wake. Auger helped fine-tune her moves until she could cross back over the boat’s wake.
Source: Sacramento Bee News interview with Water Ski Coach and Pro Shop Owner Patrick Kennelly