Wakeboarding in ThailandKirsty Turner
“Daa…” Splash! My friend loses control of his wakeboard and plunges headfirst into the lake. But seconds later he is up, huge smile on his face. “This is awesome,” he beams, giving me the thumbs up sign.”
It’s a sultry Saturday morning and I’m sitting in the sunshine beside a sparkling clear blue lake fringed by palm trees and the red sloping roves of temples, which glitter and shine as the dun hits them. Hard to believe that this is just outside Bangkok, but the truth is that a short taxi ride away from the busy capital, this peaceful haven is just waiting to be discovered.
The great thing is, even on a Saturday the beautiful Taco Lake is far from crowded. In the middle of the day there are only around two dozen people, including a couple of families who have brought picnics and cheer and laugh as dad plays on the lake.
Wakeboarding is a surface water sport where people ride a wakeboard over the water, towed behind a motorboat or a cable on a circuit. Wakeboarding uses a combination of waterskiing, snowboarding and surfing techniques and emerged in the 1980s.
The sport is largely recognised to have been invented by Canadian Paul Fraser, who developed the concept and design with the help of his brother Murray. But it was in the mid 1990s, when wakeboarding was added as a competitive sport in the X Games II, that it became really popular. The interest in the sport was so intense that it prompted the World Skiboard Association to redefine itself as the World Wakeboard Association.
Although it looks tricky, wakeboarding is quite easy to get into and very addictive. The boards are buoyant and the core is usually made from foam or honeycomb mixed with resin and coated with fibreglass. There are metal screws inserted, which attach bindings and fins. There are lots of different fin styles and shapes. Generally, the closer the fins are to the center of the wakeboard the better the board releases from the wake.
Riding the wakeboard is quite simple, in theory at least. The rider performs jumps by hitting the wake and launching into the air or by hitting a special ramp known as a kicker. There is often a rail bar – known as a slider – which the rider can balance along in the same manner as a skateboarder.
As with any extreme sport, there are a whole host of wakeboarding manoeuvres waiting to be mastered. Here are some of the most popular tricks to try:
Raley: this is where you hit the wake and swing your body backwards, up overhead, parallel to the water. Then
swing your board and body back down and land on the other side of the wake.
Fakie/Switch: Ride the board with your weak foot forward.
Butter Slide: The rider approaches the wake and snaps the board sideways to slide on top of the wake.
Surface 360: Spin the board 360 degrees while riding the surface of the water.
If all that seems a bit too much like hard work, you can try kneeboarding instead. Kneeboarding originated in Southern California in the mid 1960s. As with wakeboarding, the participants are towed on a board behind a motorboat or cable.
However, kneeboarding is somewhat easier than wakeboarding as the rider sits on their heels on the board, secured to the deck with an adjustable strap over the thighs. This means that there is no need to balance, which can be a problem for wakeboarders. Although easier to master, kneeboarding is still a lot of fun and there are a lot of tricks to learn and perform.
After three hours of messing about on the lake, everyone is tired but happy, nursing their aching muscles. So we head back to Khaosan Road to drink a few beers and eat pad thai on the street.
Taco Lake is located about a 30 minute journey from Bangkok in Samut Prakarn Province. To get there, follow the KM 13 Bangna-Trad Road for 150 meters and look for signs for the Intensity Pro shop. You can also phone +66 1855 5295 for more information.
The lake is open daily from 10 a.m. tickets cost just 300 baht for two hours. A standard board is provided for free, or you can pay 100 baht to hire a special board for the entire day. Lifejackets are also provided free of charge and there are plenty of facilities such as changing rooms, benches and a restaurant.
About the author:
Kirsty Turner (Kay) is a freelance writer currently living in Bangkok. She has kindly agreed to write for KhaoSanRoad.com and share her love of all things Thai and, especially, all things Khao San Road!