Cable parks are popping up everywhere these days and they are offering up a whole new way to ride for everyone…just one problem. You’ve never ridden at the cable before! No worries – I’ve got you covered before you take your first laps.
That’s what I was thinking when our local park (Terminus Wake Park) opened up here in Georgia earlier this spring. I’ve never ridden cable since the closest park was around 7 hours away. It’s not too easy to make a day trip for that.
Boat riding has been my forte ever since I started wakeboarding. In the back of my mind, I always wanted to see what it would take to emulate my favorite riders in all the free ride videos I would watch like 12 Honkies, Hype, Pointless, and several others I have stashed away in my collection where they were jibbing their faces off.
After my first visit to the park, I walked away with a quick “Top 5” list that all newbies to the cable should know before you get started. Here’s what you need to know:
1) The Proper Gear:
If you’re a wakeboarder, you’ll need a wakeboard setup with a “sintered” or “grind” base on the board. If you’re a wakeskater, same deal – you’ll need a wakeskate with a “sintered” or “grind” base, as well. Grind bases are made of a highly resilient material and are designed to take the beating that a cable park gives our boards.
Oh, yeah, take off any removable fins on your board, too. Parks require this before they let you hit the water.
Check out the base of my “grind” board below:
Click HERE to see more cable park boards.
Your choice of bindings need to be taken into consideration, as well. Here’s why:
I personally ride a set of 2012 Ronix Cell Boots (now known as the Ronix Code 55 bindings) where the boot is mounted directly to the board. After I take a spill, I have to pull my feet out of the bindings, swim to the shore, and walk barefoot back to the starting dock. If you aren’t into walking around barefoot like me, take a look at what Hyperlite or Slingshot has to offer!
Hyperlite has the System Boot and Binding setup where the boot and binding are actually two separate components – much like a snowboard boot and binding. You tighten down the straps to ride and release them to walk around like you’re wearing a normal pair of shoes.
Slingshot offers something similar to my boots, but feature a removable liner in their high-end boots (like the Shredtown Boot). Loosen up the outer laces and you can pull your foot out with the liner still on your foot to walk around in.
Any boot will do, to be honest, but having a boot or a liner to walk around in if the shore is rocky is an incredibly convenient feature.
Next you will need a helmet, something that will protect your dome while you get your shred on. This one is not optional; you’ve got to have one to ride. There are several companies that offer quality water helmets like Pro-tec, Shred Ready, Sandbox, and Bern. Just make sure you get your own or rent one at the park when you get there if you’re ballin’ on a budget.
Finally, you’ll need a life vest. Many cable parks require that you wear a U.S. Coast Guard Approved vest and do not allow competition-style non-Coast Guard approved vests. I strongly recommend checking the rules of the park before you head out. Better to be prepared than disappointed. Here is a good example of a USCGA Life Vest from Hyperlite to give an idea of what you’ll need.
If you don’t have a board, helmet, or a vest…don’t worry! Most parks have a grip of rental products you can try out before picking up your own gear. Once you’re hooked like I am, you’ll want to start piecing together your own proper setup and ditch those stinky rentals.
2) The Starting Dock:
This is where it all really starts! There are a couple of ways to get going once it’s your turn to get your feet wet.
The easiest way to start is to use the “slide in” method. Essentially, you put your gear on and hop your way to the starting line. Once your pulley comes around and the operator says “are you ready,” shift your weight back over your back foot and keep the handle tight to your back hip – then wait for the pulley to pull the slack out of the rope and slide you off the starting ramp. Leaning back helps keep the nose of your board up so you don’t dive the board underwater.
If the “slide in” method isn’t for you, try sitting on the edge of the starting dock. This is very similar to the position that you would start riding behind the boat in. Keep your elbows and knees slightly bent and then lean back to help make sure you keep the toe side edge of your board up and out of the water. Once the pulley gets you up to speed, point the nose of your board the direction you are riding and start having fun.
Now, here’s something to work up to: dock starting! You begin in a standing position on the “slide in” ramp or on the edge of the dock. Watch the pulley come around the starting dock and once the tension on the rope is taken out, hop up and into the water. With a little bit of practice, this is probably the most fun to way to enter the water but work your way up to this. Trust me.
Check out this guy’s epic dock start:
3) Follow the Cable (Don’t Get Slung!)
Congrats!! You have successfully made it off the starting dock!
Start by carving around on all the straightaways and making your way to the buoy markers around each turn.
These buoys are to help you know where to be when you come to a corner in the cable park. Depending on the angle of the corner, you’ll need to take a little precaution before you get into the turn…because I didn’t and I got SLUNG!
On a sharp corner in the park, it’s going to be best to make sure you look up and see the direction the cable is about to take you, and point your board that way as you enter the turn. Otherwise…get ready to hold on because you’re about to go for a ride.
After a lap or two, it all becomes second nature and you will be navigating the corners like a champ.
One thing to keep in mind is that if you ever get too much slack in the line based on the path you took into a turn, it’s best to let go of the rope. Otherwise, it’ll pull the handle out of your hands extremely hard once the slack tightens up, which is definitely something you’re going to want to avoid.
4) Build Up to Larger Features: Don’t Get Ahead of Yourself
Start small. Work on the smaller features and then move up incrementally based on how comfortable you feel on each slider, rail, or kicker.
When you fall, just make sure to pop your head up and give a quick 360-degree survey for other riders headed in your direction and start paddling towards the shore.
Generally, just ride within your comfort zone and build up on everything you’re learning to get to that next feature. Also, a HUGE benefit of riding at a cable park is that there are TONS of riders with all different types of riding styles and skill levels that you can learn from.
Being able to watch how someone hits a certain rail or sets up for a kicker is such a powerful thing.
Everyone I ran into at the park was out there to have fun and progress – so don’t be afraid to ask for help. I did, and it totally paid off. I’ve already got my eye on the next transfer rail at our park!
5) Rinse ‘n’ Repeat: But Don’t Get Complacent
What I mean by “Rinse ‘n’ Repeat” is just get out there and ride!
The more time you spend at the cable park (or riding in general), the better you will become. Our sport requires practice and repetition to get tricks locked down, but don’t get complacent!
Find your lines within the park, but don’t go out there and do the same tricks every single time. Push yourself once you are ready to try a different press. Hell, try it switch!
Always turn one part of the day at the park into what I like to call a “progression session.” Expand your bag of tricks and make the most out of what the park has to offer you.
Well, there you have it!
There are my Top 5 Things a 1st Time Cable Rider needs to know before you head out there! Most importantly, have fun! Now that you’re ready to go, get your gear together and start hitting up a park near you! Maybe even plan a road trip to visit some parks with your buddies. Time to get to pressin’.