Wake Magazine Volume:16 Issue:3
|“Have I gone mad?” “I’m afraid so. You’re entirely bonkers. But I’ll tell you a secret. All the best people are.” Mad Hatter – Alice in Wonderland
It’s that time of the year when, wakeskaters make their annual trek to Suncoast Cable Watersports, Bli Bli and disappear into a world where grip tape, shoes and moustaches rule. A world that has it’s own language, time and even a resident lighter (Brown – he has his own face book page). The world of Wakeskate Winter Wonderland.
This year is the fourth installment of Wonderland and skaters traveled from all over Oz and even NZ to ride, compete, learn and party. Obscura wakeskates Aaron Reed was back from the States, his third trip to Oz this year, bringing with him team mate Travis Doran. Arriving Wednesday morning Travis got to see his first ever kangaroo on the drive from the airport with tour guide and local skater Michael Anderson… unfortunately it was the road kill variety! Welcome to Australia boys.
Friday morning kicked off the start of Wonderland with a wakeskate only session on the cable. Steamers were out in force as the wind kicked in and the sun continually played hide and seek in the clouds all day. After a few technical difficulties that Mayce Dipple and Blair Smith were all over, the Go Ride was ready to roll for the first competition of the weekend. A game of SK8, where riders compete head to head in pairs. The first rider, decided by the ultimate decision making game of scissors, paper, rock, calls a trick that both riders must stomp to the satisfaction of head judge Aaron Reed. The rider that doesn’t successfully land or stomp the trick cleanly gets the let ‘S’, then ‘K’, and then ‘8’. The game continues until one rider has ‘SK8’, knocking them out of the comp and sending the other rider through to the next round.
Riders started off throwing down some of their basic tricks, before getting warmed up and letting their imaginations run wild. It was entertaining viewing, with some great stacks as the guys tried tricks they’d never even attempted before. But the crew watching went crazy when a fellow skater nailed a trick called, that they had never tried or landed before. The “Steve” remixes by Zip Hayes, created in tribute to Steve Nuttall, added to the atmosphere. The boys started busting out dance moves to lyrical gems such as “he’s got switch three shuvs dialled” and “he rides behind tinny, cable and crocodile.”
Free riding continued on the cable all day in amongst the wakeboarders, but by early afternoon, beer, potato gems and hoodies were breaking out as the wind picked up and the clouds settled over the park. SK8 was put on hold until tomorrow and everyone headed over to set up tents, cars and camper vans for the night.
After a full day of skating, the Wonderland crew relaxed by mobile phone “torch apps” light (no one had thought to bring a light), having a few drinks, swapping stories and getting to know those not met before or catching up with old friends. The stories and drinks continued to flow at the pub over dinner and after a massive feed a few ventured off to the pokies. Steve instigated this, after he returned bragging about his winnings. Matty Edwards and I ended up just adding more money to the machines for Steve to win. So it was time to head back to camp and chill around a warm fire, before everyone drifted off to sleep, dreaming of better weather for tomorrow.
Saturday kicked off nice and early with qualifying for the cable comp, plus free riding on cable. Aaron, Travis, Munners & Millsy judged around the park for both obstacles and flat-water tricks. The freestyle format and hour and half time frame allowed skaters to experiment with new tricks or variations to old tricks in their collection. Jake Fordyce shuving up, across and off every obstacle was dizzying, but spectacular to watch. Deon Nagy landed a solid switch front big spin over the hip of the fun box onto the wall ride and NZ rider Flick Bickmore came very close to riding away from a 50/50 across the C-box. She kept trying and in the end had gathered a cheer squad up on the deck. Watching every time she hit the box, cheering her across it and gasping in frustration with her as she came unstuck on the landing. The judges were left to deliberate who would make it into the finals in the afternoon, with the top 5 from Amateur and Pro going through.
Aaron and Travis coached some very eager skaters in private wakeskate clinics for the next few hours, while others hit up the winch park or continued cable riding. Michael Anderson picked up a bunch of new tricks from the Pro’s, his favourites being a backside big spin and front board onto the Go Ride rail. Tim Franco came very close to landing a kickflip during his session with the boys and the cheers from the deck rose up as he got closer and closer. But it wasn’t to be.
The boys winching had a few runs testing it out ready for Sunday’s winch comp. There were some cracker stacks as the boys came unstuck over the gap or hubbas. Local skater Jordan landed a clean Ollie over the gap on his second ever winch attempt and Lipsy took some near misses spinning and flipping his board over the gap.
The main cable comp saw the Women’s and Amateur wakeskate divisions take to the lake with 6 laps, all riders on the water at once with unlimited falls. With everyone throwing down and racing back before the 6 laps were up, Flick Bickmore stomped a 50/50 across the C-Box followed by a tidy little pop-shuvit to take out first place in the Women’s division, ahead of Zoe, Annabelle Dipple and myself. Amateur Men’s saw Tim Franco take out third, behind Cam Prest in second. New Zealander Cam Stenning took out first place with a solid run of both flat-water and obstacle tricks. The Pro’s finals ran a different format with each rider getting two laps or until they’d had three falls to throw down as much as they could. Ryan Ritchie took out third, behind Daniel Debono in second. Mayce cleaned up on his home cable with first place and his never-ending assortment of kick and spin tricks.
A few more rounds of SK8 took place with some brilliant judging by Brown with the help of Aaron. Michael Anderson also joined the Mo club, through the creative permanent marker artistic abilities of Aaron. The creative juices were obviously flowing as the permanent marker drawings spread to side burns down either side of Michael’s face and turned into other images
At the end of a very long and action packed day of wakeskating, the crew moved back over to the campfire to continue the shenanigans and enjoy a few well-deserved drinks by the fire. The highlight of everyone’s night was the entertainment provided by Michael, especially the dare that involved Blair’s foot and licking.
Sunday saw the arrival of the howling winds and freezing cold rain. Matty Edwards was up in the first round of SK8 for the day and as he pointed out “it’s not called Winter Wonderland for nothing”. So the boys suited up and Blair volunteered to operate the Go Ride while the rest of us watched from the comfort and warmth of inside the bar area. Missing all the action, we all slowly moved outside to get a better view and brave the freezing cold, wet weather. Matty landed his first ever hard flip, which was a definite highlight of the weekend for everyone there, including Matty. “Finish him with a hard flip” became Aaron’s catch cry for every round of SK8, as Matty flipped, spun and shuved his way through 4 rounds straight to win. Mayce took second in a comp that contained kick flips, switch front threes, 540 back bigs and attempts at hard flips, sex changes and switch front side big spins. Third was decided in the end through another game of scissors, paper, rock. It was between Steve Nuttall and Tim Franco, with Tim making it to the podium in third spot. Although both boys were stoked to not get back in the water as the wind was still blowing across the lake making riding conditions pretty miserable.
As the winner of SK8, Matt “Shredwards” Edwards then took on Obscura rider Travis Doran, in a final SK8 show down. The level of riding went up another few notches as Travis and Matty busted out kick flips, V flips, toe side front side flips, V flip revert and Travis Doran finishing off the game to take the win with a 360 flip.
After an early morning maintenance mission by some of the boys, the winch park was ready to go. With advise from the crew on the bank to Blair to “just Ollie it first and see how the winch goes”, he went and back lipped the hubba, riding away to the cheers of everyone watching. Also giving Blair the title of Obscura winch park champ and winner of the 2012 Travis Doran pro model skate. Travis nearly made a laser flip down the gap, but it wasn’t to be this time.
At the end of the weekend it was time for everyone to climb back out of the rabbit hole away from Wonderland and head back to reality. Tired, cold and completely stoked after three days and two nights of crazy riding and new memories and friends.
Wonderland has definitely changed. From its beginnings as a cable only event, to now include Go Ride, winching and tinny sets. Then there’s the tricks the skaters are busting out each year, just shows how fast wakeskating is growing and changing. From the good old days of camping beside the lake to the introduction of a Women’s division in the cable comp. Wonderland continues to morph. But trying to keep its origins in being all about freestyle wakeskating. The guys are even embracing the addition of chicks to the Wonderland world and are keen to see more female wakeskaters at future events.
Organisers Paul Munro, Ben Mills and wakeskate.com.au put together a fun weekend full of new ideas and comps. Aaron Reed and Travis Doran traveling out from the US, to pump up the riders and push the level of wakeskating in Australia, was a definite highlight for all the riders at Wonderland.
Events like this are not possible without support from sponsors. Supporting Wonderland 2011 was wakeskate.com.au, Obscura, Suncoast Cable Watersports, I Ride Sideways, Go Ride, Go Wake, Wake Magazine, Boarder Magazine and Trunk Junk Quarterly.
Its exciting to see where wakeskating goes from here, with so many people getting involved and the endless possibilities or directions it can take. At the beginnings and end of it all though, is the group of entirely mad wakeskaters. Yes, they are completely bonkers. But, all the best people are.