Outside of my career as a professional photographer I’ve had an on-going passion for water sports and cable wakeboarding has been a big part of that.
In 2006 I tried boat wakeboarding for the first time at Lakeside Ski & Wake, then in 2007 I tried cable wakeboarding at WMSki. WMSki had a ladies morning every Thursday, I went religiously from 2007 until the site closed in 2013, I was so committed to ladies morning that if I didn’t attend a session I’d receive a phone checking if I was ok lol (I think that particular day I was on a photo shoot)!
Those mornings were filled with sunshine, flat water, laughter, coffee and a lots of silly antics on the water. Each week I’d bring something random with me anything from an 8ft surf board to inflatable whale for us girls to lark around on. I think I’ve been round that lake on every possible ridiculous item that floats. In this time I don’t think my wakeboarding skills progressed leaps and bounds, but I did get stronger could get round the lake in piece, I couldn’t do any tricks and my very hyper-mobile shoulders/joints didn’t really lend themselves to this particular sport.
2012 was a dark time at WMSki, I won’t go into details, some of you reading will know the back story anyhow. Needless to say I needed a good distraction and something to focus on. So I finally left my inflatable whale, turtle, dinosaur, surf board, body board etc. at home, got some new more responsive boots for my wakeboard and finally started to try tricks. My friend Matthew noticed I was struggling to understand some of the basic principles on how approach jump and to not get dragged off once I was one on! We’d go round “twos up” (where two people are towed by the same carrier) and he shout helpful instructions over. Finally I was getting to grip with some basic tricks and I was really enjoying wakeboarding at a wakeboarding lake!
By 2013 my riding was getting smoother, I still larked around at times, but I enjoyed pushing myself with the sport, don’t get me wrong wakeboarding can sometimes be really scary and building up the courage to do a new trick can take time, but it’s worth it when you get there. That year due to too much landing off big jumps and probably having bendy joints my hamstring partially tore, so I was off the board for 8 weeks, however I did work out I could go round the cable on my tummy using a knee board in that time…and a ringo…and just my tummy. So never despair there’s always a way to get on the water people!
Wakeboarding competitions were always something I watched over the years and cheered on others I never thought I’d be in one myself. In 2013 WMSki ran a low key locals competition my hamstring was good enough for the small jumps at this stage. So I entered did my best under the circumstances, but I think it would be fair to say…I was last! Even if I had been fully fit I still would have been last lol!
At the end of 2013 WMSki’s lease came to an end at Lake 11 and this incredible facility where I’d made so many friends closed. It was devastating for our community and a huge change in lifestyle for all us members. However I was later to find out WMSki full cable at lake 11 closing was the best thing that could happen for my riding.
In 2014 “WMSki 2.0” opened at Lake 32, “2.0s” are mini wakeboarding cable skis where one person goes up and down rather than eight people going round and round. Having one on one coaching on a system that picks you up after you fall (rather than a long walk back and joining a queue again) meant my riding accelerated really quickly, I finally learnt switch riding (I normally ride right foot forward so “switch” for me would be left). Learning switch opens to the door to “180s” (180 degree rotations).
Around about this time an amateur wakeboarding competition tour started called “The Grass Roots tour” it travelled the UK running wakeboarding comps for amateur riders. When the grass roots tour came to WMSki 2.0, I plucked up the courage to enter! I did my best but my 180s were still unstable, due to a weakness on one side (after years of riding right foot forward, the strength in my opposite side of body was weak and needed to catch up) and I crashed near the end of my run on a rotation… and therefore I was last.
I watched the other rookie girls intently from other cables to see what they were doing that was better, their 180s were more consistent and some of them were handle passing (once you can pass the handle behind your back this opens the door to backside 180s and 360s). So I spend the rest of the season getting more consistent, starting to train at the gym and endless switch riding to try and get that strength balance back. I remember the first time I did loads of laps left foot forward I came off the lake and my leg quad muscle literally shook for ten minutes, my coach and I found it quite funny at the time!
At the end of 2014 I did a grass roots competition in Cornwall at Kernow Wake Park, four of us competed together and another five watched, so we had a really great time. I’d gone up on the Friday a day early to I could practise at Kernow beforehand, I’d only ever ridden there once and I knew it felt different and I needed to try my new tricks on their jumps. The plastic on their jumps was different and they felt really slippy, so I’m glad I took the time to practice, I really needed it!
On the side I’d also been reading psychology books and had just finished the “Chimp Paradox” (see my other blog for full details) and I used the mental principles I’d learned for the first time during this competition. There were about 30 people in the competition and about seven in my category (rookie women’s). I used my mental training initially (I sat on the dock with my board in the water whilst there was a technical delay and I went over my “run” over and over again in my head going correctly). It was time for me to do my comp run (you go up and down the lake 3 times, you need to do as much variation in the tricks as you can and also make it flow so it looks good). As I hit the water I felt physically and mentally strong, I went out and did my run perfectly, even the trick I was worried about (the pipe — we didn’t have one at WMSki). I was really pleased as you can imagine! When they announced the podium places I was SECOND! I was so stoked, this was a huge achievement for me in my early 30s. I proudly wore my medal when we all went out for supper that evening!
2015 The Grass Roots Tour was up and running again and I decided try and do as many stops as I could in the southern tour (there were 6 in total and I did 5). I competed at JBSki (Thorpe), Quays (Surrey), Kernow, Wakeup Docklands (London) and finally Lagoon Watersports (Brighton) I always had a handful of people watching and often competed alongside fellow WMSki riders. It was good fun and I placed 1st, 3rd, 4th and 5th, the first was a really good win and was back at Kernow Wake Park, it felt good to stand on top of the podium for the very first time in my life and wear a gold British Water Ski & Wakeboard medal! This meant I had a decent amount of points going into the final stop at Brighton.
It was bitterly cold day at the Brighton 2.0 everything in my body hurt going out to ride, but I did my best and even hit a roof top switch in my comp run, which I’d never done that before. I came away with a respectable 3rd. The exciting news was to come because it was the last stop on the tour they announced the overall winners…
I came THIRD overall for the Rookie Ladies South tour! I won a great goody bag crammed with t-shirts, beanies, bamboo socks, a watch, pens, stickers etc. and most importantly a bronze medal and a good sense of achievement!
So in 2016 I set myself a big goal — to become the champion of the Rookie ladies south tour. There were several stops and I booked on to — WMSki, South Coast Wake Park, Quays and Devon Wake Park (I also did Liverpool, but that was part of the north tour). Initially I did well and got a 2nd, 3rd and 3rd.
Then disaster struck I was getting into my car one day and one of my spine discs bulged, that meant cancelling out of the Devon competition which was that weekend and no wakeboarding for two months.
Work was tough and extremely painful the first week, but I still did my shoots that I’d committed to and hired an assistant to carry kit & pass me things whilst I was healing. I told my physio my goal was to be mobile by September so I could compete in our home competition at WMSki. My hopes of winning the tour were dashed. By September I was a lot better and checked the rankings online… as it happens my main rivals on the tour had missed Devon too, so I was back on track for a chance at achieving my goal! If I wanted to win the tour I’d need some hefty points at my home comp at WMSki.
The WMSki competition was really good fun I had family to come and watch and the atmosphere was great. My run was perfect, all the switch training and the ability to now handle pass meant I came away with the WIN! This win gave me 100 points — enough points to be the champion of the rookie ladies grass roots tour! It was a great feeling and I’d come a long way since 2006 when I first tried the sport and I was proud of myself for succeeding in the face of many adversities.
So that’s how I went from being dragged round the lake on an inflatable whale to an amateur wakeboard champion.
There’s one word I’d like to flag up in this article and it’s “consistent”, I think consistency is the key to success, no matter what challenges I was thrown I went to WMSki every single week from 2007 to 2017 (baring injuries, where I sat and watched). That consistency helped me to get strong, it helped to build my confidence and it later reflected in my riding. I think as a joke once I got called “consistent Kay”, once I can do a trick competently I can do it pretty much every time. I’ve applied this principle to my gym training and I’ve gone twice a week for 4 years (no matter what illness or injury is thrown at me, my coach & I adapt the program to suit these needs).
Apply this to your business and you’ll find success, don’t give up when you feel poorly, you get knock backs, injuries, you’re grumpy, it’s raining. Keep putting yourself out there to the best of your physical and mental ability that day and you will succeed.