AUSTRALIA’S national wakeboarding team has topped the IWWF Wakeboard World Championships in Busan, Korea, and the shiny gold plate they won has come home to Canberra with team manager Leigh Baguley.“Every single one of our team members rode really well and made it into the finals, which is a great result,” says Baguley, who is also president of ACT Wakeboard, a Wakeboard Australia board member and the country’s number-three masters competitor. “Australia was the only team out of all the 30 countries to do that.”
Among the nine members of the champion team was another Canberran, 15-year-old Lewis Watt, who placed second in his age group.
“It was amazing to be part of the team, up on the stage in front of everyone; it was indescribable,” he says, recalling the presentation of the overall winners trophy.The Aussies were by no means underdogs, but their achievement in reclaiming the title from the much more heavily populated home of extreme sports stands as a testament to the extraordinary level of skill in the Australian wakeboarding scene.
“We’ve got most of the best riders in the world, but the US is really good, too, and there’s a kind of rivalry going on there,” says Lewis, who trains at Burrinjuck Dam, the Molonglo water skiing area near Pialligo and on the Clyde River at Nelligen.
As he comes to the end of high school, the Canberra wakeboarder says he’d definitely love to “do it as a job”, like many of his fellow team members.
“You definitely have to work hard to be one of the best,” Lewis says. “Usually the guys who are the best don’t just do wakeboarding, they do extra things like the gym, too, so I think I want to start doing crossfit with my dad.”
According to Baguley, seven of the other national team members live in the US for much of the year.
“They follow the sun,” he says. “Our winter’s obviously the American summer, so they live in America for six months of the year then they fly back and do the Australian scene, so pretty much all they do is wakeboard their whole lives. Tough job.”
He invites anyone who wants to try out the sport to contact ACT Wakeboard and get involved with the local scene through regular “come and try” days in Canberra, trips out to Burrinjuck on weekends and a network to connect riders with boat owners who’ll give them a tow.
“I get real pleasure from mums and dads coming up to me at the end of the day when we’ve done a ‘come and try’ day or local competition and saying their kids loved it and they want to come back next time,” says Leigh. “That’s what gives me the buzz.”
For more information on wakeboarding, go to actwakeboard.com.au