Wake Surfing

Holy moly, I'm actually wake surfing. The water beneath me splashes white with turquoise blue, my friends cheer for me from the back of the boat – this lake life is a good life.

Did I mention that I consider myself to be the worst water sports person ever? Like, literally the worst. So bad, in fact, that there is an entire album on Facebook dedicated to the faces I make while trying to pull myself up behind a boat.

And each time I receive an invite for a day on the lake, waves of dread overtake me; flashbacks of painful crashes lead to newfound excuses not to join in. 

But when my friend Simone invites me out for a day on Lake Koocanusa with Caroline Villeneuve of H2O School Ltd. I can’t find any excuse. Motivated by my column and my intention to try everything once, I head for the lake.

We meet at Sunshine Houseboats where Caro and her partner Ben Stokie operate their wakesurf school. Their shed is stocked full of lifejackets and wetsuits and is home to a plethora of trophies, newspaper clippings and photographs. There is a lot of pride in this tiny place.

Caro is a pro wake surfer; for the last three years she has placed first at the Canadian Wake Surf Nationals. Last year she became World Champion at the World Wake Surf Championship and she has more than 25 first-place wins since 2007. She is humble, though. We’ve only just met and I admire her immediately.

We collect gear, hop into the boat and head out. I’m the only goofy-footed rider and am happy to watch as the others surf first. Maybe I won’t have to surf, I think. Maybe we will run out of time.  

Like I said, the worst water sports person ever.

Caro drives the boat around a grassy-covered point and Simone hops in the deep-blue water. Though it’s been several months since her last lesson she remembers quickly. I enjoy spectating—Simone carves into the wake and plays, I suntan and slurp juicy watermelon.

When Steph, also a first-timer, gets up and surfs it’s easy to see she is a water sports person.

“She’s a natural,” says Caro from the boat. Caro sits at the back and gives Steph tips to make surfing easier. Steph smiles an enormous smile; she’s got this.

After all the left-foot-forward riders have finished Caro prepares the boat for me; I know I’m goofy in more ways than one and I just have to be okay with that.

I strap on a lifejacket and tell myself I won’t make faces worthy of another online album. Caro practices with me and then, as I float in the water I remember all of my horrendous attempts to get up on a board last summer. Ignoring the dread, I tell myself I can do this. 

The boat picks up speed; I suddenly stand on the board and glide through the water. “I got up! I got up!” I yell. Everyone on the boat cheers. I rearrange my feet on the board, check that my shoulders face the correct way, tilt my hips and creep towards that sweet surf spot in the wake. I bail and try again.

When I drop the rope for the first time and surf the wake I am the happiest person on Lake Koocanusa. A natural I am not, but the music beats through the boat’s speakers and my heart is full. 

Caro is more than encouraging. By the time I’ve finished surfing I feel confident and can’t wait to come back. High-fives delivered, Caro does a surf session for us behind the boat and I am amazed at her skill—she moves fluidly with the water. She does tricks I don’t understand and it’s incredible to watch.

When the sun sets, we head back to the houseboat, make dinner and sit around a roof-top fire. Today was a really good day. I thank Caro for the opportunity to challenge myself, to help me do something I’ve been afraid to do for a long time.

Then Brett says the truest truth of the day.

“The water sports curse is lifted.” 

For more information on H2O School Ltd, visit www.h2oschoolbc.com or call (250)278-SURF (7873).