Waterskiing and wakeboarding without a boat

Of all the weird ideas, right?  Who ever heard of waterskiing or wakeboarding without a boat?  I certainly hadn’t up until not too long ago.  Having learned to water ski the usual way on summer afternoons at our Canadian prairie lake, it never occurred to me there was any other way to get pulled around the water’s surface.

But the not-so-little-any-more red-haired girl came home from a birthday party a while back with tales of waterskiing at a lake only a few minutes’ train ride from our place.   “There’s no boat – you’re towed along by a cable,” she said.  “It was fun, but I never got out of the water.”

“Don’t worry,” I told her.  “We’ll go back this summer and we’ll give it another try.”

It’s not at easy as it looks.

Once fitted out with your wetsuit and gear you stand in line for the lift, side-stepping down the ramp to the launch area.  When it’s your turn on deck you stand on a plastic grass pad and grab ahold of the handle.

The operator sitting in a booth beside you gives newcomers like us a few tips on how to get ready.

“Stand on that red stripe, sit right down on the back of the skis, and make sure you don’t get pulled too far forward when the rope tightens.”

Sounds all right, but once you get going?  The contraption that sends you skimming around the lake is not much more than a huge cable loop strung around five pulleys suspended about 10 metres above the water. 

As your rope goes around each pulley – assuming you actually manage to launch OK –  you have to position yourself just right in the water so that not too much slack builds up, otherwise the force of the rope tightening again after it rounds the pulley will jolt you forward – if you manage to stay up – or rip the handle out of your grasp and send you for a flying face-plant.

That happened to both of us a couple of times before we got the hang of it.  We each had to walk back from the far end of the lake after having fallen half-way around, but by the time our two-hour ticket was up we’d each made it four times around in one go.  That’s how many turns you’re allowed before you’re supposed to drop the tow for the next person waiting in line.

We could have bought a day ticket, but we also wanted to do a little bike ride through the countryside afterward, so the two hours were just right.  My arms were aching by then anyway, so I was glad to get on the bike and let the legs take over.  But on the train ride home, we already made plans to try it with a wakeboard next time.

For a look at the little red-haired girl’s second time up on the water, I present you one of the shortest videos you’ll ever see on youtube:

If you’re near Hamburg and want to give it a go, you have to get yourself out to Pinneberg, a suburb 25 minutes or so by train northwest of the city.  From the S-Bahn station the lake is an easy five-minute walk through a park alongside the tracks back toward Hamburg.

11 Responses to “Waterskiing and wakeboarding without a boat”

  1. August 6, 2010 at 9:54 am

    Chip off the old block, eh? The InHamburg family is sehr sportlich.

  2. August 7, 2010 at 3:38 am

    Now, that looks like fun! Less dangerous than with boats, too, I should think. There are too many accidents around here in the summer with too many ski-boats and too much beer on the lake.
    I got through high school mostly unscarred, but still carry the shadow of a nice slice from a slalom water ski.

    Kiteboarding is huge down the coast, around Corpus Christi – also windsurfing. The winds there are stronger than ours and steady – they have competitions there all the time because of the dependable conditions. Sometimes, the competitions move offshore when the Gulf flattens. It looks to me like you’d have to be in really good condition, though – they track for miles.

  3. 4 writechic
    August 15, 2010 at 3:29 am

    Looks like a great way to spend a couple hours! Was it cold?🙂

    I dropped a postcard specifically for you in the bottom of my Toledo Poor Unfortunate Soul story😀

    • August 16, 2010 at 3:42 am

      Oh, yes I saw that! It made my day.🙂

      The water was not that cold, though once you got out, it was chilly in the breeze. We wanted to go back to try out wakeboards, but I sliced up my finger something bad the other day and so that was that…

  4. 6 writechic
    August 16, 2010 at 3:55 pm

    Too bad about the finger! Wakeboarding might have provided the chance for fancy tricks. 🙂

    (I operate under the assumption, of course, that two skis preclude tricks unless one considers accidentally tangling oneself into a double pretzel a trick. That would be my fate.)

    • August 16, 2010 at 6:09 pm

      It was so nasty. I sheared my middle finger’s nail nearly clean off by accidently putting it through my bike’s brake disk while the damn thing was spinning. Had to go to a clinic, get it properly cut off, bandaged, tetanus shot, the works.

  5. August 17, 2010 at 1:51 pm

    Very cool. And the red-haired girl did good! On my one and only waterskiing attempt fell in the water and held on while the boat dragged me along. Funny but not so cool. I should come to Pinneberg to get some skills.

  6. 9 Anette
    September 7, 2010 at 4:34 pm

    Ooh, I just found your blog through a couple of links from the freerange blog. I’m in Upstate NY but my mom lives in Hamburg so my sons and I are back there every summer — I actually grew up in Schenefeld. Do you know the minimum age for this? It looks like a perfect way to spend a day next summer!

    • September 7, 2010 at 9:44 pm

      Hi Anette,
      Thanks for dropping in and having a look.
      As far as I know they can go as long as they can swim, but you might want to give them a call first just to make sure. They have everything there for rent including wetsuits, though on a hot summer day I don’t think you’ll need them.

  7. November 15, 2013 at 2:34 pm

    Yeah! wakeboarding is amazing! and in the cable park, you can practice more effectively as a beginner🙂 Best way to learn to get on the board, go forward, do little jumps and use the ramps🙂 and cheaper than behind the boat! Used to be my every-weekend thing😛
    Check out how it the cable parks are in North Germany:

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