A figure glides through the water then leaps, cutting a perfect arc across the wide fenland sky, before landing gracefully on the shining lake. Cheers and whoops erupt from the small party on the bank.
This is not me.
I am bobbing, cork-like, in the beginner’s lake nearby, two feet strapped to something akin to a snowboard, listening to instructions from Terry Hannam on how to wakeboard. I’ve just recovered from the hilarity of my graceless launch into the water, which involved much splashing and hooting as the chilly water found its way under my wetsuit, and am now in what can only be described as the birthing position, clutching the end of a rope, preparing to whizz out across the waiting deep.
Hannam’s Wake Hub, in the beautiful back of beyond near Ely, is run by brothers Ben and Terry (below), who set up these three purpose-built lakes two years ago. Having started out waterskiing, the pair then picked up wakeboarding as teenagers. It’s a dynamic sport, involving a board and a cable, which stretches overhead across the water like a zip wire. It’s operated mechanically from the shore, so there’s no need for a boat.
I feel the line go taut and soon I’m up and away, skimming across the water before landing with a plop at the opposite end. Faintly, I hear cheers from Terry and Ben – apparently not everyone gets upright, so to speak, on their first go. Still, I’m clearly a little way from jumps and tricks.
The rest of my beginner’s session goes surprisingly well. After mastering my positioning and stance, Terry teaches me a successful left turn – which involves more laughter and several face-fulls of water. By the time I emerge from the lake, mascara running down my cheeks, I feel thoroughly exhilarated and deeply entertained: I haven’t laughed this much in weeks. And apparently I’ve done really well. Who would’ve thunk it.
“I always say wakeboarding is 90 per cent confidence, 10 per cent skill,” says Ben. Terry agrees: “The people who don’t worry are the people who can do it. If someone hesitates when you suggest they’re ready for a backflip, they’re the ones who’ll hesitate when it comes to hitting that kicker.”
Ben and Terry, both respected coaches within the UK wakeboarding community, are clearly excellent teachers – they can also take you wakeskating (like skateboarding on water) and paddle boarding. All ages and abilities are welcome, from six years and up, from complete beginners to pros wanting to make use of the impressive ramps and obstacles in the main lake.
A couple of lads are on this now. “Owen’s been our most interesting experience,” Ben says, gesturing to the figure confidently operating the line. “He came down shortly after we’d opened and said he wanted to wakeboard, but it wasn’t until we got him changed that we realised he’s missing his leg from the knee down. But we didn’t treat him any differently; we’ve done some disabilities training and he has taken to wakeboarding faster than anybody. Last year he was rated about tenth in the UK.”
Adds Terry: “We try and give people a really good experience so they go away and tell their friends. People don’t think it’s for them until they try it!”
• The price for a one-hour introductory course, including 20 minutes on the water, is £45 per person.
• Group bookings, including stag/hen dos and children’s parties, are available by request.
• Equipment provided includes wetsuit, helmet, life jacket and board. Just bring a towel and a swimsuit to wear underneath.
• Hannam’s Wake Hub is located off the A10: heading towards Ely, turn right at the Lazy Otter pub and follow the blue arrows.