– Story by Toby Tannas Photography by Nina Dombowsky
Life begins at the end of your comfort zone—have you ever heard that nugget of wisdom?
I am a 40-something-year-old woman, moderately athletic, a bit of a control freak and slightly anxious about doing things I don’t know how to do. Can you relate?
I love spending time on the water and have dabbled in the hugely popular sport of wakesurfing over the past few seasons. I am comfortable behind my own boat but shy away from surfing with groups because I haven’t really nailed the technique. I never want to be the person who falls constantly, or worse, the one who can’t get up at all! After years of watching my friends channel their inner Kelly Slater, I have decided this is the year I “drop the rope” and “find the flow.”
My husband has signed me up for a lesson at The Kelowna Yacht Club Wake Sport School. (FYI, you don’t have to be a yacht club member to do this.) Inwardly, I cower at the thought of someone, probably half my age, scrutinizing my skills or lack thereof on a surfboard. With my goal in mind, though, I agree to the lesson.
The day arrives and as I walk down the dock toward a beautiful 2023 Supra SA gleaming in the sun, my hesitancy starts to melt away. Boat captain Sarah and instructor Georgie greet me warmly and I am instantly at ease. No intimidation here. I discover they are sisters with a passion for watersports. Their vibe is friendly and the focus is on fun. As we pull out of the slip, the knot in my stomach releases, replaced by anticipation and excitement. I make the decision to relax into the experience. I think I’m actually going to learn something today!
As we make our way across Okanagan Lake with Sarah at the helm, Georgie explains that she learned to ski and snowboard as soon as she could walk and her passion for board sports transferred easily from snow to water. She loves teaching kids to surf and wakeboard and apologizes in advance if she talks to me like I’m a child.
“We celebrate everything on this boat,” she explains. “We cheer when you get up, we cheer when you fall down; it’s not meant to be patronizing. It’s all about creating a fun and positive experience tailored to you and your skill level.”
It’s time to assess that skill level. Georgie delivers her safety message and gives a few pointers about getting up on the KANUK board she’s selected for me. I plunge into the water and within minutes I’m surfing behind the boat, the girls are cheering (of course) and we are on our way. Georgie gently guides me on foot placement, posture and technique. Through a few ups and downs, I work to find that sweet spot and eventually it pulls me in. I throw the rope. Sarah whoops from the captain’s chair, Georgie throws her hands in the air. The music is blasting and for a moment I am a surfer. It’s a fleeting moment as I lose the wave, but I feel victorious having achieved what I set out to do.
I get back in the boat feeling on top of the world and ask Georgie to show me how it’s really done. She’s game and watching her play in the wave and push her own limits is inspiring.
Sarah and Georgie’s passion for their work is infectious. They love to coach kids in the 10- to 14-year age range but wake sports camps are open to anyone seven years and up. When it comes to private lessons, there’s no age cap. They are for anyone with a desire to learn.
“We had a 62-year-old man a few weeks ago,” recalls Sarah. “He just wanted to see what all the hype was about. If you are comfortable on the water and you want to get up, we will get you up! Worst case scenario…you spend the day on the lake, in a beautiful boat with fun people!”
As Kelowna Yacht Club’s watersports and education manager, Sarah also conducts captaining lessons. These are designed to help drivers master the technique of pulling surfers and boarders. She’ll also guide you through the very technical navigation controls on today’s fancy surf boats or help you get to know your own boat a little better.
Back at the yacht club, as I walk the dock, other watersports staff stop to ask how it went, what boards I used and what I think of the new Supra.
I feel like I’m part of an unspoken club…the wakesurfing club. It’s not just for the cool kids, it’s definitely for all of us. I put my face to the sun and whisper quiet words of praise to my inner child for taking the reins today. It’s a heck of a lot of fun outside the comfort zone and I will definitely be back. (For more information on The Kelowna Yacht Club Wake Sport School go to kelownayachtclub.com.)