Words by Poppy Smith
What is it? Europe’s largest wakeboarding and music festival
Where is it? Abersoch, North Wales, UK
When is it? 14-16th July 2006
Who? Pro and amateur wakeboarders from around the world come to compete, plus 10, 000 up-for-it Welsh ravers let off the leash for the weekend.
Why? Nowhere else are you going to see some of the best pros in Europe, USA, South Africa and Australia all in one pond, and in such beautiful surroundings. The music festival, although not a Glastonbury line-up, is worth going for alone. Which is what many of the locals do. Wakeboarding? What’s that?
Never trust Mulitmap. If this trip has taught me one thing alone (other than don’t trust your brother to pack the tent), it’s that Multimap wildly underestimates journey time. Three hours my a*se. More like six, and then some for queuing time to get into the site. But the beautiful scenery of North Wales in the summer softens the agony of never ending journey, and it didn’t seem to put any of the 10,000 visitors off.
Arriving on the Friday night, too late to see the amateur and ladies wakeboarders pull off some reportedly impressive tricks at Pwllheli Marina (thanks Multimap) where Kris Janczuk won the Junior mens competition followed by Dave Bloor and Ben Cuncliffe, we were still stuck in the queue to get into the site when the action moved to Absersoch beach for the Big Air Classic. Both pro and amateur wakeboarders hit the floating kicker pulling off some massive tricks with the (very hot) Ben Hitch claiming the prize for the biggest air of the day.
We were, however, in time to see a hill in the middle of the Welsh countryside turn into a mini-Glastonbury style rave. Thousands of Welsh teenagers gurned, sorry, danced to the sounds of Adam Freeland, The Freestylers and the big man himself, Carl Cox, who headlined the main stage. Being of more mature years, I relived my late teens in the drum and bass tent with High Contrast, who, it turns out, is Welsh.
There’s nothing quite as unpleasant as waking up in a tent on a scorching hot day. The subsequent scrabbling and panic to get the zip open only slightly marred my smugness at getting nearly eight hours sleep in a poorly erected tent under a floodlight next to a sound system. Two words: earplugs and eyemask; the essentials of camping. Especially when your brother has packed the inner to a 2-man tent with the outer of a 4-man.
It was a short drive from the festival site to Pwllheli Marina (or a long queue for the shuttle bus if you don’t take your car) to watch some of the biggest names in wakeboarding compete for the title of Waketsock 2006 champion. Having never seen pros wakeboard before, it was a pretty impressive display from some of the best in Europe, USA, South Africa and Australia. The girls were first up, which was pretty mean as the tide wasn’t fully in so the sliders (rails) were a lot higher out of the water than when the guys started hitting them. However, you’ve got to give it to them: those girls have got balls of steel to hit the massive metal girders. Argentinean Robbie Rendo came top, making it nearly the whole way along the rail, with Jess Hilbury a close second. Winner of the men’s title this year was Dan Nott, who pulled of some huge tricks both on the rail and off the kicker. Second was Nick Davis with Ben Hitch coming in third.
Feeder and The Zutons were headlining Saturday night’s proceedings, but one night under canvass was enough for us, so after seeing some wakeskating on the Pool Gap – a huge rail suspended between two pools at the festival site, we begun the long journey home.