Wakeboarding for the beginner and the pro … and a dolphin, otter or manatee, if you are lucky !
In the strip of water between Malaysia and Singapore, beside the Immigration checkpoint in Tuas, beneath the arc of the bridge that connects the two countries (the Malaysia-Singapore Second Link), alongside what is possibly the last of Singapore’s ‘green’ coastline unmarred by buildings (the land belongs to the army), around a small island of mangrove – trees, rocks and one flowering bush – in sight of the fishing kelungs of Malaysia; we drift and surge and stop and spend a couple of hours in a speedboat, equipped with a board, a rope and the desire to max it.
Max it out on the wake is their catchphrase and MAXout HydroSports makes it possible through wake-boarding, wake-skating and wake-surfing.
On a summer evening, three boys and the pro’s from MaxHydroSport – Ryan (of the colorful tattoos) and Ivan – take the speedboat and head out into the waters of the Tengeh Reservoir to wakeboard.
The sky is overcast (the westward drifting haze from the forest fires in neighboring Sumatra, Indonesia) and the skyline of Johor Baru is lost in the dimness.
In turn, each boy secures his lifejacket and board and slips into the water, bobbing. The boat’s engine rolls over and it gathers speed and the line stretches taut; a boy rises from the water and balances and falls, letting go of the rope and the boat circles and returns and it starts all over again.
And then, suddenly, without warning, they are skimming the waters, each one upright and bathed in spray and you believe that yes, anything is possible even if they have never done it before.
Relax dude, yells Ryan over the sound of the motor and the wind and you wonder if the boy at the end of the line, far away, can even hear, and then Ivan communicates the same through hand and body gestures, and the boy changes stance, makes adjustments.
Bend your knees, straighten your back, look up, look up, look at the rope, you know what I mean dude ?
He’s doing it, mutter the two in the boat, willing the beginner to find his equilibrium; these teenagers who have been friends now for over eleven years.
Wake-boarding – through a combination of water skiing, snowboarding and surfing techniques – lets the enthusiast (when he is doing it right) ride the surface of water, on a board, holding onto a rope attached to a boat.
And when he has mastered his balance and remains upright for the length of the ride – and depending on his ability, experience, weight, the size of the board and the condition of the water – he begins to own the sport, the adrenalin of maneuvering and tricks, the jumps or ollies, moving outside the wake or cutting into it.
Squat man, take it from the hips not the shoulders. Don’t lock your knees, relax dude. Let go of your left hand. Take it slow and easy.
And the boy squares his shoulders and angles his hips and blinks the spray from his eyes and everybody is smiling and high fiving.
They take turns.
Ryan speaks briefly – tips, suggestions, instructions; they nod their heads and bob in the water and soon the rope is stretching taut and a body rises out of the water and spume and the experience is underscored by the bass and rhythm of music from an iPod near the steering wheel and another speedboat passes and one wake becomes two and the rope flies free and a boy slides easily into the water, waiting for the boat to come around, come back.
Surrounded by water, this Little Red Dot of an island offers myriad opportunities to canoe, sail catamarans and dinghies, windsurf, scuba dive, kayak, water ski and stand-up-paddle board.
Private operators abound, and the Ryans and Ivans with their PPCDL’s (Powered Pleasure Craft Driving Licenses) and speed boats make it possible to test oneself, learn the sport, try it out and know you can; so when it is time to return and the air is cool and the wind blows sweetly, you know this is an afternoon well spent, and all that is needed to make it perfect is a chance encounter with a sea eagle or an otter or a dolphin or – best of all – a manatee, native to these waters.
Photographs by Anita Thomas.