Sidelaunch Festival created a lot of traffic on and off the water at Collingwood’s harbour.
The annual waterfront celebration aims to include all sorts of sports and activities made possible by the town’s access to water, and in some cases the three or so metres of air directly on top of the water.
Cable wakeboarding was one such sport and the Sidelaunch Days festival featured a competition - complete with mid-air tricks and on-the-water action - smack-dab in the middle of the harbour.
The sport features a cable and attached rope and handle for the athlete. The cable is pulled at various speeds and the athlete uses the speed to perform tricks off of obstacles like ramps and rails set in the cable’s path.
Hosted in collaboration with Boarder Pass Wakeboard Parks, the two-day competition was filled with tricks, slips and tons of smiles. Two teams went head to head on Saturday, and on Sunday, competitors showed off their JAM style for a chance to win cold hard cash.
If the thought of gliding across the water at top speed and hurling yourself towards jumps and turns enticed you, Boarder Pass stuck around for two additional days to let the general public in on the action.
The event was led by Chris Smith, one of the founders of Boarder Pass, with the help of friends and bystanders throughout the day. Smith took guests through a detailed demonstration on land and in the water before passing them the handle for the cable and sending them on their way.
Smith controlled the speed of the cable and offered helpful tips for those trying it out for the first time.
Lars Salge and Tobias Miemann were visiting friends in town from Germany, and when they saw the obstacles in the harbour, they jumped at the opportunity to try the sport out for themselves. While Salge is an avid athlete attracted to anything on a board and in the water, Toby had never strapped on bindings before.
“It’s tough, you are so tired after 20 minutes, but it is so, so much fun,” said Salge. He jokes if he had a setup like Boarder Pass in his hometown, he would be competing in no time.
Both travellers had their fair share of wipeouts, but they soon got the hang of it and were ripping back and forth along the makeshift track.
It was Smith’s third year setting up camp in the Collingwood Harbour. He says the logistics of the space make it an ideal location to host events. Smith began Boarder Pass Wakeboard Parks with his business partner, Tim Nixon, in 2010 in their hometown of Sarnia. Within a few years, they expanded to locations in Port Colborne and Binbrook. Their mission is to introduce wakeboarding to communities in Southern Ontario that wouldn’t normally get exposed to it. He hopes by making the sport more accessible, more people will fall in love, allowing the wakeboarding community to develop further.
Smith used to work alongside Dean Collver in Sarnia many years ago. Collver, now the director of Parks, Recreation and Culture for the Town of Collingwood, followed the progress of Boarder Pass over the years and eventually reached out to Smith with the idea of hosting an event here.
And the locals love it.
Callum and Cole Henderson are avid wakeboarders behind a boat, but after they discovered Smith and his cable system at Sidelaunch Days last year, they couldn’t wait to give it another shot this time around.
“I’m definitely better,” said Cole, the younger of the two. “Falling is actually my favourite part, but I try to do a lot of tricks.”
Cable wakeboarding is said to be an easier way to learn the sport, due to the angle the rope pulls you.
Evan Reid was a pro wakeskater back in the day and met Smith many years ago while competing at numerous Boarder Pass events. Wakeskating is similar to wakeboarding, except the rider is not bound to the board in any way.
Reid has long since retired from the sport and settled down in Collingwood, but when he found out Smith was coming to town, he showed up twice on Tuesday to dust off some of his old tricks.
“Having something like this permanently in Collingwood is my life dream,” said Reid. “There is no better feeling than getting out on the water in the summer.”
For Smith, the thrill is providing the experience to others.
“I try to get out for a couple of laps every day, but given the fact that I’ve put myself in this coaching position for so long, I just love seeing the happiness it brings others,” he said. “It really resonates with me.”
Smith and his cable system are locked into Sidelaunch Days for two more years and given the lineup of riders he had both days, he can’t wait to be back.