Water sports can be the most exhilarating activities around—on or off the water. But they are not commonly taught in phys-ed classes, or at YMCAs or local recreation departments. There are camps and professional schools, but not everyone has the time or money for these things. Thus, amateur water sports clubs may be your best bet. Regardless of your age or experience level, a water sports club could be the best thing since the invention of the towrope.
- Clubs, of course give you opportunities to work on your skills and improve your technique, but they are so much more. First, a club may simply mean more time behind the boat. Water sports require at least three people to execute safely: the driver, the spotter and the rider. If you don’t have all three you shouldn’t be riding. As part of a club the chances are you’ll always be able to find people looking to go out.
- Second, you’ll have the chance to ride with other club members with more experience and training. Most are willing to share their secrets. Even if you don’t get formal instruction from them, you’ll probably learn a trick or two just from watching.
- Beyond education, clubs also offer emotional support and confidence. That’s key to building skills. As you get better, your club can help you get involved in competitions and shows, helping you build an identity in the sport. They may run group trips to tournaments outside your area that you would otherwise never attend.
The great part about water sports clubs is that they offer something for every level of rider, even ones who have never strapped on skis or a board. Some clubs divide participants into groups, such as those who are interested in competing, those who want to show ski, and those who are purely recreational skiers.
Perhaps most important, being part of a group is a great social experience. There’s no better way to make lifelong friends than to sharing stories of your greatest successes and best crashes.
Most clubs do require membership fees — monthly, yearly — that go into a common budget that most often supports general activities, boat upkeep (if the club owns its own), training clinics, and social events.
One of the oldest and largest clubs is USA Waterski (formerly the American Water Ski Association). Its grassroots programs comprise the National Ski League (NSL), the National Wakeboard League (NWL) and the National Barefoot League (NBL). These programs were designed to provide a fun, non-competitive approach to tournament participation. These events offer participants plenty of time on the water and personalized instruction. The NSL, NWL and NBL offer participants the opportunity to learn and compete with skiers and riders of similar abilities. http://usawaterski.org/index1.html
Another large association is the INT League. It provides competitive events in slalom skiing, wakeboarding, kneeboarding, and wakeskating that encourages participation for first-time contestants, as well as seasoned tournament competitors. Its divisions are based primarily on ability, although some divisions based on age and gender. http://intleague.com/