As an adventurous water baby living on an island of endless summer, I owe it to myself to explore every waterhole and aqua activity. Be it scuba diving, surfing, white water rafting, snorkeling or waterfall hunting, I never turn down a chance to get wet and wild in Bali’s beautiful nature. I am hopeless at board sports and my knowledge of wakeboarding is practically non-existent, but when I was offered an experience at the Bali Wake Park, I descended from the highlands of Ubud in a heartbeat.
Conveniently located in Benoa Harbour—15 minutes from Bali’s tourist hotspots of Kuta, Jimbaran and Sanur, an hour from Ubud and a 10-minute drive from Ngurah Rai International Airport—Bali Wake Park is the island’s first and only wakeboarding park, serving riders of all ages and skill levels since April 2015.
Encompassing state-of-the-art full size rotating cable systems surrounding a five-hectare saltwater lake with eight carriers (allowing up to eight people to ride at once), a two-tower system ideal for beginners and children and a multi-brand retail pro shop, the park introduces beginners to the thrilling sport of wakeboarding while providing experienced riders with the facilities to further hone their skills. Simply put, it’s wakeboarding while being towed by an overhead cable system instead of a boat, making it significantly cheaper, hassle-free and environmentally friendly.
Non-wakeboarders are also welcome to pamper themselves in the lovely day spa, check out the Ninebot (electric-powered recreational vehicle) or soak up the sun in the infinity pool overlooking the lake action. Foodies will not be disappointed with Made’s Warung (an outlet of Bali’s iconic restaurant chain) and an upscale Chinese seafood restaurant, Akame. For those with deeper pockets, the adjacent heliport promises to take you to great heights in style for a spectacular bird’s eye view of the island.
My one-hour daily riding pass, priced at IDR 400,000, includes a wristband (to be time-scanned at the beginning of each ride) and the use of basic equipment: a life vest, a helmet and a board—choose from beginner boards, skurfers, kneeboards or double skis. I decided the least intimidating one for a wakeboarding virgin was the kneeboard.
As with all sports, safety comes first. In less than four minutes, the Bali Wake Park introductory and safety video had me all revved up and ready to get onboard. If those young, gorgeous, sashaying bikini babes in the video can do it, how hard could it be? I signed the waiver, put on my helmet and life vest, said a little player and headed to the deck to for a crash kneeboarding course with the friendly instructor.
Placing my kneeboard on the start ramp, he eased me into a comfortable kneeling position, secured my legs with the knee straps and reminded me that most beginners tend to fall in the water at the launch stage. I took the handle from the cable operator, grabbed it firmly and got into launch position. As I leaned forward on my board, I kept my centre of gravity as low as humanly possible and my eyes fixed on the light above, anxiously waiting for it to turn green. I admit I was nervous. This reminded me of the first time I went skiing in Canada without much instructions, had cold feet and froze in absolute fear at the top of the slopes and had to take my skis off and endure the walk of shame downhill, much to the annoyance of my ski buddy.
It was too late to back down now. The light had just turned green. I braced myself for the initial jerk and held on for dear life. In a split second, the cable thrust me forward from zero to 25 kilometres per hour. I went off like a rocket. The pull was so strong and swift that I almost lost my grip but I promptly steadied myself. As my board stabilized, I straightened up and let the handle pull me along for a few exhilarating metres, zooming past strategically placed obstacles (for advanced riders only). Fast approaching ahead, I saw my very first corner marked clearly with two little red buoys. I leaned to the right side, putting most of my weight on my right leg. The board responded by steering to the right, just in time for me to go through the buoys. I did it!
I cleared two more corners and was well over halfway around the lake, beaming and screaming away. My complacency was short-lived. At the next corner, I forgot everything that the instructor taught me and panicked. I lost control of the handle and fell face down into the water. I laughed out loud as I regained my composure and make my way onshore. On the buggy ride back, my instructor divulged that it was the hardest corner in the park and commended my novice effort.
That challenge pumped up my adrenaline. Following additional coaching and tips from my instructor, I was primed and determined to tackle that tricky turn before my hour ended. I went for it, again and again unsuccessfully and I could feel my arms weakening and my grip loosening with every attempt but I refused to admit defeat. On my fourth round, I finally cleared it and came full circle! It was the most wonderful feeling in the world.
Before my hour was up, I decided to give my sore muscles a break and save the beginner board experience for another sunny day. Wakeboarding is a skill best learned with great patience along with determination. When you stumble and fall, you can choose to slink away and nurse your bruised ego, or you can smile, swim to the side of the lake, get back up and try again. The important thing is to listen to the instructions, never give up and enjoy the ride. That’s wakeboarding. Come to think of it, that’s life!
Photos by Meliana Salim unless otherwise stated.