If you were out on the Delta channels on Saturday, just a few miles east of Tower Park Marina, you might have seen five boats full of women of all ages having an excellent time.
This was no pleasure cruise. These girls were out to catch air, throw spins, carve the wake, grab boards and stomp every trick.
This is the fifth year of Girls Ride the Wake, a two-day clinic for women wakeboarders of all ages and skill sets. Riders as young as 8 and up to 56 years old set out on speedboats in the Delta channels to strap on a wakeboard and take to the water.
“I love seeing the girls get stoked on the sport, or to just have the chance to be close to these professional riders,” said Lindsey Sloatman, who has run the event for two years.
The event was started by professional wakeboarder Becky Carter, of the Nor-Cal Hyperlite team in 2008 when she realized there were very few girls-only events throughout the year. She talked with her friends and realized many of them were reluctant to ride in front of guys. Girls Ride the Wake was created as a chance to demo new boards, new boats and put beginning and amateur riders next to the pros for instruction and tips.
The point is having all girls on a boat, said Sloatman.
“In such a male-dominated sport, it can be intimidating, especially for girls who are just learning or trying it for the first time,” she said.
Wakeboarding is a kind of mix of snowboarding and water-skiing. Feet are laced into boots, which in turn are bolted to a slightly curved fiberglass board. Riders are towed behind a speedboat somewhere between 10 and 28 miles per hour while hanging on to 70 feet of tow rope. The riders use the twin wakes formed by the speeding boat to jump from side to side in the water, or to carve back and forth.
“Some of these girls are out there doing spins and flips and spinny flips,” said Sloatman. “It’s so much fun, especially with just a bunch of girls out there to encourage you. It’s amazing.”
This year, there was a majority of beginners, and more girls under 18 than there ever have been. Women came from as far as Texas, Idaho and Washington to ride wakes in the Delta.
Five professional wakeboarding ladies served as coaches to mentor and inspire the girls. That included Evelyn Nelson, of Hyperlite; Dani Petraitis of Liquid Force; and Andrea Ensminger, Shawna Hoffman and Raquell Hoffman, all of Connely Wakeboards.
At camp, there was a trampoline and two balance boards on rollers for practice and training. But most of the day was spent on the water.
The 46 girls had five boats this weekend. One was donated for the event by the Nor-Cal Hyperlite team, another by Superior Boat Repair in Sacramento and a third by Nautique. Three of them are G-series boats by Nautique designed specifically for wakeboarding by professional riders.
“It’s unheard of that amateur girls would get a chance to ride behind these,” said Sloatman.
Twelve-year-old Lexie Gonzales was having a wonderful day enjoying the boats.
“We’ve been out here for four hours, but I can go for a lot of hours,” she said.
Gonzales has been practicing her wake-to-wake jump, which requires a technical hip twist. Her sister Haylee Gonzales and friend Blair Beaumont came for the weekend as well.
“I love the family aspect. I love do to this,” Gonzales said.
The adult women at the clinic were just as excited.
Molly Hawken, 26, is a more advanced rider who won first place at Wake the Desert in Kennewick, Wash., and a cash prize of $50. She lives in Portland, where wakeboarding opportunities are harder to come by.
“In Oregon, the season is short. I spend all year long waiting for summer,” she said.
She likes offering tips to the younger riders.
“It’s cool to watch them ride and to help them progress,” she said. “There’s no pressure here to be as good as anyone else.”
Contact reporter Sara Jane Pohlman at email@example.com.