Water Sports

Walkin’ on Water

fall06-1TCI’s watersports repertoire now includes skiing, riding, flying and footin’.

Story by Doug Camozzi and J.P. Fidelle, Nautique Sports

In Biblical times, the supernatural feat of walking on water was done ever-so-gracefully – with no assistance from a boat with a 200 horsepower outboard engine or even the power of the wind! These days, watercraft and sails take the place of divine intervention and in the Turks & Caicos, you can see “water walkers” gliding along atop the beautiful turquoise seas in a variety of ways: using kiteboards, wakeboards, wakeskates, kneeboards, waterskis, and even one’s own feet!

For the last two decades, the Turks & Caicos Islands were best known as a world-class scuba diving destination, and are still consistently ranked as such. However these days, boards, skis and kites travel down the luggage carousel next to dive bags as watersports taking place “above” the Islands’ underwater realm rival scuba diving in popularity.

Besides parasailing, “water walking” sports such as waterskiing, barefooting, wakeboarding and kiteboarding all offer an exhilarating rush. Whether you are just starting on two skis, an avid skier on a slalom ski, catching big air on a kite or wakeboard or ripping across the water on your feet, the thrill is reflected in the crazy grin that’s sure to be on your face.

Waterskiing in Turks & Caicos is the cream of the crop. Miles of gorgeous, glass-like turquoise water, white sand beaches lining the way and very little boat traffic make this destination a top choice for tourists and locals. Best of all, Providenciales watersports operator Nautique Sports, based in Turtle Cove, teamed up with the Department of Environment & Coastal Resources in protecting the open waterways and coral reef systems of the TCI’s national parks. Ski zones have been established and the utmost respect for the ecosystem is a priority.

fall06-2Footin’, the sport of barefoot skiing, is one of the fastest and most exhilarating of the “water walking” sports. When performed on a glassy day on the north shore of Big Water Cay, the experience is close to the feeling one must get when taking that first step out of a plane at 14,000 feet with a parachute strapped to your back. Adrenaline courses through your body as the boat’s prop bites into the sea and begins its rapid push to 44 MPH. “The best way to describe the feeling of barefoot skiing is comparing it to a really good foot massage,” says Nautique Sports instructor, Doug Camozzi. Reflexology comes to mind as every pressure point in the foot is simultaneously stimulated to produce a common result of either a “thumbs up” or another international sign for surfing or boarding, the extended thumb and pinky finger wave.

In barefooting, the boat is traveling 42Ð44 MPH as you ski on a surface area of your foot about the size of a silver dollar, between your arch and heel. Some skiers ski forward and off the heel, but whatever position you ride in, one thing you are going to get in TCI is a really good foot burn. (The result of the epic flat water conditions that exist on many waterways around the Islands.) As the skier rides on “glass,” the water gets pretty slick and the feet get pretty hot. Friction at it finest! But most of the time, the skier thinks, “This is just too good to stop,” and eventually, your feet do get used to it and the burning subsides. Good practice is to get rid of your shoes early in life and walk around barefoot.

If footin’ sounds too intimidating, don’t despair. Waterskiing and wakeboarding are offered by a number of TCI sports operators, including Captain Marvin’s Parasail, J&B Tours, Silver Deep, Ocean Vibes and Nautique Sports. Waterskiing and wakeboarding are performed at much lower boat speeds than that of barefooting. Both share the common joy of gliding across crystal-clear water and looking down to see conch, starfish and the schools of fish swimming below you.

Wakeboarding has steadily gained in popularity and actually surpassed waterskiing as a favorite sport among all ages. Wakeboarding is performed by using a board similar to a snowboard with attached bindings to slide, glide and jump the wake while being towed with a 50Ð70 foot rope. Both snowboarding and wakeboarding use the method of “toeside” and “heelside” pressure on the boards’ edges to cause the board and rider to turn left or right directions.

In the water, the “rider” carves to the left and right while being towed by the boat. As the rider approaches the wake or “curl,” he or she can get “big air” by popping off of the top part of the wake. “Loading up” the rope is done by pulling the rope to the hip while approaching the first curl in the wake. The more speed gained by loading the rope, the bigger the “air” or jump.

Acrobatics similar to gymnastics are performed by the top riders of the world, including double back flips, front rolls and 360¼ and 720¼ rotations – all while in the air and being towed by a boat! Wakeboarding is very exciting to watch and even more, to strap one to your feet and give it a ride. Wakeskating is quite similar, except that you ride directly on the top of the board with your bare feet or with a pair of light skate shoes – no binding necessary! This sport is like skateboarding on water.

The skiing and wakeboarding techniques taught in the Turks & Caicos are the most up to date and advanced in the Caribbean market. Nautique Sports exclusively uses Mastercraft from Mastercraft and Edgewater of Turks & Caicos. (Mastercraft produced the first fiberglass water-ski specific tow boat in 1968 and has since become one of the world’s leaders in waterski and wakeboard sports equipment.) A boom system is used on Nautique’s ski-specific boat so the student can learn while holding on to a fixed bar only 7 feet from the coach. The next step is adding a 7Ð10 foot rope to the boom, giving the skier the experience of trying to balance themselves while being on the rope. Finally, the skier advances to a long line behind the boat and 95% of the time, gets up on the very first pull. “This has totally revolutionized our industry,” states Camozzi. “What was once very frustrating and challenging to new students has become a method of learning and excitement.” Wakeboarding and wakeskating are taught with the same progression method, allowing the rider to advance with confidence.

fall06-3Nautique Sports (www.nautiquesports.com) on Providenciales at the Graceway Sports Center (behind IGA Supermarket) and soon coming to Turtle Cove Marina, can get you hooked up for gear. They are representatives for Connelly skis, CWB boards, Liquid Force boards, Jet Pilot vests, Sportstuff towables, Straight Line ropes, ski gloves, Fox Racing board shorts and even the boats to tow you by. Their knowledgeable staff, all of which are USA waterski certified ski instructors, can guide you to the exact board or ski to make the most of your experience, not mention the coolest looking impact vests and board shorts this side of Miami! Towable tubes, wakeboards and water skis may be rented by the day or by the week if you are visiting the Islands and would like to try their own special brand of ski and ride action.

As waterskiing and wakeboarding have become popular in the TCI, a sister sport has arrived. When looking down the beach on the north shore of Providenciales, you can often see dotted in the skies a dance of colorful kites – those of a new type of childhood play. Kiteboarding, born and bred in Oregon’s Hood River, areas of Florida, and Cabriete and Sousa in the Dominican Republic, has gained a lot of interest and momentum in the Turks & Caicos Islands.

Kiteboarding is very similar to wakeboarding in that the toeside/heelside turning method is used to steer the board – while being pulled by wind power in a 12 meter sail or kite. The kite resembles a small or half-sized parachute that has lines running from the outside edges of the kite down to the handle that is gripped by the rider. A rider wears a harness similar to that used in windsurfing and uses either a specific kiteboard or a wakeboard. Some have foot straps for a simple entrance and release and some use full wrap bindings.

This sport is as thrilling as it gets! The TCI’s wind conditions and waters are perfect for the two local companies giving lessons. The process of learning on a training kite that is much smaller than the riding sail teaches the new rider the techniques of controlling the power of the wind. After mastering the training kite, students move to a larger version and then on goes the board. (Most have success after a day of training.)

So for a real thrill, walk up the beach and ask for Mustache Mike, Terry, Mike Haas or Randy and let them show you the tricks of the trade. You can also find them at Kite Provo (www.kiteprovo.com) or Windsurf Provo (www.windsurfingprovo.tc). A third school is coming soon that will specialize in instruction to children and young riders. No matter your age, you’ll be flying across the water before you know it!

Skiing, riding, flying or footin’ on the waters of the Turks & Caicos is a wonderful experience. Some will be enchanted by the excitement of ripping across turquoise glass on their feet; others will be drawn to a pull on a board; thrill seekers will discover a kite flying experience that trumps any in their childhood. Even seasoned scuba divers might be tempted to hang up the BC and regulator and turn to “walking on water.”

1 Comment

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Pam Evers
Feb 25, 2012 23:08

Can you skateboard in Providenciales? Are here any skateboard parks or locations someone can skateboard?

Kind regards,

Pam Evers

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