One of the activities I pre-booked for our last break in Center Parcs (read my hints and tips post here) was Cable Ski. I’d seen it in action when we were there a couple of years ago but due to no slots being available (it’s always best to book activities like that before you go), I added it to my list knowing that we’d be back at some point and I could do it then.
We went in April. Remember the temperatures in April? And the temperatures we had in the few months preceding April? Now consider what the water temperature in the lake at Elvedon might have been… I can confirm there was no ice on the surface, but it wasn’t much warmer than freezing. Five degrees apparently. FIVE. Oh my. This explains why I had to squeeze my body into two – yes two – 5mm thick winter wet suits before I took part in this experience. Not an easy feat with a body like mine, or with any body for that matter!
Anyway, I’m well ‘ard (!), no cold lake was going to put me off having some fun on the water.
Cable ski is an easy way to give wake boarding, water skiing, or (in my case, as I am a beginner at these water sports) knee boarding a go without the need for a boat. It is a 400m cable tow that pulls you along the water at 15-17 miles an hour while you have your knees on a small board.
After getting our wetsuits on and a short safety briefing and instruction session, we all lined up to take our turn. We had 90 minutes in total and there must have been 20 or more of us in the group – I wondered how long it would take before I got a turn, but it soon became apparent that the line moves very quickly as people take their turn and fall in…! You kneel on your board on the launch jetty, hold onto the tow line, and wait for it to engage and pull you onto the surface of the water. The idea is that you steer the board by shifting your bum so the line is always taught – if it goes slack you will either sink, or you risk your arms being pulled very hard as it tightens up again.
I concentrated so hard as I watched the cable engage and start to move. I’ve jet skied and surfed before so I already had an idea how to make things like this sit on the water evenly, so the weight distribution wasn’t a problem, but I’d watched person after person get yanked off the side and straight into the water without even making it to the first turn; I was concerned I would simply not be able to do it. There were a number of instructors helping us out and one of them, a lovely lady, offered me some words of encouragement just before my turn that really helped. I got my body ready – a tight tuck with my elbows firmly in my sides – and allowed my board to move off the jetty and onto the water.
15 miles an hour doesn’t sound like much but that cable really moves; I pulled my elbows into my waist as much as I could manage and shifted my bum as instructed to keep that cable taught. I couldn’t quite believe it when I made a complete lap on my first attempt, but as I started thinking “oh I’ve made it all the way around” I lost concentration, let the line go slack, and went into the lake head first.
Wow. Cold!!! It took my breath away. I am a strong swimmer, or rather I was a strong swimmer once upon a time, and I have had experience of swimming in lakes and the sea, so I was surprised when I needed a few seconds to catch my breath and calm myself down before grabbing my board and swimming out of the way of the circuit. My head and hands were instantly frozen (okay, not quite literally, but close!), and the one centimetre of wetsuit I was wearing restricted my movement considerably. But I swam over to the rescue boat, hauled myself in (with a little help!), and enjoyed the rest as we picked up another couple of people before heading back to the jetty. I’d done it once and I was determined to do it again – I love messing about on and in the water and I was in my element!
My next few goes were less successful. There was a fine line between incredible concentration (and therefore painful facial expressions) and enjoying it (and therefore looking relaxed) – one way and I could do it, the other way I fell in. I made it anywhere between half way and two thirds of the way round for about four or five goes, each time losing control and heading head first into the water. It’s a good job I don’t mind getting my hair wet! LincsGeek captured this rather awesome dismount – sadly not me doing tricks, but for some unknown reason I thought I might be able to recover!!!! I blame the cold! The last couple of times I fell in I found it incredibly difficult to get myself back out of the lake – my arm strength was taking a battering and I was heavy and tired. I took one last go, making it all the way round before choosing to let go and sink gracefully to avoid any more arm strain. Oh how I enjoyed a long warm shower after all that!
A word of warning to anyone thinking of giving cable ski a go at Center Parcs or anywhere else. This is an extreme water sport. You need to be a strong swimmer, have strong core and arms, and have the determination to not let falling in over and over again put you off. If you don’t like getting wet, cold, tired, achy, or can’t hold your own body weight with your arms, then think carefully. I love the water and that part didn’t phase me at all, but I underestimated the strength I would need to keep pulling myself out of the lake onto the jetties (I couldn’t reach the lake bed most of the time so had nothing to bounce off) and I got very tired very quickly, not helped of course by the cold water.
I am not kidding when I say I hurt after this; within a few minutes of finishing my session it was painful to put my harms above my head, and removing the two thick wetsuits made me shed actual tears. The stiffness soon followed, and the aching lasted a few days, mainly my shoulders and arms. I may have mentioned this at the time, I am afraid that I gave into the need to whinge somewhat, and think I annoyed everyone! I didn’t do any permanent damage (as far as I know, although my right shoulder is still a bit twingy, no idea if that is related!), though, so all is well.
Having said that, it was so much fun. I would even consider doing it again. Maybe. Actually I have an opportunity as we’re going back to Elveden early next year, but I might give it a miss in favour of another experience instead. Maybe something else from my list. I would certainly like to give water skiing and wake boarding proper a go, somewhere hot, with a boat, and I would do it better prepared, knowing what to expect from the tow line.