By NATALIA HAWK
There are some sports that are so obscure that they’re just completely off my radar. Ultimate Frisbee. Curling. And… wakeboarding.
Who knew wakeboarding was a sport – a highly competitive one with international tournaments and lots of athletes? I thought it was just something people occassionally did on lakes if they had some spare time and access to a boat.
But no – it’s an action sport, just like snowboarding, surfing and skateboarding. And there are people making a profession out of wakeboarding. There are even women making a profession out of wakeboarding – which is not exactly easy for women in any sport, let alone such a male-dominated board sport.
One of these women is 30-year-old Amber Wing. She’s been wakeboarding for 10 years and spends the great majority of her time in the US, competing on a pro tour called “Queen of Wake”. Just a month ago, she won the tour after coming second at the World Championships. She also won the tour in 2011.
While she competes in female events now, it hasn’t always been the case. Back in 2005, Amber competed on the Australian Men’s Pro Tour – simply because there wasn’t enough support for a female event. After making it through to the semi finals, she managed to organise a Women’s Pro Tour for the following year.
She’s always been passionate about getting other women to push themselves and progress. She was the first female to land a 720 degree spin using 2 different rotations (a really cool trick) and was also the first female to land a 900 degree spin. Kind of amazing.
I had a little chat to her about how she got started in wakeboarding and what’s inspired her along the way. Have a read:
N: How did you get started in wakeboarding?
A: I actually did a lot of gymnastics when I was younger – and I really wanted to go to the 2000 Olympics in Sydney. But I injured my ankle and just couldn’t come back from it – I couldn’t do training the way I used to do it. So in that time, I just had a go at wakeboarding. You know, just strapped it on.
N: Do you have to have a natural talent to be really good at wakeboarding? Or can anyone get to be quite good at it?
A: Anyone could be good at wakeboarding. It helps if you have surfed or skateboarded or snowboarded before. Also – doing gymnastics helped for the aerial descents and flips. It made my learning process a little quicker because when I was in the air I knew how to quickly get back to my feet. Then it was just a case of spending a lot of time on the water and getting knowledge on the board.
N: How did you start competing professionally?
A: My first professional competition was competing in NSW regionally, then a Planet X event. Anyone could turn up, pay an entry fee and try and qualify. I was like, “yeah I’m going to do this. I’m going to try and qualify.” My mum always jokes that she was expecting me to come back to work in the afternoon, she didn’t think I would make it through the first round. I actually ended up making finals at that event.
N: You had to compete with the boys, there was no girls comp – is that right?
A: Yeah – and once I had won the state championships, I decided to follow some of the Aussie blokes and compete in America on the pro tour. Then when I got back, the Australian boys had made an Australian pro tour. They had got to know me in the US competing on the tour and actually invited me to ride on the Australian pro tour.
When I first got into it I’d hear stuff like you know, “a girl can’t olly” (a trick on the board). Every time, I just took that as ‘I’m going to show you that I can do it.” It pushed me harder. Coming into higher end of the professional’s team in America, I’m the only female trying to deal with my contracts and earn more money and meet a team manager who is down with other guys on the team. That makes it quite hard to get paid what they get paid.
N: How have you actually managed to make a living out of such a male-dominated sport?
A: When I came over here, there were two or three girls make a living out of it – they were American girls and so I just looked at them and thought okay, I need to be like them. So March – November I need to wakeboard as much as them. In the winter I should go back to Australia and promote what’s happening in America.
And instead of looking at what the girls actually did on and off the water, I’d look to what the guys did and try and do more of what they would do. They do a lot of photo shoots and try and film a lot and try and get more exposure by doing that. Calling publishers and videographers and getting in front of the camera. So I tried to do that all the time as well as being involved in competitions.
N: What do you think is required to get more women involved in these kind of actions sports?
A: More women need to be working in these companies. If there was more women in marketing in companies then they would have more girls out at the events which in turn might teach more girls to wakeboard, put more girls on their products, sell more products. It’s sort of a whole big circle.
N: Any advice to pass onto girls hoping to make a living out of sport?
A: My main advice is to work as much as you can, and prove them all wrong. Don’t listen to anyone who says you can’t do it, because with enough time and enough passion you can do whatever you want and achieve whatever you want. Work hard, train harder and believe in yourself.
And in other sport news this week:
Sally Pearson, Australian female hurdler, has split with her coach Sharon Hannan. Hannon coached Pearson to Olympic glory, but after a meeting on the Gold Coast this week Pearson decided it was time to go in a new direction, saying: “The time is right for us to go our separate ways. Sharon has made me into a Champion but I feel that to move to another level I need to freshen up my approach to training.” Pearson says she will continue to contribute her success to her former coach.
Hockeyroos legend Alyson Annan has been inducted into the Sport Australia Hall of Fame. Annan was a two-time winner of the World Player of the Year award and scored a total of 166 goals for Australia, as well as 228 international caps. She was an integral player during the Hockeyroos string of wins and world domination from 1993-2000. Annan is currently living in Holland with her partner and two children and coaching. She tweeted “I’d like maybe to return to Australia and put back into it what it gave me.
Two women are in the running to become 2013 Athlete of the Year. Caroline Buchanan (cycling – BMX) and Cate Campbell (swimming) are two of the six athletes vying for the title, with the winner being announced in Canberra on November 14. Caroline won not one, but two world championships in 2013, including the BMX world title and the UCI Four Cross Championship. Cate won four medals at the 2013 World Swimming Championship in Barcelona, including gold in the 100m freestyle.
The Australian Diamonds have won the Constellation Cup series after defeating New Zealand in the fourth Test. The Diamonds now lead the series 3-1 after their 52-47 vicotry at Rod Laver Areana on Monday night. The final netball game is being played in Canberra on Sunday. This is the first time Australia has won the series since 2011.
Corene Strauss has been named as the new CEO of the Men of League Foundation. The Men of League president, Ron Coote, said Strauss was a standout candidate due to her extensive experience in the not-for-profit sectore; Strauss worked for Legacy over the past 7 years as the national marketing manager, overseeing exceptional growth in both revenue and reputation. Strauss said she was looking forward to the new opportunity to combine her love of the game with her drive for making a difference in the community, saying: “After my time with Legacy, I believe my experience can help build Men of League’s capacity to assist those in need in the rugby league community. I particularly look forward to working with the NRL to forge greater tires and build awareness of this great organization.”
Have you seen anything in women’s sport that you want to talk about this week?