It takes more than a fancy boat and some snazzy equipment to turn a wannabe into a real wakeboarder.
That’s where Brian Barnett and Steve Wahlman come in.
In response to the growing popularity of wakeboarding n a relatively new sport where a person is towed behind a boat while their feet are strapped to a single board, much like a snowboard n and the rising number of boats heading towards Calaveras County lakes each weekend, the two Bret Harte alumni have teamed up to start A. Camp Wakeboard School at New Melones.
“We’ve really started to see (wakeboarding) grow,” Barnett said. “Everybody’s into buying boats. People are spending $65,000 on wakeboarding boats and they don’t even know how to wakeboard. I think it’s just something they want to do and they figure they’ll just figure out how to do it later. And that’s hopefully when they call us to teach them.”
The A. Camp Wakeboard School offers instruction in wakeboarding and wakeskating n a variation of wakeboarding where there is nothing holding the riders feet to the board, only grip tape, much like a skateboard.
“It’s a mix between surfing and snowboarding because you’re out there in the water surfing around only with the wake of a boat to jump up and do flips and tricks like you can do with snowboarding,” said Wahlman, who has competed professionally in both wakeboarding and wakeskating.
Both Wahlman and Barnett were raised in Calaveras County and attended Bret Harte High School. After high school, they went their separate ways, but both eventually returned to the county.
Barnett, now a junior high math teacher at Mark Twain Elementary School, starred in more traditional sports like basketball, football, baseball, tennis and track, during high school. After graduating from Bret Harte, he went to Cal State Stanislaus where he played basketball for three years.
“They brought in a new coach. We butted heads and I decided to wakeboard instead of play basketball,” Barnett said.
It was around that time that a friend of Barnett’s was selling a wakeboard boat. Barnett decided to buy the boat and started wakeboarding regularly that summer.
“I had done it before, but that’s when I really started getting into it,” Barnett said.
Wahlman started wakeboarding at New Melones when he was only 12, and was sponsored by the time he was 17. After high school, he moved to Florida to wakeboard professionally.
“I pretty much taught myself how to wakeboard through trial and error while riding behind a Bayliner,” Wahlman said. “I was always flipping around and jumping around when I was a kid. I was always into that sort of thing. I started skateboarding at age nine and I snow skied when I was five.”
Back then, Wahlman said he was pretty much the only one wakeboarding out at Melones, but times have certainly changed as the sport has evolved into the mainstream.
That rise in interest got Barnett and Wahlman thinking about starting a school in Calaveras County.
“There’s wake schools everywhere, but there’s nothing here at Melones,” Barnett said.
One of their top students is Leila Mann, a senior at Calaveras High, who has wakeboarded in several competitions.
She said the easy-going nature of Barnett and Wahlman, along with their experience, makes them ideal teachers.
“Brian (Barnett) taught me how to wakeboard. It’s nice because he knows all the skills,” she said. “Brian and Steve really listen and give different pointers if you’re not understanding.”
Although it may be a fun hobby, Barnett was quick to point out that it’s not exactly the cheapest one. Wakeboarding boats alone run anywhere from $15,000 to $50,000 and up. The boards can cost anywhere between $250 and $600. Then there’s also the cost of gas to tow and run the boat.
“It’s definitely a rich man’s sport, but we manage,” Barnett said.
For more information regarding wakeboard and wakeskating lessons, contact Brian Barnett at 535-2143 or Steve Wahlman at 795-3960.
Contact Rachael Rajewski care of email@example.com.