Growing wakeboarding on the Gold Coast

Lauren Hilder is a 27 year old administrative worker. But she’s also a champion wakeboarder. Brought into the sport by her brother who was a pro kite-surfer, she tells Samantha Morris that she didn’t really get into wakeboarding until very recently.

“When it wasn’t windy enough, he’d go up to the cable park and practice all his tricks,” she says of her kite-surfing brother Neil Hilder. “He invited me one day and I didn’t think about it until three years ago. I picked it up again and fell in love with it,” Lauren said. Just three years between getting back on a wakeboard and winning competitions. Wow.

“We had the nationals in April,” Lauren tells me. “And I placed third in pro women’s. So I guess that’s where you’d place me at the moment.”

Lauren is excited about the prospect of a new cable park on the Gold Coast. She’s referring to a proposal from people tied to the wakeboarding industry to develop an old quarry specifically for wakeboarding.

“I think it’s going to be a really good opportunity for the Gold Coast,”she said. “I think it’s going to bring in a lot more tourism – not just for the Gold Coast but also for wakeboarding.”

Lauren drives anywhere from 50 minutes to two and a half hours at the moment to train at either Logan or Bli Bli cable parks.

“Places like Germany they’ve got like 50 cable parks and look how small they are. It’s going to be really good for tourism. And hopefully it’ll be really good for the sport too.”

“It’s going to save me a lot of time and petrol money. Having it on the Gold Coast and only 10-15 minutes away is going to make a massive difference to training.”

William Owen-Jones is the Councillor for the Division in which the park is proposed. He tells Blank that the City has received an application, and while there’s been considerable and broad community support for it, officers are currently reviewing the application. There are potential concerns around noise and traffic as well as flooding.

“We’ll see where we go from there prior to Christmas,” the Councillor said.

“I can tell you that it’s got a clockwise and anti-clockwise cable proposed and there will be no motorised vessels,” Cr Owen-Jones said. “The cable has an electric motor so the loudest thing you’ll hear is people having fun and there’ll be a café onsite and ample parking.”

The Councillor tells us that the proposed site is currently zoned extractive industry – it’s got an existing concrete batching plant which will remain onsite, but in terms of the sand and gravel resource, there’s two lakes and there’s an application on one of the lakes.

“It’s entirely on private property and the landowner wants to see if he can get a material change of use up,” William said.

Lauren says she knows some of the people involved in the application – they have serious wakeboarding credentials and are passionate about boosting the sport as well as the Gold Coast’s profile as a wakeboarding destination.

When wakeboarders train and compete they do so across a combination of cable and boat and Lauren says that here on the Gold Coast you’ve only got a few cable options.

“There used to be a cable park at Runaway Bay and that’s closed down and funnily enough the whole system is in London,” she said. “Anyone that does cable either goes to Logan or Bli Bli – they’re the only two options within driving distance.”

But she says the cable scene is getting bigger with cable parks popping up wherever populations are growing. There’s one in Penrith, Logan, Bli Bli, Mackay and Cairns, Perth and a new one opening up in Melbourne.

Thankfully the Gold Coast has options other than cable which is evidenced by the large number of wakeboarders you can see on any given weekend across the Broadwater, our rivers, canals and even the open ocean.

Lauren explains that wakeboarding is something that appeals to people across a range of sports. As well as the obvious connection between kite surfing (when there’s no wind), we share stories of people using cable parks to do things like test new surfboards. It’s common for people to discover the sport through water skiing and Lauren says she knows of at least one professional female wakeboarder who made the leap from gymnastics.

There’s no question it’s a male dominated sport which is all the more reason for Lauren’s support of a Gold Coast cable park. Making wakeboarding accessible is key to growing its profile. The cable ski park at Logan regularly runs womens only sessions and womens’ competitions.

“It’s very male dominated but it definitely is getting better. The first women’s only video that came out, Sets in Motion – that kind of started things off – and they’ve slowly started advertising a lot more of the women’s side of the sport,” she said. And not just because the girls look good in bikinis, Lauren says people are actually starting to notice how good women’s wakeboarding is becoming and the ladies are getting air time for their skills rather than their looks.

But in the meantime, between her fulltime job and her training and competition regime, Lauren is a busy girl. With sponsors Hyperlite and Elevate throwing their weight behind her, she’s excited about the future of wakeboarding and she’s even more excited about the future of wakeboarding right here on the Gold Coast.

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