Snowboard shop owner tests wakeboard venture

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— Most business people avoid making waves they keep their heads down and their focus on the bottom line. Not Chris Smith.

Smith is setting out to make big waves or, more accurately, big wakes.

Smith, the longtime proprietor of Powder Pursuits Snowboard Shop, has launched Steamboat Water Sports and has a concessionaire's permit to teach wakeboarding and water skiing at Stagecoach State Park. The emphasis is on the former, because the comparisons to snowboarding are so direct.

"It's the most similar thing you can do to snowboarding," Smith said. "It's almost exactly the same. You edge and turn with toe-side and heel-side turns."

Of course there's one major difference. Instead of channeling the kinetic energy provided by gravity, like snowboarders do, wakeboarders are tethered by a tow rope to a powerful boat. Smith has invested $35,000 in the purchase of a "Supra Launch" boat with "V drive." Its high transom in the middle of the boat and adjustable ballast are meant specifically for wakeboarding.

The high transom makes getting up on a wakeboard easier, and it's already easier than getting up on a slalom water ski, Smith said.

"It's super easy to get up because you have so much surface area (on the bottom of the wakeboard)," he said.

Snowboarding is all about getting air, pulling off a trick, and making sure one is "fully tweaked."

That's where the ballast comes in, Smith said. Wakeboarders launch themselves off the curl of the boat's wake. The size of that curl is determined by the amount of weight in the boat, Smith said.

He can adjust the size of the wake to match his clients' abilities simply by pumping water in and out of the ballast system.

The boat itself travels slower than the average water ski boat 18 to 22 mphcompared to more than 30 mph for skiers

"You don't have to get air, but that's what it's all about," Smith said. "You can do inverts, front and side rolls and 720s."

Fred Bohlmann, park manager at Stagecoach confirmed Smith has a one-season concessionaire's permit to operate at the lake.

"I've been impressed with his vision and enthusiasm for the service he's providing," Bohlmann said.

Customers who meet Smith at the park's marina will need to purchase a daily parks pass for $4. Smith said he will arrange to meet clients either at his shop in Ski Time Square, or at the marina.

Smith said he's fully bonded and insured.

Powder Pursuits sells wakeboarding equipment as does One Stop Ski Shop in downtown Steamboat. Manager Pete Dawson said his shop also rents the equipment for people who have access to a boat. He thinks Smith's lesson program is a good way to grow the popularity of the sport.

"It has taken off much the same way that snowboarding has taken off from skiing," Dawson said. "With all the snowboarders out there, it's a natural."

Novice wakeboarders needn't invest in equipment to try the sport Smith provides wakeboards as well as wet suits and dry suits to keep his clients warm in case of cold water temperatures.

Steamboat Water Sports charges $100 per hour for the use of the boat, instruction and equipment. That charge can be shared by up to six people, a number that's easily accommodated in the 23-foot boat, Smith said.

Through June 20, he's offering a half-price special for locals. Smith will also quote special rates for corporate and family picnics, and for overnight wakeboard camps.

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