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Andy Parsons

Did you know you can go wakeboarding in central London? We gave it a go

By Time Out London contributor
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Brave enough to take on the Thames? Carl Anka goes from novice to semi-competent wakeboarder with a lesson in Canary Wharf... 

‘When you start being towed, your initial instinct will be to bend your arms. Whatever you do, don’t do that,’ instructor Jon tells me at the start of my afternoon wakeboarding at aquatic adventure centre WakeUp Docklands in Royal Victoria Dock. A cross between a wizened surf bum and that cool uncle who taught you how to ride a bike, Jon explains that WakeUp’s system will pull me through the waves using a tow cable rather than a boat. It sounds chill until he adds: ‘You can choose to fight two tons of metal, but believe me, you will over-rotate on the board and end up binning it.’

So what do I do when Jon rigs me up on the cable? I bend my arms. And bin it. Again and again and again. Jon tells me that WakeUp gets a surprising number of people rocking up who aren’t the most water-confident, but with the help of their team, I expect things work out rather well. Jon’s co-worker Zac comes over several times during my session to help me out, recommending I take a breather before emerging from the water and try my best to keep a nice body position. He’s just one of loads of friendly instructors and water-sport aficionados around who are happy to help me master the waves.

And when I do get to that point, it’s thrilling. Carving up the water with Canary Wharf in the background is the closest I’ll ever get to being James Bond, and by the mid-point of my session my concerns are less about binning it and more about pulling off a ‘cornering routine’ – the wakeboarding equivalent of a slalom. It feels like being transported out of London and into a beach holiday. Except with more plunges into the Thames. I’ve rarely been more adrenaline-pumped and chilled out at the same time.

Capping off my day with a gentler paddleboarding session (I fall in the water. Again), one afternoon at WakeUp has me considering packing in my job and dedicating my life to the sea. I don’t surf, I don’t snowboard, but somehow in just 30 minutes on the Royal Victoria Dock, I’m suddenly a semi-competent wakeboarder. 

WakeUp Docklands. Silvertown DLR. £35.

Don't fancy wakeboarding? Try abseiling down the ArcelorMittal Orbit.

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