Photo by Bryan Soderlind
Sports and Recreation - Staff Picks
Published: July 12, 2011
Best way to pass time in a drainage ditch
When former Orlando resident Thomas Horrell first set foot on a wakeskate – basically, a wakeboard on which your feet are unattached – in the late ’90s, he was thrilled, but also bothered: The new sport was far less accessible than its inspiration, skateboarding. “It was super expensive to have a boat or a jet ski or anything like that,” he says.
Horrell found his solution in 2003, at an improbable location: the small Opa-locka airport in north Miami. On the terminal runway, he noticed a fuel hose being reeled quickly into a machine-powered spool. The light bulb flicked on. “I was like, ‘Yeah, we can definitely do something with this for wakeskating,’” he says. Before long, the winch was born.
The modern wakeskate winch features a spool of up to a thousand feet of rope and a motor with a horsepower usually in the single-digits. Firmly fastened to a trailer hitch, or a tree, or a rock, or any sturdy/heavy object, the winch can tow a wakeskater across the water, the same way a small motorboat would. It’s the perfect solution for watersports enthusiasts on a budget – or those unable to cajole friends into towing them behind a boat for hours a day.
But “winching” has become far more than a money saver – it’s opened up new worlds for wakeskaters looking to tackle obstacles in places where no boat or jet ski could safely go, such as drainage ditches, lakeside ledges, dams and “gaps” between water bodies with different elevations. Orlando is host to a vibrant winching scene – not surprising, considering that it was essentially born here (Horrell lived in Orlando between 1998 and 2006). For proof, Google the phrase “DIY with Ben Horan” and you’ll find a video of wakeskaters employing the winch at a spot near the 408 overpass and Anderson Street, performing varial kickflips and big spins over a drop between a drainage tunnel and a shallow retention pond filled with sludgy water. Other popular spots around town include the sloping concrete ledge behind the storage units near the intersection of Lee Road and Edgewater Drive, and the “MetroWest Gap,” a decorative waterfall near Valencia State College’s West Campus.
Today, winching has spread to all latitudes of the extreme-sports spectrum, such as skateboarding and snowboarding – if you’re still online, check out Red Bull’s “Winch Sessions.” In sum, we’re excited about the enormous potential of the winch, but it may only be a matter of time before we open the newspaper and see “winch” and “hazing” in the same paragraph.
Best endangered outdoor drinking spot
1014 Miami Springs Drive, Longwood; 407-862-1500; wekivaisland.com
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