x Abu Dhabi, UAE Thursday 20 July 2017

Surfing the waves with Al Forsan in Abu Dhabi

Al Forsan International Sports Resort is located in Khalifa City, Abu Dhabi. Individual boarding lessons start at Dh200 per person for a half-hour class. We decided to give it a go.

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Wakeboarding, water skiing and kneeboarding all sound like exciting forms of exercise exclusive to beach babes in California or Australia. In fact, anything that involves a board and a large body of water, I usually associated with washboard abs, golden tans and a flick of wavy blond hair.

So when my two friends (who actually do fit the above description) suggested we try the water sports facilities at the Al Forsan International Sports Resort in Abu Dhabi, I needed some serious persuasion.

After a quick tour around the facility, I was part-eager, part-terrified to try boarding of any kind. Our instructor told us that we had to start off with kneeboarding, before taking on the easy-up board and finally the wakeboard. At first glance it seemed easy enough - you hold on to a bar connected to an overhead cable-ski system (as opposed to the back of a boat) and just keep holding on as it takes you around the outdoor pool.

Our instructor assured us that kneeboarding was far easier than being strapped on to a boat in the middle of the sea as there were no waves to destabilise you. In addition, the cable provides better flexibility and relaxed movement.

A quick search on my phone's fitness app told me one can burn around 300 calories an hour wakeboarding, aside from working one's core strength, arms and upper body.

A week later I was ready to give kneeboarding a go. We got strapped into life vests and helmets and made our way to the beginners pool where we were taken through the basics.

First - and most importantly - you need to strap your knees in tightly and keep your head down; lifting your upper body even slightly would flip your board and throw you in the water.

Next, you have to shift your body weight to steer to the corresponding direction. You must also keep an eye out for the orange buoys located at every turn in the pool - if you go through the two placed on each corner, you're in the clear. If not, the pull of the cable becomes too sharp and makes it harder for you to keep holding on.

As a final warning, we were told to watch out for other riders in case we do fall in, as multiple riders are allowed in the pool at once; 13 per minute to be precise. In the instance we do see someone coming, we're meant to dive into the water to make sure their boards don't hit us in the head. The possibility that this could happen made me feel slightly alarmed.

I was instructed to take my glasses off (which only added to my panic) and eventually strapped myself into the kneeboard, holding on to the cable as though my life depended on it.

The first tug pulled me straight into the water and for a total of about eight seconds I thought, "Gosh! This isn't so bad". That was until I noticed I couldn't clearly see the orange buoys. When I was around two metres away from them, I quickly shifted my body weight to the left, so much so that I flipped in that direction and fell into the pool.

The best part about falling in is that you break that fear barrier; the worst part is that you have to swim to shore with a board and walk all the way back dripping wet.

The second time around I was more confident and started steering earlier, thus making it through the buoys and almost halfway around the circuit.

By the end of the hour I was exhausted. Between the death-grip I had on the cable, tension in my abs for balance and sheer terror of having to tackle the course, I couldn't make it on to the last circuit.

The next day I could feel my forearm muscles throbbing, my obliques raw and my shoulders stiff, all indicating that I had exercised muscles that hadn't been used in a while.

According to news reports, wakeboarding is one of many sports under consideration to be included in the 2020 Olympics. Who knows how much I would have improved by then?

Al Forsan International Sports Resort is located in Khalifa City, Abu Dhabi. Individual boarding lessons start at Dh200 per person for a half-hour class. For more information, call 02 556 8555 or visit www.alforsan.com

 

neldasher@thenational.ae