x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Scene is thriving and here to stay

One of the original organisers of Wakestock has no doubt that the UAE is destined to become one of the world's top venues for the sport.

ABU DHABI // One of the original organisers of Wakestock, the 10-year-old wakeboarding and music festival that is making its debut outside the United Kingdom this weekend, has no doubt that the UAE is destined to become one of the world's top venues for the sport. Mark Crowhurst, the event's marketing manager, has been involved with the competition since its inception in 1990. Now, during his sixth visit to the country and competing in the first Abu Dhabi tournament, he has seen enough to prove to him the country is in a position to capitalise on its beaches, weather and infrastructure.

"The wakeboarding scene here is thriving," he said, shortly after beating off competition from 11 amateur riders to qualify for today's quarter-finals. "Something is brewing definitely and just by the fact you have unbelievable facilities across the entire UAE, means it is going to be the next Florida for wakeboarding. For sure. "Wakestock is here for a few years so I imagine everything will revolve around that. Events like this will get the ball rolling even faster."

The French rider Fabien Hermel, 31, a former professional who was once ranked in the world's top 15 and has lived in the Emirates on-and-off for 20 years, agreed. "The interest is growing all the time. Fifteen years ago there was only one wakeboard boat, now there are more than 50 and soon there will be a cable park too. The next few years will be crazy," he said. Crowhurst, Hermel and Tim Woodhead, of Britain, progressed to today's quarter- finals, where they will be met on the Corniche by some of the world's best professional riders, including Aaron Rathy, the reigning Wakestock champion and Rider of the Year. @Email:gmeenaghan@thenational.ae