In 2007, "Jamie" Bloemsma was crowned Dutch National Slalom Waterski Champion. In 2009, Jamie can be found during the summer months offering his advice and instruction via his Ski and Wakeboard school at Ellingham Waterski Park, nr Ringwood, Hampshire.
“There is a real sense of community about the centre and the club.”
SkiFunJamie offers waterskiing, wakeboarding, trick skiing, kneeboarding, barefoot skiing and jump skiing lessons and tuition to anyone who wants to learn. This really is inclusive in the widest sense, evidenced by the myriad of disabled participants whose stories are told across the walls of the club house. Jamie believes that everyone is capable and that it is his job to ensure that everyone pushes themselves to both improve and enjoy these thrilling activities.
The facilities at Ellingham are good. The club house, whilst a little rustic and in need of a little improvement, is functional characterful. They have two hi-spec competition standard boats, a container full of hire equipment, and a man-made lake that offers the only full slalom waterski course for 80 miles. The setting is idillic and peaceful, where you can enjoy a BBQ on the viranda whilst watching the activities on the lake. There is a real sense of community about the centre and the club. From the member donated furniture in the clubhouse and the donated equipment in the childrens play area to the committe that looks after the club and it's 125 strong member base. We met Jo, one of the comittee members, who showed us round and gave us the low-down on how the club ran, how the the 4 slot system works (1 slot in every four during club sessions is for non-club members) and the challenges that a club like this faces.
After a whistlestop tour, Jo dons her wetsuit and before you know it, is flying up and down the lake on a slalom mono-ski, giant rooster tails streaming out behind her. Once finished, she was quickly into dry clothes and back at the computer running whatever administrative errands were required to keep the club ticking over.
Funding is clearly a challenge, but fortunately not every aspect of the clubs financial burden rests on its member base. The lottery funded a recently constructed new slipway and jetty, crucial for the the launching of watercraft and enabling safe access to and from the lake.
We took part in a beginner wakeboard lesson with SkiFunJamie. Neither of us had ever wakeboarded or waterski'd or frankly, done anything involving beyond hauled along by a powerboat, not since banana boating as a kid anyway. This really was going to test Jamie's instructor skills, as well as our nerve. Equipped in neoprene, life vest and with a wakeboard and bindings hired from the school, we were ready to rock and roll.
“Just stay relaxed, bend your kness and let the boat, the board and the water to the work.”
I would be lying if I said we weren't a little apprehensive. We didn't want to look like fools, being dragged around in the water like some Police Academy movie. We are also a little competitive, so I'm sure, was secretly hoping the other would look at least a degree more stupid.
After a short safety briefing, it was time for a pep talk and some words of wisdom from Jamie. The latter delivering easily the most succinct but effective advice I have had when taking part in a new activity for the first time. "Twist your hip." That's it? Nothing else? Surely I've got to leverage my upper body strength, manage my weight transition, control my edges... Nope. Just stay relaxed, bend your knees and let the boat, the board and the water to the work. A twist of the hip at the right moment will see you righted and moving steadily with the boat. And it did. Wow. The static, rigid bar used for first timers was a cinch, all thanks to this little gem of advice.
“Timed correctly, you relieve the pressure, increase stability and are moving with the boat with the biggest, cheesiest grin on your face imaginable.”
Never fear, the relative ease of the static bar is soon replaced by the intimidating sight of a rope being dropped off of the back of the boat. Joining the rope, bobbing like an apple at the back of the boat, this was now a whole different ball game.
As the boat moves away, the pressure builds against the board & begins to lift you out of the water. In comparison to the bar, the forces exherted onto your upper body are huge and a little surprising. Little did I remember, first time round, that I held the key to managing this effectively. "Twist the hip". Timed incorrectly and leave it too late you feel like you are carrying the full load of the boat and it's many horses in your numbing, cold hands. Needless to say, you will let go. Timed correctly, you relieve the pressure, increase stability and are moving with the boat with the biggest, cheesiest grin on your face imaginable.
For anyone who has snowboarded before, as I had, you really get to feel how you can use your edges to control your position, direction and speed on the board. We began to traverse the wake of the boat, negotiating the changes in height of the wake and using the arc of the rope to move from side to side. We managed a few runs of the lake before coming to a stop by the jetty, chuffed to bits and totally exhilarated.
We made pretty good progress & under instruction we were moving at a pace dictated by us but alsoenhanced through Jamie's understanding of the sport, our capabilities and our potential. The session lasted 15 minutes, in which we got half a dozen runs on the lake. The cost of this is a shade over £20.00, which whilst not cheap is great value for the education, the equipment and the utter thrill of the ride.
Jamie gives lesson between 9am and 1pm weekdays, and is also available in afternoons and at weekends fitting around the club sessions which take priority during these times.