Thirteen years ago, wakeboarder Chris Farr and a group of friends decided that the only way for them to learn the next level of flips and spins would be to bring in a professional coach.
Not able to afford it individually, they pooled their money and brought top riders Shaun Murray and Gerry Nunn to Lake Murray for a full day clinic.
“The only reason they were available is that Shaun was injured at the time,” says Farr. “We were lucky to get them.”
After a day on the water, Farr asked Nunn if he had enough energy left to take a ride.
“He said he would, and just like that, we had our first — albeit totally unplanned — pro rider performing on Lake Murray,” recalls Farr. “There were 12 boats watching, which was our group of students and a couple of fishing boats.”
Today, that impromptu demo has morphed into Lake Murray’s biggest watersports event, Weekend with the Pros, which attracted 1,296 spectators and 312 boats in 2017 and is scheduled for Friday, June 15, and Saturday, June 16.
The highlight of this year’s lineup is a wakeboard show featuring top pro riders Josh Palma, Dallas Friday and a team of top local amateurs, as well as wakeboarding lessons led by Palma and Friday.
Also on tap is the Chapin In-Water Boat Show, which will showcase pontoons, runabouts, fishing boats, center consoles and wakeboard boats available through Captain’s Choice Marine and Carolina Inboard.
“Even beginners can benefit from a day with a top-level coach,” says Farr. “For one thing, you learn to do things the right way the first time. To this day, when I’m learning a new trick or working out kinks, I go back to Shaun telling me to look where I want to go because the body follows the eyes. It’s basic, but easy to forget.”
Farr says kids as young as 4 can register for lessons.
Both Palma and Friday bring more than a dash of Hollywood to Lake Murray: In addition to being a top rider, Palma has performed stunts in movies such as "Baywatch" and "Shark Nights 3D."
Dallas Friday is an X Games gold medalist and world champion who has received an ESPN ESPY award for Best Female Action Sports Athlete and has appeared in "The Chick Flick," "Push Process" and other films.
According to Farr, getting pros to make the trip to Lake Murray is easy.
“In a lot of ways, Columbia is to action sports what a mountain town is to skiing,” he explains. “Because of the layout of Lake Murray — it has a lot of coves and branches that block the wind — it’s about as good as it gets for wakeboarding and other watersports. The pros always comment on how great it is.”
Attendees who want to get a better sense of the thrill of wakeboarding but aren’t quite ready to strap in can purchase front-row seats, which are actually on the boat that will be pulling the pro riders.
“I think they’re the best seats in the house,” says Farr. “Plus you get to talk with Josh and Dallas in between sets. For a wakeboard fan, that’s an incredible thrill.”
If you go
Weekend with the Pros
Chapin In-Water Boat Show
WHEN: 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Friday, June 15, and Saturday, June 16.
WHERE: Frayed Knot restaurant, 1701 Dreher Island Road, Chapin.
Pro Wakeboard Show
WHEN: 2 p.m. Saturday, June 16.
WHERE: In front of the Frayed Knot. View from the water or the restaurant.
Wakeboarding didn’t get its start until the mid-1980s, so if you're new to the sport, you might want to familiarize yourself with its language. Here are a few terms you might hear:
air: getting in the air, the amount of space between the rider and the water.
Bel Air: a complicated backflip invented by Shaun Murray.
bonk: hitting or touching an obstacle with your board.
butt check: when the rider lands a trick and drags or slaps his butt on the water. Generally, this is considered a sloppy landing.
digger: a bad wreck.
egg roll: a specific kind of front roll.
eye-opener: a fall that happens so quickly you don’t have time to close your eyes before hitting the water.
faceplant: a fall where you catch your toeside edge, causing you to fall quickly so your face slaps the water hard.
grab: While in the air, if the rider reaches down to the board and clasps his hand on it, it’s a “grab.” There are lots of different types of grabs that can be done alone or added to other tricks.
rampy wake: a wake that’s better for tricks because of its gradual slope, like a ramp.
wake-to-wake 1080: launching from one side of the wake and landing on the other, while completing three full turns in the air.
wipe out: Yep, you know this one — and riders hope they don’t do it.
wreck: anytime a boarder falls and releases the rope.