HK teen tries to spread the gospel
Awesome. That's how 19-year-old Julien Breistroff describes wakeboarding - and it's not surprising considering he has been in love with the sport for more than half his life.
'I found wakeboarding at the age of nine and I fell in love with it at once. I did a couple of different sports when I was small, but ever since discovering this sport, I have only been seriously involved with one,' says Breistroff, who will be one of three athletes representing Hong Kong at the Haiyang Asian Beach Games in Shandong in June.
The former Chinese International School student has represented Hong Kong since he was 14 and was a semi-finalist at the last Asian Beach Games two years ago in Muscat, Oman. He believes the biggest problem wakeboarding has to grapple with is convincing the public - and the International Olympic Committee - that it's a fun but also very competitive sport.
'We are underexposed and that is the biggest problem facing our sport. We also have other issues, like the [high] cost of being towed around by a boat ... But cable wakeboarding will help offset this and it will help increase popular interest for the sport,' said Breistroff, speaking from his university in California.
A traditionalist boat wakeboarder, Breistroff acknowledges the benefits - mainly environmental - of cable wakeboarding and said the sport had to swing that path especially as it chased Olympic status.
'Cable wakeboarding offers a perfect way to grow the sport. Boat wakeboarding will always be my 'thing' but this will be the future of the sport.
'I consider myself a boat wakeboarder because that is what I grew up doing. But I can't say whether boat or cable wakeboarding is better,' the teenager said, adding that there was no cable park in Hong Kong before he left for university.
The city now has a cable wakeboarding facility in Lok Ma Chau. 'But that said, I have ridden cable overseas and rails are good fun, although there is no wake behind a cable. But the selling point of cable parks is that they are a cheaper alternative to riding behind a boat and will be an excellent way for people to discover the sport,' Breistroff said.
He is also helping raise awareness of wakeboarding, having started a club at the liberal arts Ponoma College, where he is majoring in mathematics.
'I'm looking to recruit more members and get some funding from the school. I really want to provide people already interested in wakeboarding a means of participating in it, as well as give people who have never wakeboarded the opportunity to engage in the sport I love so much.'
Breistroff says the sport's lure is its 'X-factor', or extreme sport aspect, like skateboarding and snowboarding. 'I guess the attraction is the whole freestyle aspect of getting into the air and doing tricks, as well as hitting rails and obstacles. One of the greatest things about wakeboarding is the associated lifestyle,' he said. 'What better place to be on a hot summer's day than on a boat with your friends, taking turns being on the water and cheering one another on?'