by Andrew Rudansky
There are people in this world who just aren’t satisfied with a mundane or relaxed summer; they crave an extra level of excitement in their life. Sitting on the beach and sipping a cool beverage seems a bit too low key for some adventure seekers. The Hinz family of Noyac are such people. On especially hot summer days the family walks out into the backyard of their waterfront property, pile into their 17-foot Mako fishing boat and take turns hanging onto a rope being pulled by the boat up and down Sag Harbor Cove at speeds around 25 mph.
The Hinzs, who have been doing this for over 15 years, are among the growing community of towed aquatic athletes on Long Island. You’ve no doubt seen someone being towed out in the waters surrounding the East End, seemingly hovering over the water at high speed, whether on a tube, water skis, wake board, or surfboard, as they seem to be popping up around the bays and surrounding coves more frequently.
Mike Hinz has been wakeboarding since he was a child, and doesn’t plan on giving it up anytime soon. “If the water isn’t choppy, when its ice smooth, it feels like you’re riding through butter. There is nothing better,” he said.
Of course not every family has their own waterfront property or boat; and it might appear that the opportunity to try one of these thrill-seeking sports is slim. However, there are several places throughout the Hamptons that solve this very dilemma.
Robb Reid, owner of Global Boarding located in Sag Harbor by Cove Avenue West, has been teaching towed sports for nine years. Reid claims he, along with his nine instructors, can teach any thrill seekers how to do just about anything behind a boat within a few hours.
Reid said that the fastest growing sport he teaches is definitely wakeboarding, which he described as similar to snowboarding on water.
“It is the safest and easiest sport to do,” said Reid, “anybody can do it… a monkey could wakeboard.” Reid does draw the distinction between those who wakeboard for fun and professional wake boarders, who ride faster, jump higher and perform gravity defying tricks.
Two such professionals are Daniel Katzman and Zach Zimmerman who have been wakeboarding for seven and five years respectively. Both are experienced riders who have participated in professional competitions. Their accomplishments are all the more impressive because of their young age, Katzman being only fourteen years old.
Katzman explained what it felt like during his first time on a board, “you think to yourself, whoa, I’m standing above the water, and then there is this huge adrenaline rush.”
Another towed sport that is catching on is skurfing, which Zimmerman called a combination of surfing and wake boarding. At much lower speeds and with a shorter rope, a rider on a regular surf board rides the wake of the boat towing them; much like a surfer would ride waves at the ocean.
“Skurfing is everything surfing has with 99.9 percent more gratification,” said Reid, explaining that it enables people to ride longer with less patience than is required for traditional surfing. Reid said, “Within a couple of hours of skurfing behind the boat, you will be ready to go surfing by yourself…and everybody wants to surf.”
While skurfing and wake boarding have been gaining popularity in recent years, Reid said it is tubing that has been the perennial favorite of the summer crowds. Tubing, which is lying down on an inflatable tube pulled on a boat, can either be a relaxing ride or just as intense as any other towed sport depending on speed. Of course Reid and others, in an effort to make tubing more extreme, have decided to make up tricks for tubing.
“We are trying to turn tubing into a progressive sport,” said Reid. “All the tricks somebody can do on a motorcycle, we can do on a tube.”
Not only are these fun ways to spend an afternoon, they are creative ways to exercise and keep your body fit.
“For these sports, you get a lot of exercise in the arms, the legs, and especially the back… especially for kids, boarding is a great way to stay in shape,” said Reid.
Just like any sport, said Reid, safety should always be the primary concern of anyone looking to try a boat-towed sport.
“You are being pulled by a 300 to 450 horsepower boat after all,” said Reid.
Life jackets are a must; so is a competent boat captain. Reid explained that with the right instructor, any of these activities can be easy, safe and fun.
“Being towed is a very free feeling,” said Reid as he prepared to take his students for another run.