Bumps, bruises don't stop wakeboarder
If you are at Marion County Lake most weekends in the summer, chances are you will see a boat either navigated by or pulling Jared Smith.
If he is driving, he will be aware of the wind direction, state of the water, and safety of the family member or friend he is towing. If he is behind the boat, he will usually be on a wakeboard.
Wakeboarding is highly technical and exciting sport to watch. It takes strength, skill, and above all a pinpoint focus to execute even the simplest of the moves in its deep lexicon.
Jared Smith is a lake person. He is at home in the water. In 1990, his parents, Jay and Judy Smith, moved to Marion County Lake not long after his father bought a boat, and Jared’s relationship with the lake began.
“We used to paddle dad’s old boat more than it ran,” Smith said. “But I got into wakeboarding back in 1997 when it first appeared on the X-games.”
His cousin, Toby, who worked at a marina in El Dorado, gave him a special wakeboarding rope and encouraged him to try it.
“It was the summer before my freshman year in high school,” Smith said.
Ever since that summer, he was hooked on wakeboarding.
His first board was a Big Kahuna.
“It had sandal bindings, which means that when you wreck the board comes off your feet and it doesn’t hurt as much,” Smith said.
It was a beginner board. As a beginner he wrecked a lot.
“I would dig and flyswatter,” he said, slapping his hands together to emphasize the sound of the impact. “My nose was like a ketchup packet.”
Over the years, he bought his own boat and more advanced equipment, but even as his skill increased, he had some terrible wrecks.
“I had a broken eardrum, a dislocated shoulder, and one time I face planted so hard that my both of my contacts were driven up on top of my eyeballs and Mom had to stick her fingers up there to fish them out,” he said.
Injury did not stop Smith’s love for the sport, however. He periodically studied other wake boarders on YouTube to learn how to do new tricks. He spent one summer learning how to “ride switch,” which means to ride the wakeboard in an inverted stance.
“It’s a simple-looking thing but it is much more difficult than it looks,” he said.
He has also been able to execute some rather difficult-looking wakeboarding maneuvers. He has done a 360, a tantrum, and a back role to name a few. He explained the difference: “A tantrum is a back flip, and a back role is where you cross the wake while doing a gainer.”
A gainer is a reverse cartwheel motion, when the boarder approaches the wake from the heel side of the board.
It is not just the tricks that excite him.
“You are being pulled at a speed of 20 mph on a rope that is 70 feet long attached to a tower that is 10 feet tall,” he said. “The general rule on maximum height is 5 feet above where the rope is attached. So you can get some really big air if the conditions are right.”
He once got so high that he had time to look around and realize, “Oh, my God, I am flying.”
One rarely gets time to think while in the air.
“You have to concentrate on exactly what you are doing and when you are going to do it,” he said. “Not only that but you have to be comfortable with it.”
Smith gets a lot of satisfaction out of wakeboarding.
“It’s all about those 5 seconds of gratitude, that adrenaline you get when you go for it and really stomp it,” he said.
With all his enthusiasm, he admits he is getting older, and the older he gets the less agile he has become.
“Now for me it is more about the kids, like Dad did with me and my brothers, Jake and Josh.”
Smith is married now and has his own family. His wife, Chelse and he have two boys. Cole, their oldest, is almost 7 and is already wakeboarding. Their youngest, Max, is a little over 1 year old and is already familiar with the Marion County Lake.
Smith takes his family out on a regular basis.
“Sunday fun day — it is a family thing we try to do every week,” he said. “Chelse organizes everything. I just do the grunt work,”.
They grill, boat, and hang out with family and friends.
“It’s something Dad started.”