Standing in the wake: UK club team anxious to continue its season


Journalism sophomore Megan VanMeter is the president of the UK wake-boarding team. Photo by Zach Brake

By Chandler Howard

Megan VanMeter suffered a brutal concussion and a separated shoulder within days of each other. But neither injury could keep her from returning to the sport that caused them. Cameron Steiner endured multiple concussions and an emergency room visit throughout his young career in the sport he loves. VanMeter and Steiner have fallen victim to an identical, yet sometimes painful passion: wakeboarding.

VanMeter, wakeboarding club president, and Steiner discovered their fervor for the sport early in life. VanMeter, a journalism sophomore, took up the sport at age 15 after watching her father ride recreationally while on family trips to Taylorsville Lake in Spencer County, Ky.

“Even though wakeboarding was originally such a family-oriented sport for me, I now have motivation to push the envelope as an individual,” VanMeter said. “Being one of the few women competing in this sport, I always feel like I have something to prove to the guys.”

Steiner was primarily interested in skiing as a child. He decided to attempt his first wakeboarding session at age 11 and began competing at 14. He has been involved with the sport ever since. Last summer he won first place in the men’s advanced division at the Grassroots Nationals, which he said is the proudest moment of his career to this point.

“Wakeboarding gives me a tremendous chance to express myself,” Steiner said. “I have met a ton of great people and we always have such a great time.”

Wakeboarding combines water skiing, surfing and snowboarding. Competitors grasp a cable attached to the rear of a motorboat and are towed at speeds from approximately 18 to 26 miles per hour. The athlete is bound to a buoyant board, resembling a surfboard, as he or she attempts to complete jumps, tricks and stunts using the wakes created by the motorboat.

Practice regimens for the club typically include group trips to Taylorsville Lake. Other means of practice include performing tricks on a trampoline with a flexible board to ensure safety but to correctly simulate the actual water environment.

A successful wakeboarding run depends heavily on the environment, but there are numerous factors of the physical world that go into a single run, Steiner said.

“There have been plenty of times that I have climbed into the boat, thrown my board down and thought I would never ride again,” VanMeter said. “But you get through it, like anything challenging. You have great days, and you have days that feel like it is your first time on the water. It is just important to never give up.”

Like few other sports, the collegiate wakeboarding season is broken up into two segments — the first portion being from March to late fall and the second being from early spring to October. After winning the Eastern Regional Qualifier competition at Taylorsville Lake last October, the team is now seeded second for the national competition on May 16 in San Diego. UK is looking forward to a time to showcase its skills and perform well in front of a vast audience of professional riders.

As the team prepares to gear up for the continuing season, VanMeter and Steiner must persist on following their passion for the sport and leading their team members by remembering their initial zeal for wakeboarding.

“There is no better feeling than when the water is completely calm and you can see your reflection like you’re looking at a sheet of glass,” VanMeter said. “It is like you are all alone. It is very personal.”