Sport

RAF Waterski And Wakeboard Teams Return To Water After Coronavirus Break

The team members have been stuck on dry land for months but are now enjoying being back on the water and competing again.

The Royal Air Force wakeboard and waterski teams have returned to the water for the first time in months to compete in Oxford.

The two sports, which can be compared to their snow counterparts, have returned to the military sporting calendar after an extended hiatus due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Despite reduced numbers, they were given the go ahead by bosses to hold their annual championships at Queenford Lakes.

Sergeant Gavin Harrison, waterski team captain, said it was great to be back in action.

"It’s been such a difficult year with COVID and everything else but it is great to be on the water," he said.

"We’ve done everything we can, complying with Government guidelines and national governing body guidelines to make sure this event is safe. Everyone’s had a great time and it’s been a really good success."

Warrant Officer Matt Larkin was one of the most experienced waterski competitors in action and explained what goes through his mind when he's on the water.

He said: "In the lead up to the jump, I’m just thinking about all the things I’ve got to do. I’ve got to step my right ski through and I’ve got to take my hands with me on to my knee on the right ski.

"I’ve got to keep my head up looking at the 'X' on the corner and then make sure all the timings come together so I hit the jump at the right place in the right position to be able to land on top of the skis to ski away."

The waterski competitors have just seconds to figure out their positioning on the water.

Flight Lieutenant Dave Jenkins races in the slalom category and explained that the longer you are out on the water, the harder it gets.

He said: "Initially, everyone starts on an 18m long line and the boat is set at 36mph for men and 34mph for women.

"You have to navigate six buoys with the boat going down a central path. Once you have ran one length, they then pull the line in a predetermined length, with the next one being 16m.

"Essentially, when it comes to the competition, the most number of buoys ran is the winner. That’s why you see as the lines get shorter, people take one hand off the handle and they tend to use their bodies to try and span the gap around the buoys.

"People who are tall in the sport tend to have the advantage because they physically have more body that they can use to get around the buoys and further down the course."

Meanwhile, in wakeboarding, Flying Officer Olivia Henderson was in RAF championship action for just the second year.

She told Forces News you need courage to take part in the sport.

"First time - quite scary," she said.

"I think, even though we’ve managed to get loads of sets in this week, I’ve always wanted to go out and have a few warm up jumps before I give anything serious a go.

"[It is] a thrill but definitely quite scary."