With gas prices going through the roof again and talk of those prices going over $4 or even $5 we could be on the verge of seeing another painful year for the boat industry. Nautique has been working on an electric boat but it is pretty unlikely we will see that boat anytime soon. Mastercraft seems to be going for the even higher end market where gas prices don't raise as many concerns.
The boat industry is sadly unprepared for the new gas price realities, but there is a sector in the water sports world that will benefit from these gas pains. We have mentioned a few times in the Lake Trout Carry Out that cable skiing and wakeboarding has been growing all around the world. New cable sites seem to be popping up every other week. While the boat industry went through massive layoffs and even shut downs more and more money was being invested into new cable parks. As a three event skier its painful to watch wakeboarding dominate all of these parks and once we here at at the CRB quit wasting our millions on domed lakes and midget hookers we will look into putting a cable system up, but until that happens we have to hope that maybe the big ski schools will see the benefit of a 3 event cable park. Europe has had 3 event cable skiing for years but it has not caught on here yet.
Kansas City Watersports was one of the early parks to open up in the US. The park has been bought by the founder of Liquid Force wakeboards and an investment group that defintly sees the possibilities that cable parks open up. These parks are opening wakeboarding up to a whole new market. With the extreme prices in the boat markets and the move to private lakes of recent years waterskiing and wakeboarding has become truly a rich kids sport. Many of the skiers I met on college ski teams have been forced to quit skiing or join show ski teams to get any time on the water at all. It is sad to see so many people that college skiing was able to bring into the sport driven away by the inaccessability of decent ski lakes and the insane prices of the boats.
Tony Finn, founder of Liquid Force, and his investment group have an ambitious goal of opening 20 cable parks in the next 5 years and 50 parks in the next 10 years. With any luck they will open a park somewhere up here in the frozen north, of course that is a pipe dream as its tough to make a profit with 17 days of above freezing temps a year.
With any hope USAWS or another organization will see the benefit of working with some of these parks to get slalom courses and jumps set up and then grow a competative league of events.
I am in no way arguing that cable is better or even equal to boat pulled water skiing, but if we want our sport to grow or at least stem the bleeding we need to be open to new avenues to bring in new blood. Bringing the barriers to entry down to a more attenable level can not hurt.