Chris Wilkie: Barriers to entry – Fear, Faceplants & Focus

This week we have Chris Wilkie taking about the barriers that he faced when first venturing into the outdoors. Sometimes the barriers aren’t just nerves!

If you have any questions about wakeboarding or think this is something you would want to try post lockdown then just drop a message to Wake Tribe Scotland!



I’ll admit I don’t remember my first hard fall when wakeboarding (take from that what you will) but I remember plenty of others. There’s some that I specifically remember more than others. That’s because those falls were the reason I would not have tried wakeboarding until I conquered one of my biggest personal hurdles.

As a former and attempted current skateboarder the thought of falling in the water didn’t frighten me. Yes I know, concrete harder than water etc, but water is at least *sometimes* softer. For many the fear of hurting ourselves can be a big blocker. My barrier was something else entirely which I needed to overcome to attempt anything as daunting as wakeboarding. My vision.

I was severely short-sighted from late childhood all the way to my mid-twenties. The complications of managing contact lenses, the risk of breaking or losing glasses and so on put me off a lot of outdoor experiences. I couldn’t stand the thought of not being able to see and the hassle it would cause. It had happened before and it made me put up big barriers. It was an added complication to even something relatively simple like car camping.

It turns out I’m not the only one. I was at a Tiso event in Edinburgh where outdoor adventure photographer Rachel Kenan shared a short anecdote about the exact same holdbacks that glasses and contacts had for her. For both of us, laser eye surgery fixed it. I’m not saying anymore about that specifically, their adverts do enough of that! 

I’ve taken friends who currently wear contact lense wakeboarding and on 2 occasions I’ve had to help them put a lens back in after a washout. In those moments all I could think was: “I’m so glad I’m able to enjoy this sport without fear of this hanging over me.”

In the last 5 years I’ve had a good number of hard slaps to the face and eyeball flushes from headfirst dives into the water. Four-eyed me just wouldn’t entertain the idea of doing an activity that could cause that. I can push myself harder and try new things n the water with my mind where it should be. Not on whether I’ll be able to see if I fall.

Dear short and long-sighted people: don’t let this put you in particular off or stop you doing stuff till you had the lasers – I’d love to hear about how you manage the setup if you’re an outdoorsy person.

I’ve heard a few stories – especially from those trying wakeboarding on a larger body of water – about how the idea of intentionally jumping out of a boat and into open water of unknown depths was a real blocker for them getting to try wakeboarding. 

And that’s totally natural. There are lots of unknowns and firsts here. That’s in addition to already leaving the comfort zone by slipping into a wetsuit and strapping on a board. Some of the thoughts going through most people’s heads probably include:

How deep is it? How fast will we go? Am I going to get up? How do I get in gracefully? Can I remember my dry land lesson? Knees go where? How cold will it be? Arms straight, what happens when I get up!?

I was so focused on the fact that I could now put myself in this place without my eyesight hanging over me that most of those unknowns didn’t factor in. I simply revelled in the overarching fact that I was doing this thing that I wouldn’t have done 2 years before.

Feeling safe in this new activity is another big part of getting over the barriers to entry in wakeboarding. Choose a British Waterski and Wakeboard certified training centre and you can rest assured their staff are professionally trained and their equipment is up to scratch.Focusing on the big achievement of having got to the point of trying something new is a solid way to get past the other things praying on your mind. Ride the positive wave and you won’t notice a little spray and splash.

I’m missing wakeboarding a lot right now. Normally we’d be well into the season by now. It’s a brilliant way to relieve stress. We normally drive almost 2 hours to the top of Loch Lomond to ride and even thinking about the drive – which has become as familiar as a commute – reminds me how that was part of the unwinding process. The act of physically getting far away from the sources of stress can be greatly understated. Whilst you’re out on the water, it’s just you and your thoughts. And those thoughts are squarely on one thing: your next move. Nothing else is going on. All the stresses of work, home, whatever aren’t in your head. You’re focused on what you’re doing and going to do. Even watching others is great. You’re on a boat and the only entertainment is the view and the action on the water. 

As a serious over-thinker (the kind that can’t sleep until all thoughts are written down and expunged from the brain) wakeboarding and other activities that force you to really focus on the moment in hand are such a lifeline. 

There’s always the chance something will go wrong, you’ll hit the water with your face and you get a nose full of water. But the real takeaway is embracing the fact you’re there in the first place and what you overcame to get there.

By Chris Wilkie – Wake Tribe Scotland


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