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New season brings new equipment and safety reminders

Well it’s that time of the year again. Lake Martin is filling up with water after a cold winter, during which the water level actually fell below the 480-foot mark.

Alabama Power Company “put in the plug” the middle of February, and if the rains we have had all winter will continue a little while longer, maybe we can get an early full pool.

Just a reminder: The rising water level means all of the debris on the shore will float. Every limb that fell and log that hit the edge will start making its way into the lake. That gives us boaters lots of objects to run over, potentially causing damage to everything from the hull to speedos and drive shafts or props, none of which are particularly inexpensive fixes.
So keep that in mind if you are getting an early start on boating season, especially if you’re towing a rider, as I’ve seen some really lucky near misses.

Accidents in these cases are not likely to be just medicine-cabinet hurt; you’re probably going to the hospital on most of these, so be smart and stay alert. Late in the evening, it’s that much harder to see debris, so it might be a good idea or rule of thumb to use caution for the first few weeks after we hit 488 feet or so to let the lake debris make its way back to shore or down to the bottom. There will be lots of new toys on the water this season, and you don’t want to miss a minute of the fun.
Every year, we see improvements in technology. The work of research and development companies is never-ending, but they don’t always introduce a new board for every model every year. Most of the time, we just get a graphic change, which gives us a good opportunity to snag last year’s boards a little cheaper than buying the new year’s exact same board under a new paint job. So what is new?

Plenty. There are lots of good tweaks in this year’s lines. Market share in the wake world is dominated by Liquid Force. Liquid has 27 wakeboards out this year. I don’t have room to list all of the changes on every board in their line, much less every board in all of the manufacturers’ lines, so I’m picking just a few of those that got big changes. First, the Liquid Force Peak is one of the best flex boards in the lineup. Completely redesigned, inside and out, the Peak features an all-wood core with a single concave into dual channel/concave tip. You now can ride finless in parks with complete control, or with fins, and you can edge as hard as possible with positive hold. Mid-body edge channels and a concave beveled edge complete the list of changes.

The next board is in the Slingshot line, the new Oli Derome pro model. Named after himself, the Oli is a true all-purpose board for boat, winch or cable park. It has continuous rocker, ES base (all new) and the Atomic core, “sliderite” chined rails with the molded in-channels on the tip and tail, plus the board has Slingshot’s snub-nosed edges. Word on the street is that it’s one sick board. Next, let’s hit the Ronix line, the Bandwagon. This is truly new in the sense that we haven’t seen this type of technology yet. The Camber rocker allows a few things to happen. First, you ride a shorter board; the Bandwagon is wider than any other board, so shorter and wider, which equals less swing-weight. It’s an all-new Air Core board and is supposed to be extremely stable.

Hyperlite changed pro JD Webb’s model this year, as well. This makes the third change to JD’s line. The new model has a blended three-stage rocker. It’s a wood core, with ABS sidewall and full Sintered Enduro base, so you can ride it behind the boat and at the park, an extremely durable board. We’ve had a really cold winter, and the water isn’t warming up fast. While winter isn’t the bargain time to buy a wetsuit, if you don’t have one, get on it; you’re going to need one this spring. This is probably as good a year as any to take the plunge. The water should be up sooner this year, and it’s been cold. Get your boat winterized, grab your wetsuit and get out there.

At the very least, you will need a long sleeved neoprene top for a bit of an extended season. No sense in being miserable in the cold water, and honestly, it’s the most used piece of neoprene that I consistently use year after year.
Start exercising and pre-season workouts, if you haven’t already done so. It’s not too late, yet. The more you do, the better off you will be, but we all know, there is no substitute for time behind the boat.
Hope to see you out there. Stay warm and have fun.