One minute, you’re crouched in a cannonball position in the water. The next, a system of towropes and cables pulls you up onto a sleek board for a smooth ride at 20 mph, water spraying behind you.
This is the trending sport of wakeboarding, a mix of water-skiing and snowboarding. Other places, you can try it behind a boat, but at The Quarry Cable Park in Crystal Lake, Illinois, electrically driven cables get you going.
Wakeboarding at The Quarry Cable Park in Crystal Lake, Illinois
Even if you’ve never managed a successful ride on water skis, you have a good shot at getting vertical here, thanks to the system’s even pulling speed. “This is a lazy man’s sport,” says wakeboard pro Timmy Burnier. “You really just relax and let the rope do the work.”
He’s part of a team that will outfit you with a board, life vest and helmet, then talk you through the art of getting up and finding your flow. Shell out a little extra for private lessons, and you’ll get a headset for on-the-fly instructions and tips to go from zero to practically pro in an afternoon. Later, take a shot at the ramps and jumps along the course.
The park’s name is a nod to the gravel mine that formed the lake, but it belies what you’ll find now: a deep, fresh body of water and landscaped grounds dotted with mature trees, native coneflowers and black-eyed Susans. A chill outpost includes a pro shop and restaurant with a mash-up ski lodge-surf shop vibe.
The park is open from mid-May through mid-October. You can get out on the water for a couple of hours for $65, gear included. Lessons start at $30. On June 8, riding and instruction are free; just plan on some long lines.
Throughout the season, you’ll find a family atmosphere with lots of kids, tweens and teens by day. Evenings, enjoy the lakeside bar and grill, a beach fire pit, sand volleyball and beanbag tossing, as well as live music on weekends.
Three Oaks Recreation Area (which includes the cable park) also offers a second lake with a lifeguard-protected beach. Also find rentals, scuba diving, fishing and a splash pad.