Get ready to ride with radio personality Charmaine Yee. By Estelle Low
With a personality as big as her voice and plenty of energy to spare, Kiss 92FM’s Charmaine Yee switches between presenting her weekday radio show and hosting events, like last year’s Shape Glow and Shape Fiesta, with ease.
Work notwithstanding, the spunky go-getter is big on getting her playtime. Adventure holidays are clearly her thing, and Charmaine’s checked list is pretty darn impressive: Skydiving in Wollongong in Australia, cliff jumping in Bali in Indonesia, surfing in Melbourne (also in Australia), as well as white water rafting along California’s Kings River, and canoeing in the Grand Canyon in the US.
We were surprised to find that she hadn’t tried wakeboarding yet. Why not? She let on: “I’d love to try wakeboarding, but it looks scary and I’m not a good swimmer. I guess I’ve been waiting for the right chance to learn it properly.” Wish granted.
After several weeks of schedule clashes and cancellations due to bad weather, the stars finally aligned on our fourth attempt at getting her started on a rare sunny day during the rainy season. Charmaine, decked out in a Billabong rash vest and board shorts, was jittery but up for the challenge when we met her at Marina Country Club.
As luck would have it, we were on the boat to Seletar Island, where the water is ideal for beginners, when she spotted the words “No Fear” painted along the hull. “It’s like they’d read my mind! This is it.
I may not be able to stand on the wakeboard, so you guys better be prepared for lousy photos,” she added jokingly.
Charmaine’s goal was to stand on the board and ride it in good form. At the start, Ryders@Ponggol instructor Kelvin Lay shared the key to success: “Don’t go against the power of the moving boat. Instead, let it tow you. The boat will move at about 17mph (27kmh) for beginners, so don’t worry – it’s not too fast.”
Next, he demonstrated the movements, starting with the low squat to standing on the wakeboard. “Let the boat pull you, and keep your knees slightly bent as your body straightens up. Most women and children are able to stand in the first lesson because they’re better at following instructions than men.” No pressure, Charmaine!
Charmaine’s worry about not being able to get up was unfounded. On her first attempt, she actually managed to do it for a split second before losing her grip on the rope’s handle and toppling backwards. “This manner of falling is known as a wreck, and it happens a lot to first-timers,” said Kelvin. “Don’t try to pull yourself up. Just lean forward and stand up slowly,” he shouted encouragingly to Charmaine.
After a few more wrecks, Charmaine looked worn out. Not ready to let her give up just yet, Kelvin had her try the moves in the boat before going in the water again. “Avoid getting up too early. Take it slow and go with the flow,” he said. Those seemed to be the magic words Charmaine needed to hear.
On her fifth attempt, she rose steadily, holding her upright stance for a good 15 seconds before crashing into the sea. When she resurfaced, Charmaine grinned madly. Success at last!
“Keep your eyes on the boat,” Kelvin reminded her before it took off again. By her seventh attempt, she was up on her feet, cruising on the wakeboard and smiling winsomely for the camera. That euphoric ride lasted almost five minutes before she released the handle.
Beaming at her success, Charmaine said: “This is an achievement. My friends kept telling me I wouldn’t be able to stand because of my weak core, but I did it! I’m so happy and proud of myself.”
Kelvin agreed: “Overall, Charmaine did well. I’d score her seven out of 10. Like most beginners, she became confident after two tries and forgot about the rules. She’s focused and good at taking instructions, and that’s why she finally nailed it. The next step is to learn carving, which is steering the board by moving left and right!”
It took Charmaine just 30 minutes to stand – and stay up – on the board!
CHARMAINE’S REPORT CARD
Fit Factor 8/10
“My friends who wakeboard told me I’d ache in places I never knew existed – and they were right! My whole body was activated: the arms, core, back, thighs and butt. If not for the fact that those muscles were burning, I would have held on for longer!”
Fun Factor 7/10
“Being on the water is so liberating. It made me feel like a surfer. I also enjoyed the sense of achievement with every improvement I made. I’d love to try some stunts in future, like holding the rope with one hand, or even skipping!”
Fear Factor 4/10
“The thought of crashing into the water was daunting. And I was scared when it happened the first few times. But once I mastered the get-up technique, I was so focused on staying on the board that I forgot my fear. This lesson has made me more confident of being in and around water. Now I’m itching to try more water sports, like parasailing and scuba diving!”
Charmaine showed her blistered hands with pride: “The last time I got blisters like these was when I played on the monkey bar in primary school!”
Where to Learn
Ryders@Ponggol (Marina Country Club, tel: 6386-3891) offers wakeboarding lessons at $110 per hour in a class of up to six students on weekdays, and $120 to $140 per hour (up to eight students; depending on size of boat) on weekends. Visit www.rydersatponggol.com for more info.
Instructor Kelvin Lay likens wakeboarding to riding a bicycle: Once you’ve learnt the basics, you’ll never forget them.
Next: How to ace your first wakeboarding lesson