What started out as a typical Kiwi pastime has grown to epic proportions for one Hamilton family.
Meet the East family. Mum, Justine is chief boat driver, social water skier and wake boarder, Dad, Barry recently started competing in water skiing after a lifetime of enjoying the sport socially, daughter Sabina (15) is a competitive slalom water skier and hockey player, while youngest member of the family, (13), is the one making the biggest waves of all; on the competitive wake boarding circuit.
Having already represented New Zealand at the World Championships in Mexico last year, Anthony is keen to keep impressing, both at home and on the world stage. He’s already having a cracker of a season, kick starting March by taking out the North Island Junior Boys title for the second consecutive year – an ideal lead in to the upcoming New Zealand Champs.
One of the younger members of Team Ronix, Anthony has no shortage of mentors and supporters – particularly from within the close knit community of wakeboarders, despite the fact most of them are more than a decade older.He’s out on the water practising tricks and honing his technique at least three times a week.
“It’s a very time-intensive sport,” admits mum Justine, “and we’re all involved, both by necessity and because we love it too.”
Wake boarding is not a sport where an athlete can just head out and go for a run. It requires a boat, a driver, a spotter – so a full team of supporters is required each time Anthony wants to train.
And here’s where that local community of teammates is an absolute blessing. Anthony reckons he would never have got involved in the sport without the encouragement of Bevan and Regan Carlyon, who continue their involvement today.
“Bevan still comes out with us, always encouraging Anthony and giving tips,” says Justine. “His own son Regan competes in open men’s now, so has already been through it all which is really helpful. Both Bevan and Regan have helped us out since the beginning, with a bit of coaching and rides on other boats.”
Recently fellow team Ronix riders Nick Beale and Paul Maguire include Anthony in their training sessions, even picking him up and dropping him home if his parents are busy.
“We’re based at Gordonton so it’s a fairly decent hike out to Lake Karapiro and to fit in training around school commitments,” says Justine.
Anthony started at Hamilton Boys’ High School this year where he is a member of the Sports Academy.
“We’re lucky enough to have a small lake near home so we can pop out there in the evenings for some quick sessions,” says Justine.
When he’s not on the water, Anthony is most often found on the trampoline, practising his tricks and developing fresh moves, with a rope and handle tied to a nearby tree.
With the North Islands under his belt last week (can we update this with results on Sunday night please) the focus is now on the New Zealand Championships at Lake Karapiro in April, wherehe’s hoping for the top spot on the podium.
Competing as a junior boy (11-15), Anthony is very much the one to beat at national events yet he is constantly striving to achieve and improve.
For such a high achiever, his entry to the sport came about almost by chance.
“We learned to water ski with mum and dad behind grandpa’s boat and it was just always something we did for a bit of family fun,” Anthony says.
It wasn’t until he was encouraged to enter a Groms Wake Board competition a couple of years ago (ability-based rather than age-based) that he caught the attention of those with an eye for potential.
After entering for fun and coming away with a win, Anthony was officially a wake boarding athlete.
Now a member of Karapiro Water Ski Club, Anthony’s coach is Kurt Robertson, a Kiwi who is based in America but comes back to New Zealand a few times a year for training sessions.
With a set training programme to follow, Anthony continues practising under the watchful eye of his older fellow competitor, Nick Beale.
“I spend time watching world class athletes on You Tube too, watching their tricks and technique,” he admits.
So far competing at the World Champs in Mexico with the rest of the New Zealand team ranks as one of the highlights of his involvement in the sport.
“It was pretty amazing actually seeing the best in the world in action. It really motivated and inspired me.”
While the sport is somewhat challenged by weather conditions, another training spot is Taupo Watersports Park where no boat is required and tricks can be practised in the purpose-built lake where he is towed by a cable.
And when winter rolls around, he still gets out on the water, swapping his boardies for a wetsuit.
With the New Zealand Champs his short-term goal, his eye is firmly set on the future and competing in France at the 2017 World Champs.
“I’ll be one of the youngest in my category though, as I’ll have just stepped up into Junior men which is 15-19 year olds,” he says.
“But that just adds to the challenge.”