Two-time world wakeboard champion Sebasztián Szóláth divides his time between the ocean and Hungary, to be close to his family and European competitions. Together with his friend, Márton Gulyás, they are starting to promote wakesurfing at the Ballast Surf Club on Népsziget, a wild island getaway in north Pest.
Wakesurf, surf, wakeboard
A few years ago, companies began to manufacture special, custom-designed motorboats that also generated waves suitable for surfing. This is how wakesurfing developed. The point of the sport is to raise yourself up on your surfboard after the initial awkwardness, release the rope that pulled you along, and glide on the waves caused by the boat without any assistance.
Unlike a wakeboard, there are no bindings on your feet and you go at a much slower 16km/h. Basically, you are much freer sooner to feel that sense of elation of being close to the water. It’s the sensation of surfing without having to wait for the waves, and the sport is significantly less dependent on the weather.
Wakesurfing does not require any special training other than being able to swim and, of course, to be basically fit. If you’ve surfed or snowboarded before, it’ll be much easier. The boats used for wakesurfing are specially designed, so no-one should attempt this hooking themselves up to a speedboat and hope for the best – accidents are bound to happen.
Wakesurfing for all
Using the M3 replacement bus, head for Göncz Árpád városközpont, then change onto the metro itself for Gyöngyösi utca. From there, head down Meder utca towards Népliget.
For our visit, two tanned, smiling sportsmen welcomed us and showed us to the club’s slightly cramped changing rooms, explaining that the water was pretty clean on this stretch of the Danube. Indeed, not so far up on the other bank, a public beach has just opened.
From Népsziget, we zoomed up to Megyeri Bridge, and sat barefoot enjoying the smell of water while we let a few kayakers and other Danube traffic go past.
The short journey up there allows you to chat to the instructor and captain, before immersing yourself in the water. At first, of course, the goal isn’t circus tricks, you just want to stay on the board.
After that, a few more tries and a more detailed explanation are enough to get you moving as the guys cheer you on. You feel the power of the waves as you stay above the water and try to balance on the unbound board.
After these short but intense sessions, beginners and the initiated alike will enjoy climbing back on the boat, letting the warm sun dry the lukewarm water off their skin, and relaxing their muscles.
Of course, it takes a while to become experienced but the joy of letting go of the rope is success enough. Of course, if you want to raise your game, Sebasztián is happy to pass on his knowledge. By trying out the sport, you can just imagine how enjoyable it must be to become acquainted with the movement of the waves and learn a few tricks.
You can book an appointment through the club’s Facebook page (see below). The first lesson (HUF 20,000) lasts for two hours, and covers most bases. The boat is for ten people, so this sport can be perfect for smaller team-building activities (HUF 60,000). Whether on your own or with friends, feeling the power of the Danube at your feet is an experience in itself.