photos by Derek Bell
I consider myself truly blessed to have grown up with watersports in my life from an early age. I was taught by my family how to ski and kneeboard at age 5, and by 8, I was barefooting behind the boat. But when I discovered wakeboarding at age 13, everything else took a backseat. Big air, flips, spins and the snowboard/skateboard/surfing aspect of the sport just made it seem cooler than all the others. I was hooked. It wasn’t until much later in life that I understood not everyone has access to the exhilaration afforded by the sport. Well, I can honestly say that now there is an opportunity for all to share my passion for wakeboarding without having to buy a boat, expensive equipment or lake front property.
As I stand on the starting dock with my board firmly attached to my feet and my helmet and lifejacket cinched up tight, my grip on the rope handle firm, I take a deep breath and prepare myself for my first ride of the year. It is about 56 degrees on this fine spring day, and I know that the water will be slightly warmer, but all around a chillier ride than I am use to. None of the coldness concerns me at the moment. My eyes are fixed on the top of the cable tower at the start light that will soon turn green, letting me know that the cable carrier is about to launch me out on to the water for a ride I have been dreaming about all winter long. The only other thought I have is, “I am going to be sore tomorrow.” But there is something missing. There is no loud engine or smell of exhaust. The only sounds I hear are the wind whipping by my head, my board cutting through the water and the inspiring anthem of the Rolling Stones’ “Gimme Shelter” blasting from the sound system at Terminus Wake Park.
Terminus Wake Park in Emerson, Ga., now open for its third year, is a riding experience that allows watersports fans of every skill level the chance to shred and “go big.” Located in the new LakePoint Sporting Community just outside of Carterville, Terminus is a cable riding park that allows wakeboarders, knee boarders and water skiers to be pulled without the use of a boat. Large steel towers placed around three lakes hold two parallel running cables 32 feet above the surface of the water. Similar to a T-bar chair lift for all you snow skiing bums out there, the system is driven by an electronically controlled, variable-speed motor that averages a constant speed of around 19 miles per hour. Three separate lake systems are available to guests. There is a Training lake for newcomers to hone their skills and two larger lakes full of “features” for intermediate to advanced and pro riders. These features include structures set in the water like ramps or “kickers” for launching oneself into the air as well as rails or “sliders” for more technical, skate-style grind tricks.
“In creating this facility, we’ve set out to build and operate one of the finest cable wakeboard parks in the world,” says Chase Andrews, general manager of Terminus Wake Park. “We’ve put together an incredible team and a unique design to create this park, and our location at LakePoint Sporting Community and Town Center will give our riders, along with their families, entertainment options you can’t find at any other park in the world.”
But how much would this world-class wake-boarding experience cost, one might ask? About as much as a round of golf at a mid-level course. A two- hour riding session plus gear costs around $65. You can pay by the day, week, or month, and yearly passes are available at a discount. This is only a fraction of the cost of traditional boat riding when factoring in gas prices and gear.
For those seeking hands-on instruction, Terminus offers cable-riding lessons with professional staff members as well as summer camps for wake-boarders young and old, beginner to expert. They also host a number of world-class tournaments throughout the summer, which would be well worth checking out.
From its inception to now, Terminus Wake Park has easily become the most unique and advanced cable-riding experience in the in the country. It was named the 2016 Wake Park of the Year by the Water Sports Industry Association (WSIA) and with new facilities breaking ground later this year, including plans for a new pro shop, restaurant and viewing decks, Terminus is making its mark as a Mecca for all fans of the sport.
As I walk back after an epic crash off of one of the kickers, I look around at the wide array of fellow wakeboarders who have come to the park.
Art Wiggins, 68 years young, of Marietta was introduced to the park and the sport by his children and grandchildren. Last summer, he took his 5,000th lap around the cables. He says he is ready for more and is excited to ride with his great grandson this summer. “It looked like so much fun, so I decided that I would give it a shot,” he says. “I have been coming back ever since.”
Walker Weston, a 13-year-old water bug from Atlanta who has been coming to the park for two years, has no problem showing me how to master a rail slide. Marilyn Pruitt, a Terminus staffer, takes a break from operating the cable system to show off her skills and does not disappoint. Callaway Ford, a semi-pro rider, wraps up a session of tricks, making me reconsider what I was even doing out there.
There is a real sense of community at Terminus that you don’t normally find at facilities like this around the country. Staff and riders alike are welcoming, friendly and encouraging. Tips and advice are exchanged freely and without ego or arrogance. During each of my visits, everyone I have encountered at the park shares this same vibe. Terminus is a true wakeboard Utopia if I have ever seen one.
“Our mission at Terminus Wake Park is to serve and encourage the local community and the world while sharing our passion for adventure and water sports,” says Andrews. “We want to be a place for anybody and everybody (young or old, big or small, athletic or not) to come relax, enjoy, have fun, and be encouraged while they hang out with our staff and each other.”
My early thoughts of aching muscles and soreness now upon me, I wrap up the day with one last ride to ensure the folks at Advil and Anheuser-Busch will maintain another loyal customer. I can only hope that the next trip to Terminus will be just as enjoyable. Something tells me it will, and I can’t wait to return with my nephew Mitchell, 15, who I have infected with this wonderful addiction to the wakeboard.
So, if you are down for an outdoor experience that is both fun and challenging, I would highly consider making this a must do this summer. Cheers and happy riding!
For more information on Terminus Wake Park or to beat the lines and book a riding session in advance, visit