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High tides at Little Elm wake park stir competitive spirits

High tides at Little Elm wake park stir competitive spirits

Hydrous Wake Park in Little Elm. Hydrous also has a wake park in Allen. Tomas Gonzalez | Visuals Editor

High tides at Little Elm wake park stir competitive spirits
August 05
15:28 2016

Austin Jackson | Staff Writer

@a_jack17

A damp mop of hair and freckles peek from underneath 17-year-old Brandon Warford’s helmet as his feet soak in the water, waiting for the line to catch and take him away.

After a few riders pass, the cable snaps, slinging him from the cool shadow of the double-decker dock and into the warmth of the summer sun, spraying a slithering wake as his board carves from right to left before shooting up the plastic kicker ramp, leaving just air beneath him.

At liftoff, Warford pitches his body into an insane spin, simultaneously juggling the ski-rope from hand to hand like a Steph Curry behind-the-back crossover then—with the nonchalant brilliance of a Splash Brother, stomps out the landing, making the extraordinary look routine.

Brandon Warford, 17-year-old, makes a jump at Hydrous Wake Park in Little Elm. Tomas Gonzalez | Visuals Editor

Brandon Warford, 17-year-old, makes a jump at Hydrous Wake Park in Little Elm. Tomas Gonzalez | Visuals Editor

“Whoas” and “whoops” abound from the dock, but the puppeteer’s relentless strings and pulleys leave no time for him to bask in the glory, instead driving him toward the next ramp trick..

Warford, a Little Elm high school student and extreme sports junkie, is a part of the growing community of riders seeking chills and thrills as they carve, slide and splash through the blue lagoon at Hydrous Wake Park.

When the Little Elm park opened up in 2013, essentially in Warford’s backyard, he decided to give it a shot. Ever since he began his ascent through the ranks, he is now one of the best advanced-level riders at the park. Warford said he has no plans of stopping soon, already having a few “pro-kevel” tricks in his arsenal.

He said once his feet learned the language of the water, reading the ripples like brail, he began to see massive strides in his skill. While he still rides his skateboard and scooter to avoid getting burnt out, he’s found his “main sport.”

“Honestly, it’s like a sixth sense — a second nature.” Warford said. “When I first started, I was all off-balance and out of control. But now, I feel like I can do what I want with the board.”

Rising tides

Chad Lacerte, the park’s owner, said he takes pride in the success and growth of riders like Warford.

“It makes me feel great that these kids are wanting to come and compete in a cool sport that we created, a sport that they didn’t have access to before we built this,” Lacerte said.

Lacerte’s vision for building a cable park in Texas traces back to a business trip in 2002 when he stumbled across the Orlando Watersports Complex. He immediately foresaw an opportunity for his inner surfer from So-Cal and his career in real estate development to finally converge in pursuit of a profitable dream.

He said witnessing the parks efficient cable system made building a park a good idea, but given Texas’ lack of mountains to ride or lack of waves to surf, the decision to build a park was a no-brainer.

In 2011, nine years after his moment of clarity in Orlando, he saw his vision transform into an instantly successful reality. The Allen location was so successful that just over a year after opening shop, Lacerte began breaking ground on his park in Little Elm.

Lacerte said, though hindsight is 20/20, his vision “looks pretty good.”

And on Aug. 4-7, Lacerte will brings his dream full circle as he, Warford and 13 of Hydrous’ best riders will go on a pilgrimage to the park where it all began, competing in the WWA Wakeboarding National Championship in Orlando.

Lacerte expects Team Hydrous to continue the competiveness they’ve showcased since their first National Championship, where the upstart rookies upset hometown hosts to take the 2014 title in the “features only” category.

Team Hydrous’ biggest strength is with their large crop of raw but enthusiastic riders who rack up points in the intermediate and beginner divisions, Lacerte said.

Lacerte thinks it’s just a matter of time before riders like Warford and his 14-year-old son, Sam, to take the next step compete with the elite riders from the more established parks.

The riders’ rapid development is a testament to the efficiency of the cable systems as well as the tightly-knit culture found around the dock, Lacerte said. Experts and beginners, young and old hang, motivate and grow together.

“With up to five riders, everyone’s progressing at the same time,” he said. “You can see the riders in front of you while you’re hanging out with your friends on the dock,”

Lacerte said Hydrous provides a cheap and relatively safe alternative to snowboarding, which he said is the closest comparison to what riding at a park provides, jokingly adding “the worst thing that can happen is you get wet.”

A dynamic duo

Aric and Wess Enisco, actual bros, make room once a week to get their fill of adrenaline as they bust chops and old-school moves at the park that Aric said in a way takes him back to his roots when he grew up snowboarding and skating in California where the Eniscos grew up.

The Enisco bros occasionally compete in park competitions, but for the most part just want to have fun. Aric said he finds escape from work and the pressures of being an adult.

“[The feeling of riding] is really freeing because literally you’re just floating out there, but it can be as hard as you want to make it,” Aric said.

Aric Enciso makes a jump at Hydrous Wake Park in Little Elm. Hydrous also has a wakeboard park in Allen. Tomas Gonzalez | Visuals Editor

Aric Enciso makes a jump at Hydrous Wake Park in Little Elm. Hydrous also has a wakeboard park in Allen. Tomas Gonzalez | Visuals Editor

In 2014, Wess was making it hard, pushing himself to land a new trick, when his board slipped out from under him.

Aric said he remembers feeling a new kind of adrenaline at the park as he saw his little brother limply bobbing facedown in the water. He said it didn’t take long for adrenaline and training to takeover, performing CPR on the shore within moments.

Three days later, Wess awoke from his coma, regaining consciousness in a hospital with a nightmare of a hangover and a 54-hour blackout, feeling sore everywhere.

But Wess said he didn’t let his brush with death and multiple fractured vertebras keep him away for long, returning to the park just two weeks later.

Still feeling the effects of his last time on the water, Wess cruised effortlessly around the park. At first, he said he couldn’t take any more, then, madly and spontaneously, doubled-down on bad decisions by squaring up to the same ramp to try and conquer the same trick that nearly killed him.

“That’s the only problem with this place, it’s addictive,” he said.

This time around, Wess stuck the landing, returning to the water feeling fully alive and instantly curing any malignant doubts as a heavy does of pride and bliss coursed through his veins once he stuck the landing.

Lacerte said what keeps people coming back to Hydrous is intangible, but located somewhere in between the ears of each rider. He said the cable system and jumps just gives riders a better way for them to access it.

“It’s a good adrenaline rush,” Lacerte said. “Those endorphins really get going through your system when you do something new and you want to continue to feel it.”

Featured Image: Hydrous Wake Park in Little Elm. Hydrous also has a wake park in Allen. Tomas Gonzalez | Visuals Editor

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