Once seen as a direct competitor to boating, cable parks are proliferating across the country as U.S. dealers find new synergies with the parks.
“If there’s a trend that we’re really excited about it’s the development of the cable parks,” said Meddock. “The boat companies are now embracing the cable parks , the board companies are, of course, embracing the cable parks with on-site pro shops. It’s opened up a whole new revenue stream for everybody.”
Pete Surrette at O’Brien Water Sports said the shift in gears has translated into an entire new market for their cable park-focused goods.
“Cable parks have had a huge impact in Europe for a number of years. We have a lot of product that is specific for cable parks that up until the last couple years have only been sold in Europe,” said Surrette. “We’re still very much in infancy here compared to Europe, but we do see it growing.”
Nautique was one of the first boat manufacturers to recognize the power of cable parks as a feeder pool into the boating market, though they’re the first to admit it’s not going to sell more boats overnight.
“The cable watersports market is growing fast and we have entered it with two parks in Florida and many more to come,” said Bill Yeargin, president and CEO at Nautique. “It is a great way to introduce people to watersports and develop them into boat buyers. However, it is a long-term view.”
He said cable parks are breathing new life into the watersports market.
“Wakeboarding and wakeskating are a lot of fun and revitalized the watersports market over 15 years ago,” said Yeargin. “It is what cable is doing today.”
Kevin Michael with Malibu Boats said cable parks have been instrumental in introducing people to wakesports.
“Absolutely cable parks have helped. We work with a park in Texas called TSR (Texas Ski Ranch) and they are also a Malibu dealer,” said Michael. “What happens is people get introduced to wakeboarding for the first time, people that maybe don’t have access to lakes.”
He said their approach makes it easy for cable park enthusiasts to get out on the open water behind a boat.
“They see the boats at the dealership and want to try it. There’s a boat lake right there too, so they try it and they realize the boating experience is better for family and friends than anything else,” said Michael. “That’s why it’s not competitive with what we do, because we do see a lot of people embracing the boating lifestyle who started out as cable riders.”
Tigé boats is also championing the more than 40 U.S. cable parks – up from just 25 in 2013.
“We believe that the cable parks gives access to watersports that you wouldn’t otherwise would have had access to in neighborhoods or cities – we back that entirely,” said Gutierrez.
Grabbing young people’s attention in the cable parks will also push wakeboarding and wakeskating forward by simply giving kids a place to practice without the liability of a boat. Keeping the sport healthy holds attention and draws in more and more action sport enthusiasts.
“If you look at the pro wakeboard tour, the junior pro division is very healthy – kids 14 to 18,” said Michael. “Whenever you see a sport with growth at younger ages, you know that that’s a sign of vitality.”
Giving that “wow” factor in wakeskating is a massive marketing win for watersports as a whole, even if it might not sell many boats.
“Wakeskating is so hard for your average consumer, I don’t think it sways a boat sale. But from a credibility standpoint, from respect from other industries and just acknowledging something else happening behind a boat,” said Gutierrez. “It keeps things interesting. We’ve had more wakeskate videos in our industry go viral than other video.”
Though the majority of wake sport pros have come from boating community, some have already come from the cable parks.
“The best evidence we have is Adam Errington, one of our pro riders, whose very first boat he ever owned was a sponsored Tige,” said Gutierrez. “He started off on the cable, that’s where he learned, that’s where he got better.”
Watch for a lot more cable parks popping up in the U.S. in the coming years.
“I expect other boat makers to buy cable parks in the future,” said Meddock. “To have 100 cable parks in the United States within the next three to five years is not out of the question. I think there’s more cable park under development than anybody realizes because they’re being drafted and developed in secret.”
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What are your thoughts about a private entity creating a cable park where people can learn and practice towed activities in a semi-controlled environment?