By Julia Wagner
Town Crier Editorial Intern
Mountain View High freshman Alex Albin seems well on the way to his goal of becoming a professional wakeboarder. He was recently featured on the cover of WaterSki Magazine and last fall won his division at the World Wake Association Wakeboard World Championships in Mexico.
So what exactly is wakeboarding?
“You’re behind a boat and you’re on a wakeboard with attached boots, and you’ve got a line that you hold,” said Albin, who last year traveled to Abu Dhabi with the USA wakeboarding team. “The boat creates a wake and you do tricks from wake to wake, like flips and spins up to 900 degrees.”
The Los Altos resident added that his favorite trick is the “backside 720, which is spinning backward 720 degrees.”
He took up the sport at age 5, introduced to it by his father.
“I was hooked,” Albin said. “I was a water baby.”
The Albins share a love for water sports. Albin said his family attends his competitions to support him, and “they like that I do something different.” His sister Kelly, a sophomore at Mountain View, is a competitive wake surfer.
For Albin, the sport is therapeutic.
“Sometimes it just gets my mind off of things,” he said. “Doing it with your friends is probably the best feeling you’ll ever have.”
However, it’s also mentally and physically demanding.
“(It) takes a lot of dedication and determination,” he said. “It’s a lot of hard work, and it shows how much you’ve put in. It gets really frustrating when things don’t go right, and in a competition, things have to go perfectly.”
Prior to the state’s shelter-in-place order, Albin traveled to Discovery Bay every weekend to train on the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta. He spends summers training in Orlando, Fla.
When he’s away from the water during the school week, Albin relies on trampoline training at home; he uses a rope to practice the moves before bringing them to the water.
Albin has two coaches: Bryson Hancock in California and Glen Fletcher in Florida. Hancock introduced Albin to Fletcher – a former pro wakeboarder – six years ago.
“(Hancock) knew (Albin) needed to go to the next level,” Fletcher said.
That piqued Albin’s interest in the sport.
“I wasn’t really into wakeboarding that much until they introduced me to the competing aspect of the sport,” he said.
With 25 years of wakeboarding experience and a five-year pro career, Fletcher moved to Orlando from New Zealand in 1999 to pursue the sport at a higher level. He described Orlando as the “wakeboarding mecca” because the many lakes in the area and the warm weather create the ideal conditions.
“It’s where everybody gathers to train and push each other,” said Fletcher, a professional coach. “It’s hot, you can ride all year round, the weather is fantastic.”
Fletcher said the training regimen he has for Albin consists of waking up at 7 a.m., eating breakfast, stretching, getting on the lake at 9 a.m. for water training, then trampoline training before practicing in the water attached to an overhead cable.
“The better you are on the trampoline, the quicker you can learn those tricks on the water,” Fletcher said. “(Albin) is really good on the trampoline – he can do everything.”
Fletcher added that he sees something special in Albin.
“He’s a super-quick learner, naturally talented, incredibly aggressive and doesn’t hold back when he gets to the water,” he said. “He could easily be one of the best in the world.”
Fletcher said he would like to see Albin move to Florida to have greater access to the sport. Because he does not live on the water like many of his competitors, Fletcher said Albin “only gets to ride once for every time others get to ride 10 times.”
Albin said he plans to attend college in Florida and would like to start competing at the professional level, an advancement from his current Junior Pro status.
“I’ve been doing it for so long and I think it’s a really cool sport to be able to say you’re a professional at,” he said.
Fletcher shares the same dreams for Albin.
“He’s a great kid, super talented, nice family,” he said. “I would love to see him go professional, see him go to college in Florida so he could pursue it after college.”