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It's too cold to water ski, but try something different for this summer

January 19, 2007|by LISA PREJEAN

If an early case of spring fever has you itching for sites of summer, check out the Baltimore Boat Show, which opens Saturday, Jan. 20, and continues through Sunday, Jan. 28, at the Baltimore Convention Center.

A highlight of the show will be Rail Jam, which will feature professional wakeboarders performing stunts on wave-simulating rails.

The relatively new sport of wakeboarding first came on the scene in the mid-1980s when surfers tried their skills while being pulled on a rope behind a boat. Originally called skiboarding or skurfing, the sport is now officially known as wakeboarding.

Wakeboarders stand sideways on a single board that has a concave shape. The boards are shorter than surf boards and have bindings similar to those used on snowboards. Wakeboarders combine tricks used by surfers, snowboarders, skateboarders and water skiers.

The sport is particularly popular with males ages 14 to 28 and is a great way for families to enjoy their time together on the water, says Ryan Davis, president of Step Up Productions.

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"It draws everybody together," says Davis, whose company will present several wakeboarding shows in Baltimore. He says people who don't frequent lake areas might be unaware of the sport. "We bring the sport to the people."

During the shows, a high-powered winch pulls an athlete along a wooden rail and into an inflatable pool.

Spectators can see an athlete perform stunts such as a backside boardslide, during which he'll approach the rail with his back turned and slide across the rail while holding on with one hand behind his back.

"You're 15 feet away from the action. You get to see what the rider does and see it up close and personal," Davis says. "For a lot of people, the first time they see it, it's pretty crazy."

For those who get drawn into this extreme sport, time on the water becomes an obsession, Davis says. "It gets kind of addicting."

The popularity of wakeboarding is growing.

"It's taking over the boating industry," Davis says, noting that the sport is particularly popular in the Orlando, Fla., area. "Anybody who's interested in water skiing is interested in wakeboarding."

The wakeboarding presentations at the Baltimore Boat Show will be:

· Saturday, Jan. 20 - 1:30, 4:30, 6 p.m.

· Sunday, Jan. 21 - 1, 3:30 p.m.

· Monday, Jan. 22, to Wednesday, Jan. 24 - 3:30, 6:30 p.m.

· Thursday, Jan. 25 - 2:30, 4:30, 7 p.m.

· Friday, Jan. 26 - 2:30, 4:30, 7 p.m.

· Saturday, Jan. 27 - 1:30, 4:30, 6 p.m.

· Sunday, Jan. 28 - 1, 3:30 p.m.

The Baltimore Convention Center is two blocks from Inner Harbor on Pratt and Howard streets in downtown Baltimore. Tickets to the boat show are $10 for adults, $5 for ages 13 to 15 and free for children ages 12 and younger.

In addition to Rail Jam, there will be a Powerboat Docking Challenge where visitors can maneuver a 4-foot, twin engine remote-controlled boat through a 20-foot tank.

At the IGX Virtual Waterway, kids can play the newest water-themed video games on 17 screens. There also will be seminars, boating and fishing gear and more than 500 boats on display.

For more information about the Baltimore Boat Show, go to www.baltimoreboatshow.com. For more information about wakeboarding, go to www.stepupproductions.com.

Lisa Tedrick Prejean writes a weekly column for The Herald-Mail's Family page. Send e-mail to her at lisap@herald-mail.com.

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