By Jane Hudson
In the past, 252 residents who wanted to wakeboard needed a big body of water, a boat, a friend to drive the boat, and a personal wakeboard, life jacket and helmet.
An East Carolina University graduate has opened a water-sports complex in Ayden that makes wakeboarding accessible for anyone, from beginner to expert, young and old. No boat required.
Sam Burney, a self-proclaimed "boarding sports fanatic" since the age of 10, has opened Cable Paradise Park on a spring-fed lake at 9379 N.C. Highway 903.
Cable wakeboarding uses a motorized cable instead of a boat to pull a wakeboarder across the water and through a course with features for tricks including jumps and rails.
The sport is so popular internationally it's being considered for inclusion in the 2020 Olympics.
There are more than 400 cable wakeboarding parks around the world, most of them in Europe. And though more are being installed in the United States, Cable Paradise Park is one of only a handful that are open to the public.
The local park has two 2-tower systems of motorized overhead cables to pull wakeboarders across the water for 10-minute sessions.
The ziplines, which an operator controls with a joystick, have a number of advantages over traditional wakeboarding behind a boat, Burney says.
* The cable may be set to a slow speed for beginners and a faster rate for advanced riders.
* Boarders don't have to deal with large waves from a boat.
* There is no wasted time turning the boat around after a fall.
* Fallen riders don't have to swim back to the starting platform; the operator drives the handle back to them so they can get up again at the spot where they fell.
* The rope pulls riders at a sharper upward angle than a boat does, allowing for bigger jumps and crisp turns.
* The cable system, operated with a quiet and efficient electric motor, is environmentally friendly.
CPP offers a learn-to-ride package for $20 which includes a 10-minute private lesson and all rental gear a wakeboarder needs.
Three 10-minute cable wakeboarding sessions are $30, six sessions are $50 and an all-day cable pass is $60. Rental rates are $10 for a wakeboard, $5 for a life jacket and $5 for a helmet.
In addition to cable wakeboarding, CPP has a swim beach, a floating inflated obstacle course and lounging floats. A beach and swimming pass is $5 per person.
The park offers summer camps, birthday parties and group events. Camping is planned.
Burney has been working to open CPP since April 2016, soon after he graduated from the ECU College of Business with a concentration in Entrepreneurship and Small Business Management.
"I am excited to see this park and the wakeboard community surrounding it grow," he satd.
Cable Paradise Park is open seasonally from 11 a.m.-7 p.m. Tuesdays through Sundays, weather permitting. Call 704-807-4463.
The park is located a few miles past Strawberries on 903 but before you get to the turn for Simply Natural Creamery. Directions are on the park website.
Editor's note: According to Greene County Economic Development Vice Chairman Jim Davenport, Cable Paradise Park has an Ayden mailing address but the physical location is in Greene County.
Updates are posted on the CPP Facebook page.
Photos of Cable Paradise Park by 252Buzz.
Jane Welborn Hudson, a native of Greenville, is a former staff writer for The Daily Reflector, where she was editor of Her... magazine and Greenville: Life in the East and several other niche publications. Email her at email@example.com.