Wakestock 2005 – Interview with Adam Levitt, SBC Wakeboard Magazine’s Editor
Date: May 3, 2005
Amidst all of the rumours and possible locations, many people expressed concern over the proposal to host Wakestock at Toronto Island. This interview with Adam Levitt, SBC Wakeboard Magazine’s Editor, will shed some light on the selection process and give some insight as to why Toronto Island will be a great venue.
SC - With numerous towns vying to host the event, Toronto Island must have put together an impressive case. What were some of the important factors that influenced SBC’s decision to bring the event to T.O.? Did you consider moving the event outside of Ontario? Who was involved in the location selection process?
Adam – Wakestock has grown every year since it first started in the small town of Bala, Muskoka. Each year of growth has created new challenges with finding enough event site space, local accommodations, restaurants, evening entertainment capacity, town infrastructure support, etc. When you consider these kinds of factors, think about long term sustainability, and the fact that Wakestock now attracts 40,000 over its four day span, its clear that Wakestock has grown beyond what many small towns can host. Then factor in the most important consideration, a killer water venue for wakeboarding and the location choices become much more limited.
Toronto Islands has the one of best wakeboarding water courses in the world – better than Wasaga – something I don’t think many people realize. Long Pond on Centre Island offers fully protected water with perfect width and length; sloping shorelines on both sides to completely eliminate wake rebound; deeper water down the middle for improved wake size; shallow, hard sand bottom along the shore for building sliders; and unobstructed spectating from end to end with an existing grandstand to boot. Long Pond was originally designed as a world class watersports course and has a long history of hosting international water skiing and rowing events, including the World Water Skiing Championships back in the day.
SBC Events, the sister company of SBC Media (publisher of SBC Wakeboard Magazine, as well as SBC Skateboard Magazine and Snowboard Canada Magazine) who produces Wakestock, considered the interest of many towns throughout Ontario, but never any locations outside of the province. In the selection process they sought the input from as many people as possible including the wakeboard industry, a number of pro riders, and the staff at SBC Wakeboard Magazine.
SC - Many hardcore boarders are concerned that holding the event in Toronto will result in a different/negative vibe. I’ve heard way too many comments such as “The event is going to be infested with a Toronto crowd that knows nothing about wakeboarding and won’t show it any respect. They should change the event’s name to Lamefest or Ginofest.” What do you think of this general feeling?
Adam – We actually heard that same line when Wakestock moved from Bala to Wasaga. The reality is that Wakestock is first and foremost a core wakeboarding event made by wakeboarders, for wakeboarders. SBC Wakeboard Magazine as a sponsor of Wakestock has its reputation tied to the event. So the direction of the event will stay core. It’s not going to change, outside of the annual progressions that keep Wakestock at the leading edge of wakeboarding and action sports.
We’re confident that by moving to an even better wakeboarding venue, where we can continue to push the envelope as the world’s most progressive wakeboarding event, there will be even more to offer wakeboarding fans. We already know all of the top pros are coming.
By moving to a better venue where we can do more with action sports related events, there will be even more for action sports fans as well. As far as the Toronto crowd goes, 90% of the attendance at Wakestock for the past seven years has actually been from the Greater Toronto Area. A lot might travel from their cottage, but most call the GTA home.
Wakestock is also the biggest promotional event that wakeboarding has in Canada to build and grow the sport. That’s why the wakeboard industry support for Wakestock has always been so strong. The Toronto Islands location offers a better opportunity than any other location to provide the sport of wakeboarding with increased exposure with media and the general public. Exposure like that helps the sport stay strong.
SC - Wasaga had a great beach area where spectators could watch their favourite riders and check out a host of other action sports-related events/venues. How does Toronto Island stack up to Wasaga Beach, both for the fans and for the competitors?
Adam - As mentioned, Toronto Islands offers an even better wakeboarding course than Wasaga. Considering the terrible water conditions that riders have to deal with more and more on the Tour these days – X-Games has big rollers; Kelowna has whitecaps every year – the Toronto Islands venue will help maintain Wakestock’s status as the premiere pro event. The new Wakestock course for Expression Session, Railslide and Wakeskate will be the best yet, so the pros and fans should be stoked. We wouldn’t have moved to Toronto Islands unless we were confident that we could maintain and grow Wakestock’s rep as the pro’s favourite event.
Wakestock’s railslide course is being completely re-designed and expanded by the sport’s most respected builder, Pat Panakos, of The Projects in Florida, who has been working with Wakestock for the past six years. And this year Canada’s best rail builder Jimmy Brace will be teaming up with Pat, so expect the sickest slider course yet.
The wakeboarding venue at Toronto Islands is also going to be a better set-up for Wakestock’s Amateur Championship with at least two premium courses.
In addition to a better wakeboarding course, Toronto Islands offers beaches; increased spectating; more on-site space and capacity for Wakestock’s action sports related events; and more basic necessities like food concessions and washrooms.
SC - When I think of the Toronto Waterfront, images of dead fish, polluted water and closed beaches come to mind. What’s the environmental situation really like?
Adam – I think it’s important to note that the Wakestock site is not on the Toronto waterfront. And it’s not in Toronto Harbour. Toronto Islands is a 10-15 minute ferry ride out into Lake Ontario. For the past decade, while many beaches on the GTA waterfront have been closed from time to time, it’s a very rare occurrence for Toronto Island’s beaches because they are further out in Lake Ontario. The water quality is constantly checked on the Islands so I don’t think there will be a problem. Even the beaches in Wasaga get closed every summer from time to time due to pollution advisories.
SC - What’s the capacity of Toronto Island? Will there be extra ferry services to get people to the island?
Adam – On holiday weekends the Islands normally handle as many as 35,000 a day, so capacity is not an issue. The Islands are serviced by three separate ferries that have a minimum capacity of 3,500. An additional ferry will be added for Wakestock weekend. The ferries run very half hour.
SC - Is the Wakesk8 Beach Jam going to be back this year? Will there be any new events?
Adam – The Wakesk8 Jam will be back bigger, better and elevated to a highlight event, which combined with the pro wakeskate event will make Wakestock the most prestigious wakeskating contest of the year. We’ll be building on the excitement that last year’s Wakesk8 Jam created. That’s all I can say right now, except that you won’t want to miss it.
SC - For those on a tight budget, is there affordable accommodation in the area?
Adam – Considering that Wasaga was so booked up on the accommodation front that prices there were jacked 2-5 times normal rates for rather modest rooms, the price and availability in Toronto should be a nice change. You will be able to get a much better room for the same or cheaper price as in Wasaga. And no one will be pissed or turned away because they can’t find accommodation. Plus tons of people have friends or family in Toronto – and that kind of accommodation is free.
SC - Last year the Coors Light Trauma Tour took place in Toronto, albeit at a different location. Have you spoken to anyone about that event? Any lessons learned?
Adam – The Trauma Tour was more of a music event than wakeboarding and action sports. They borrowed some ideas from Wakestock, which is flattering, but it was a first time effort produced by a group who were new to wakeboarding. The water course location wasn’t a top priority so the wakeboarding suffered as a result, and the action sports events didn’t deliver either.
SC - Anything else you’d like to add?
Adam – Wakestock has been continually evolving since it started. This event pioneered the way most pro wakeboarding events are run today, and it will continue to keep it real and progressive. Wakestock was the first to introduce a separate pro slider contest on the pro wakeboarding Tour, the first to introduce pro wakeskating on Tour, the first to introduce a night time double-up pro contest, and the first to introduce a winch-pulled wakesk8 jam on Tour.
Wakestock pioneered the action sports and lifestyle festival event format that so many other events are trying to copy. Wakestock has always produced the biggest, sickest slider course of any contest. Wakeboarding and action sports are continually evolving and progressing and Wakestock will continue to stay at the leading edge of the wakeboarding and action sports and set the bar with the help and input of the top riders.
Wakestock has been seven years in the making with the help from many top wakeboarders and an expert team of dedicated organizers. Wakeboarders like Bryan Gardner, Guillaume Pare and Pat Panakos have been intimately involved, to name a few. And behind the scenes guys like Todd Elsley who heads up operations and the course building crew; and Zeke Meyers who heads up music production have been with us for years.
Wakestock moved from Bala to Wasaga as the event grew. We look forward to growing further in the bigger, better site that Toronto Islands offers. On behalf of all the pros competing I hope everyone who has ever been to Wakestock can check it out again this year. You won’t be disappointed.