Water ramp being introduced at Okanagan Lake

Water ramping is a crucial aspect of freestyle training.

Water ramping is a crucial aspect of freestyle training.

Whether they compete in aerials, moguls, halfpipe or slopestyle, athletes must practice and qualify inverted tricks on a water ramp or air bag before they can perform them in competition on snow. In fact, all national and provincial team members spend a good portion of their summer training on water ramps.

It’s also extremely costly to develop a ramping facility complete with ramps, jumps (or ‘kickers’) and a pool to land in. British Columbia has only one water ramp located at the base of Blackcomb Mountain at Whistler. This poses a challenge, particularly for club athletes who want to qualify jumps but may not have the time or resources to make repeated trips to Whistler.

Kenni Kuroda, head coach of the Apex Freestyle Club, knew his club didn’t have enough money to acquire land and build a permanent ramp site. He was still committed to giving Okanagan athletes the opportunity to ramp all summer long.

The former World Cup competitor and one-time professional freestyle skier was determined that logistics wouldn’t quash his dreams. He came up with the idea to create a floating water ramp that could be housed on a barge and would be portable by trailer.

“As far as we know there are no other floating water ramps in the world,” said Canadian Freestyle Ski Association COO Bruce Robinson.

Kuroda garnered significant support from various quarters. Trademark Industries generously agreed to provide one of their barges for the project — a former military landing craft and troop carrier. Numerous people including Kuroda’s club parents came forward with donations of time and money.

As a bonus, the barge has twin diesel engines and can travel at 12 knots, which means the ramp can be transported easily from location to location.

By mid-August Kuroda’s ramp was ready to set sail.

The first trial jumps surpassed even Kuroda’s dreams and he quickly earned CFSA sanctioning for his invention.

“We’re really excited about what we’ve created,” said Kuroda of the ramp that has virtually identical specifications to one of the Whistler kickers. “We have a single jump and a dock that secures to the barge with a coaching platform. We have even planned for compressors if we determine down the line that we will need bubbles to break the surface tension of the water, but so far, because there are always a few ripples on the water, hard landings haven’t been an issue.”

Kuroda believes that his invention has applications far beyond his Okanagan enclave and said that down the road he might consider selling the plans for the floating ramp. But for now he’s just looking forward to seeing his own club members reach their potentials and the podium thanks to their water training.

The Apex Freestyle Club officially opens its new ramp Sept. 10 at 9 a.m. at Hobo (Esplanade) Beach on Okanagan Lake. Canadian World Cup Aerial superstar Steve Omischl and national mogul team darling Kristi Richards will be on hand for the opening ceremonies.

Anyone with a valid CFSA membership is eligible to jump, membership is available at: http://www.freestyleski.com/page.php?la=en&pa=registration&id=home. One-and-a-half hour ramping sessions cost $10 per person and are available on Saturday and Sunday. To reserve your spot in a ramp session or for more information, contact CFSA Media Relations Manager Kelley Korbin at: kelleykorbin@freestyleski.com.