Hydrofoiling is a combination of wakeboarding and water-skiing — in a seated position. A hydrofoil board is shaped like a wakeboard, but its two boots are near the front. At the other end, there’s an elevated seat, like a bike seat, where the rider sits down and straps in, holding a towrope. Beneath the seat is a stainless steel post that extends through the board and into the water to the blades that make the device work. The blades cut through the water beneath the surface while the hydrofoiler bounces along, sometimes skimming the surface, sometimes flying above it.
Skier’s Pier on Pine Lake in West Bloomfield (248-682-2180) offers a hydrofoil clinic each summer, says manager Mike Roberts: "We do have a number of people who do show up … guys 30 to 40 [years old] that are really into it. It’s a lot of fun."
But hydrofoiling isn’t cheap, costing upward of $700 for the proper equipment.
Wake-surfing — "the newest thing out," as Roberts says — is a cheaper alternative, with boards costing $300-$400. It’s a way to surf even when you’re nowhere near an ocean.
Wake-surfing is precisely that — surfing the wake of a boat. The surfer uses the boat and a towrope to get out of the water, and once steady, drops the rope and literally surfs the wake. The board is about 5 1/2 feet long and has no boots, which makes it more like actual surfing and less like wakeboarding.
A big wake is essential. Roberts suggests putting all the passenger weight on one side of the boat, which will help create the biggest wake possible. "The bigger the wake the better, the easier it is to do," he says.
If motor-driven water sports aren’t your cup of tea, kayaking and rowing are two water sports that provide a good workout and an opportunity to explore Detroit’s waters.
John Thompson runs regular kayak tours of the Detroit River. Thompson will be your guide and teach how to row before you go. He’ll take you from St. Clair Shores all the way to Grosse Ile if you like. The trip costs $20-$40, depending on how far you go.
"I use sit-on-tops — ocean kayaks — so people can rescue themselves," Thompson says. Don’t worry, there’s no chance of flipping over and being caught in the kayak. Tours start at 9 a.m., weather permitting. Call Thompson at 313-691-7470 if you’re interested.
For more a more intense pursuit, try the Detroit Boat Club Crew.
"We’re a band of several hundred rowers," says head coach Richard Bell. "If you want to row, we want to have a program for you."
There are programs, both competitive and recreational, for all ages and abilities, including deaf and handicapped rowers.
The Detroit Boat Club was founded in 1839 and calls Belle Isle its home; that’s where DBC stores the boats and equipment. Members pay a fee that varies by program. Join the crew by calling Bell at 248-875-8574 or sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Detroit Women’s Rowing Association was founded last year and is open to women ages 27 and up, says its co-founder and coach, Renee Schulte.
"We decided to design a club specifically for competition, and for girls," she says.
The club meets at the Fisher Mansion and practices on two canals that border it. Members train rigorously year round. The team competed several times last year, including in the Royal Canadian Henley — "the pinnacle of sprint racing for North America," says Schulte. The Detroiters took first place by almost four boat lengths.
"This is a competitive crew," Schulte says.
The association has frequent opportunities for tryouts and a growing junior program. For more information, call Schulte at 313-881-2931 or send an e-mail to email@example.com. Carolyn LaFave is a Metro Times editorial intern. E-mail her at
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