Steph, Sarah and Mark bring an exciting new sporting facility to Pembrokeshire!
22 year old Steph Harris is best known as a very talented centre in the world of ladies rugby, where she plays for Bath, the Scarlets and sometimes Haverfordwest when she has the time, because at the moment she is involved in a hugely exciting and challenging venture with her sister Sarah (27) and brother Mark (24) that mark them out as rising stars in a new sporting area for our county.
Because with the full support of their parents, John and Ann Harris, they are engaged in bringing to Pembrokeshire the first-ever WAKE BOARD PARK in the county, situated near the Snooty Fox Inn near the Oakwood and Bluestone facilities, with the only other such park in Wales established near Abersoch in North Wales.
Building for the future
For the uninitiated, Steph described Wake Boarding as being similar to snowboarding, but instead of on snow participants test their skills on water - and in this case on a lake they are in the process of constructing that will be over 150 metres long and over 50 metres at its widest point.
"We managed to obtain the 6.5 acres of land that is too clay-based to be any use for building houses," Steph told us, "but perfect for our venture because clay forms an ideal bottom for our lake, which was dug out by Paul and Andrew Locke and is being filled naturally by rainfall and a stream on site."
Great team work already
Apart from the excavation, all the other work is being undertaken by the Harris trio, sometimes with other family and friends giving some welcome support.
"Since we obtained planning permission over a year ago we have been there almost every day from 9am to 5pm, no matter what the weather, because our aim is to be open in readiness for this summer, with Mark doing all the brick work for the ladies' and men's changing rooms, showers and coffee shop, whilst Sarah and I keep him equipped with all he needs and keep things in some sort of order as mum Ann regularly pops in with welcome coffee and food.
Great facilities from locally-source materials
"When our Wake Board Park is finished we will have the lake, man-made challenges like islands and jumps, and a clubhouse which has excellent changing rooms and shower facilities, plus French doors to a decked area outside the cafe for people to sit and watch if they are not wake boarding at the time; and a small shop as another extra facility.
"All of the materials we are using on the clubhouse are sourced from local businesses and it will be the same with the cafe because we intend stocking it only with produce from Pembrokeshire, whilst our van was designed by a local designer; and our web site was created by an old school friend!
"The furniture in the clubhouse, plus features around the park, all comes from recycled materials; stools are made from old skateboards and there will even be a piano available for some fun evenings - and we will be thrilled if people use the wake park as a focal point for our community."
Initial idea formulated in North Wales
Steph's initial idea came from a visit to a wake boarding park several years ago where she had gone along with a friend on a short holiday in North Wales and decided to give it a try.
"We had a whale of a time after some one-to-one coaching and some advice about safety measures," Steph told us, “and we will follow similar procedures when we start out as we will provide boards until people want to acquire their own, as well as suitable headgear, wet suits and life jackets."
All experienced in the sport
Since then Steph has taken part a lot when she is not involved as a try-scoring centre in rugby, whilst Mark, who is described by his sister as an adrenalin junkie, did a lot of kite surfing and was chairman of the club at Swansea University when he studied there.
He has been involved in wake boarding in Devon and as an engineer like his dad built his own winch to use on lakes wherever he was holidaying, and will develop the hawsers needed at their facility that will provide the impulsion on two different systems operated by the person in charge at each session for those enjoying themselves with the Harris clan.
Sarah was a very good gymnast as a youngster when mum Ann was coaching, as was Mark, and she is now a more than competent boarder in her own right so the family is geared up for their start in wake boarding
Looking to look after locals
"Whilst we are eager to attract the tourist trade our main aim is to look after local participants,” Steph told us, “and to that end we will have a membership scheme and discount rates for schools and groups, and intend opening from 9am until dusk so that people can still pop along after work to help them relax - and as time goes on we also intend installing floodlights to add to our time range to stay open."
"When I was a Gold Young Ambassador at St Davids School I was always eager to encourage non-participants to give a new sport a try,” admitted Steph, "and we provided opportunities for activities outside the regular school sports like rugby and football, hockey and netball.
"I really believe that wake boarding will provide a terrific opportunity for such non-participants of all ages to get involved and we aim to encourage as many locals as possible to give it a try."
And finally . . .
In time this intrepid trio hopes to provide a second lake on the same site and will be looking to attract other sports like open-water swimmers, and the possibility of a shuttle bus has not been dismissed by the Harris family.
"If things go to plan we expect eventually to employ another eight people, again from the surrounding area as part of our belief that the wake board park will form a focal point for the county.”
Despite all the hard work that is currently being undertaken by the Harris family there is an air of fun, excitement and anticipation that pervades all their work at the forthcoming Pembrokeshire Wake Board Park and we wish Steph, Sarah and Mark every success in what we are confident will be another terrific facility for the whole of Pembrokeshire and beyond!