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Getting Social In China

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Austin HairI recently got the opportunity to go to Beijing for first-ever cable wakeboard contest in China. The event was held at the brand new Shun Yi Olympic Cable Park, 40 minutes outside of the city. When reading through my invitation for the event, I was sold when I saw that we would be going to see the Great Wall of China after the contest. Ever since I was very young, it’s been my dream to post an Instagram pic from the Great Wall. Now, I would finally have that chance.

To be honest, I hadn’t been doing very many air tricks at all since the Worlds last year, so one week before the contest, I began training in full force, riding dozens of minutes at the cable park each day. This training, combined with a strict diet of only protein, Living Fuel, carbs, vegetables, fruit, dairy, legumes and sweets got me pumped and ready to ride.

On my way to Beijing, they oversold the main cabin and I got bumped to business class. This is how I believe every contest should start, with first class treatment. I got to eat delicious, upper class food and slept in luxury for the majority of the flight.

World Cup Winners - Szebasztian Szolath (2nd), Dominik Guhrs (1st), Nick Davies (3rd)The IWWF does a great job at making sure the riders are taken care of. When you get invited to compete at a World Cup event you’re guaranteed an appearance fee, accommodations, food, transportation and entry fee. On top of that, there’s a shot at winning stacks of cash. Of course, you’ve got to compete against the national champions from every country to get it.

Being that cable is such an international sport, the roster was stacked with the best riders from around the world. On Saturday, we had less than ideal conditions with temperatures dropping into the lower 60’s and rain lasting all day long. I ended up in the LCQ, but then rode pretty well and made it to semifinals on Sunday.

The Great WallI was the lowest seed in semis and, therefore, first off the dock. I managed to put together a good run despite the fact that the cable was lower than what I was used to and the kickers more mellow than I expected. I landed tricks like an S-mobe and a toe back 7, which I hadn’t been able to do in practice since I got there. That surprised everyone, including myself I think. My Jobe teammate Declan Clifford also rode sick and we were biting our nails on the dock waiting for the scores to come out to see which of us would go to finals. I ended up beating him by 2 points and secured my spot in finals for the first time at a World Cup event.

Despite a lower cable than what most were probably used to, the finals went off. We saw insane riding. Dominik Gührs got first place with tricks like his super clean 515 and by squeezing in an extra egg mobe where most weren’t doing a trick at all. Szebastian from Hungary got second and Nick Davies rounded Renminbiout the podium in third. I hit the rails well, but fell on an S-mobe and ended up in eighth place overall.

Thankfully, the weather conditions cleared up marvelously for our sightseeing day. I would have been devastated had it been the other way around and we got rained on while trying to make awesome Vine and Instagram posts from the Great Wall.

It was rad to see so many people from the contest come along for the tour, about 40 in total. We started by going to the Emperor’s tomb, which was about an hour and a half away from our hotel. For some reason the Chinese throw money at the tomb, not just coins though, whole dollar bills. It was tempting not to grab the stack and make a run for it, but my morality won out. Also, I think the fact that I would have been immediately overrun by security and probably tortured in a holding cell may have played a role in my decision making process.

Straight after the tomb we traveled to the much-anticipated Great Wall of China. On the way there Nick Davies and James Young picked up some traditional Chinese garments in order to become more immersed with the culture while Nick Davies and James Youngstanding atop China’s most iconic monument.

The Great Wall was originally built 600 years ago to keep the Mongols out of ancient China. Today, however, it serves as a timeless symbol more so than an actual boundary, running through the middle of the country. When we arrived, the amount of people there was insane. It was completely packed. We bought a ticket in order to take the gondola up to the top, which every American knows is way better than walking. What ensued was an unimaginable, overwhelming conglomerate of mass media capturing and social networking gold. Armed with my 7d and iPhone 5, I was prepared for any and every media capturing moment. The photos and videos poured like rain from heaven. Because of Nick and James’ Chinese formal attire, they were able to not only bless our social network feeds with this nectar of the GChinese statue (or something)ods, but also half of China's feeds as they were the object of attention for every camera in the vicinity. They took over 4,000 photos that day with complete strangers simply out of the kindness of their hearts (and for a mere 10 euros a pop).

Thanks to the Great Wall of China, I achieved my lifetime goal that day by a getting a record number of likes from photos on my Instagram feed (@austinhair) of me doing a handstand on the wall. This day was truly a day to remember. Despite being forced to walk back down the Great Wall because of the horrendous line to the gondola, we transcended the mountain in a blissful state, glowing with the satisfaction of keeping our social networking fans happy. We knew in our hearts that members of the Twitter community would be rejoicing all the way up the Vines while Google +ing photos to Facebook.

Austin gets inverted on The Great WallIt didn’t stop there. Addicted to the rush of getting likes to justify self worth, we rushed to the Emperor’s Summer Palace, a little piece of tourist heaven. The Summer Palace was built hundreds of years ago as the reigning Emperor's home when he went to Beijing. Today, the beautiful palace serves all the citizens of China by providing breathtaking views over the lake and the city. But what trip is complete without photo bombing some random Asians? After one final onslaught of photos, my trip to Beijing, and my life, for that matter, felt complete.

Traveling to various parts of the state as a group gave everyone a sense of unity, and taking the extra time to experience what a country has to offer outside of wakeboarding was completely worth it. I hope that the VIP treatment we get at these contests grows to become the standard as our sport progresses.

For complete results of the Beijing World Cup, click here.



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