A small marker board propped against the gate at the former cobia farm on Grassy Key said, “We’re open today. Sort of. Call Mike.”
Purple and green lattice hang on the gate to the former aquaculture and research facility, but the two towers between which an automated cable system runs across the east end of the lake hint at a fresh new use of the 7-acre saltwater tidal lake.
Cable parks have been all the rage in Germany for ages, but only five existed in a state whose economy is driven by tourism and recreation.
“We want to make this an adrenaline-fueled adventure park!” explained professional boarder and Keys Cable partner Matt Sexton as he strapped into his wakeboard for a quick post-work ride.
Otherside Boardsports co-owner Shana Walsh said she and her husband, Mike, had been eyeing the property as a proposed adventure park for years.
“There’s a lake behind Winn Dixie, and a quarry behind Harry Harris park, but this site is centrally located in the Keys,” she explained. Key West High School’s wakeboarding club was relieved of the 8-hour drive to Orlando Watersports Complex and has regularly used the facility since it’s unofficial opening only two weeks ago.
Sexton recruited fellow wake skater Dave Scott to help install the second cable system this week at Keys Cable, part of Otherside’s Adventure Park that will make the world of wakeboarding that has grown in popularity in the past 10 years more accessible for beginners. When there’s not enough wind to skim the surface kiteboarding, Walsh said Keys Cable hopes to be the go-to practice spot for experienced riders.
Cable systems are an overhead towing device used to pull riders (wakeboard, waterski, or kneeboard) across a body water. Though it simulates the experience of riding behind a boat, Sexton contended the higher tow point on a cable system makes it easier, and certainly for affordable.
“These two systems, when running at full capacity seven days a week, are only going to run us about $80 a month,” Sexton explained. The systems run on electrical power and are very efficient at that, making them the greenest source of wakeboarding available.
The Keys Cable has two 2-point cable systems that are independently operated. That is – instead of going around the lake in a square or circular motion, riders will be towed between two points, in a continuous ride back and forth. The cable systems are run by small electric motors, using only about as much energy as a small refrigerator.
“For a fully-equipped boat, you’re looking at about $80,000 and $200 in fuel each time you want to go ride,” he continued. “The cable makes wakeboarding more affordable and more accessible.”
The two-point system gives the rider many advantages over a full size cable. Independently controlled system gives the operator the ability to customize a ride just for you. Not only can the speed be controlled for ability level, but the cable is meant to be stopped when the rider falls – that means less swimming and more riding! No more lost time swimming to shore after a fall like in a traditional cable park. Operators can easily zip the handle to the rider, who will continue the ride from that point in the lake.
Advanced riders can still perform all of the air tricks that can be done behind a boat or full size cable, and will enjoy the re-riding ability after a fall.
In much the same way that Otherside Boardsports in Islamorada provides a clubhouse atmosphere where boarders gather to share experiences and tips, Sexton said plans are in the works to eventually transform the stilted building on property into a pro-shop with a café, juice bar and exercise facility all the equipment to maximize any boarders experience.
Hiking and biking trails around the 7-acre lake and through the upland hammock and 26 acres of mangroves will offer plenty of opportunities to enjoy an active adventurous lifestyle for Keys residents and visitors.
Keys Cable at oTHErside Boardsports Adventure Park, located at 59300 Overseas Highway in Marathon, is open seven days a week from 11 am – 5 pm. For more information, check out keyscable.com.