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Of Teenage Dreams and Tough Daily Training   

Aged just thirteen, Jamie Huser is already considered one of the greatest wakeboard talents in the world. During the summer months, the Grisons native trains as much as possible on Lake Zurich. From autumn through spring, he is in Orlando, his second home, where the training conditions are ideal.

The motorboat skims across Lake Tohopekaliga just south of Kissimmee near Orlando at breathtaking speed. Behind it, wakeboarder Jamie Huser jumps over the waves created by the boat and demonstrates his wakeboarding tricks with flawless ease. “Incredible”, says wakeboard champion Trevor Hansen as he brings the boat to a halt. The US American is Jamie Huser’s coach in Florida. “Jamie is one of the greatest talents I have ever come across,” he adds. “He masters tricks that aren’t even really conceivable at his age. In fact, he is the world’s youngest wakeboarder ever to execute some of the jumps.”

Photos: Edelweiss/Joseph Khakshouri

A large family crazy about wakeboarding

Jamie Huser was just two years old when he first stood on a wakeboard. Not that he recalls the occasion. “I think they just pulled me around in the water for a bit,” the teenager says with a laugh. Interestingly, Jamie is a mountain boy who lives in Flims, a Swiss town famous for winter sports. When at home, his favourite pastime is to ride the half-pipe on his snowboard. But Jamie was born into a dedicated wakeboarder family. His father Beat Gattiker founded the first wakeboard school in Europe: the “Wakeboard Academy” in Kilchberg on Lake Zurich. The school is run by Jamie’s elder siblings, Sarah und Sascha. The large family of nine is “crazy about wakeboarding” and consists of: Sarah, Désirée, Sascha and Tim –Jamie’s grown-up siblings from Beat Gattiker’s first marriage- and Jannis, Jamie and little Sunny from his father’s marriage to his current wife Sandra Huser.

“We all know how to wakeboard, some better than others. But Jamie is undoubtedly the most talented of the family,” Sarah Gattiker explains. Two years ago, Jamie won the Swiss Wakeboard Championships - notably in the adult and not in the boys’ category, which is the one he should have entered. But, obviously, Jamie was already far too good for the “boys”.

Commuting between fondue and burgers

For Jamie to receive the best possible support meant finding a solution that would allow him to train all year round. That solution was the Orlando area. “There are many calm warm water lakes here, which makes the area ideal for wakeboarding,” Jamie explains. “There mustn’t be too much wind or too many waves; that is why the sea is not suitable. Having said that, there also needs to be ample space, so a large lake in an area with scarce wind is ideal.” The Orlando area fits the bill perfectly, even if most of the lakes are inhabited by alligators. “Initially, I did feel a bit uneasy about that,” Jamie admits. “But now I know the alligators are more afraid of me than I am of them.” And, so far, he has never encountered any when wakeboarding – only on an airboat tour. “The boat gets really close to them, which is very cool. They are so tranquil and will simply slip into the water when they have had enough.”

Another key factor was finding a fantastic coach like Trevor Hansen. “He is naturally gifted,” Trevor says. “But, above all, he just enjoys the sport. That is the most important point. If he continues as he has done so far, I am confident he will achieve great things. His name will certainly figure among the best wakeboarders in the world one day!” And so the thirteen-year-old spends a large part of the year commuting between Florida and Switzerland. A family member will accompany him, usually his father, Beat, or his eldest sister, Sarah. When in Orlando for extended periods, Jamie goes to school there. “My daily routine is pretty normal. I go to school, do my homework, and then I train. I have made some friends here too. Some are from school, others from wakeboarding events.” The only major difference is food-related: “If Mum isn’t here to cook, we often go out for a burger. That’s great too. I can have fondue when I am back in Flims.”

On track to becoming a pro

Even if Jamie occasionally gets a bit homesick (“sometimes I do miss my Mum and my friends in Flims”), his life in Orlando is more than just slightly appealing to him. As well as offering ideal wakeboarding conditions, the area is home to a myriad of theme and amusement parks – and, thus, pretty much a leisure time haven for a thirteen-year-old like Jamie: “SeaWorld Orlando is my favourite,” he says. “It is such a cool mix of marine animal zoo and awesome rides. There is also a rescue centre for manatees, including for orphaned calves that wouldn’t otherwise survive in the sea.” Another Jamie favourite is Aquatica, a huge waterpark with slides and wave pools. “Unlike when wakeboarding, I like the waves here. The water slides are so cool, even if some of them require a bit of courage because the initial drop is almost vertical.”

However, Jamie’s visits to Orlando’s amusement parks are to be more the exception than the rule. After all, his focus is clearly on wakeboarding. Jamie’s goal is to become a professional wakeboarder as soon as possible, preferably right after finishing school. Until then, he still has some swotting to do. “Back at school in Flims, I am really good at English now,” he says with a grin. And the other subjects? “Well …” But when it comes to sports, young Jamie’s goals are all the more ambitious: “I want to be the best wakeboarder in the world!”

Jamie Huser’s Tips:

Jeeves Vacation Rental Homes, Reunion ;;; “My sister Sarah and I rented a really cool house with a private pool. It even had a home cinema and a game room. Really phat!” ;;; (jeevesfloridarentals.com)

Boggy Creek Airboat Tour ;;; “Riding on an airboat to sight some alligators. It feels quite strange to be so close to them, but it’s also incredibly exciting.” ;;; (bcairboats.com)

Orlando SeaWorld and Aquatica ;;; “SeaWorld is my favourite theme park. It’s a cool mix of amusement park and zoo. Aquatica is right next door, a fabulous water park with great slides.” seaworld.com/orlando;;; (aquaticabyseaworld.com)

Text: Sandra Casalini