WHY WINCHING? – Hannah Mennega

Photo- Dylan Mead

My induction into wakeboarding has been a rapid one. I didn’t step foot on a wakeboard until age 20, and my initial draw to wakeboarding stemmed from a love of snowboarding. Being from the Midwestern United States, I have a deep affection for handrails and rope-tow laps, and I like to think those Michigan snowboarder roots flavor and influence my place within the wake scene.

In the summer of 2019, I had 1 year of wakeboarding under my belt, and I was having a good time, but I had very little vision of wakeboarding on a larger scale. I liked chilling at the park with my friends, and I was beginning to progress in my riding, but in my mind, it was just a fun pastime. People were beginning to tell me I had the potential to become sponsored or even pro, but the idea of a contest circuit and creating an endless stream of go pro clips on white plastic held very little appeal for me as a person, so I largely brushed their comments off. I fully believe that is where my mindset would still be to this day if Hunter Thane hadn’t hit me up one night and asked if I wanted a full part in a cable/winch video project he was working on. I had always been drawn in by street snowboarding movies, the handrails and roof drops, the personal expression within each rider’s part, and the goofy homie b-roll all just made me happy. I didn’t know much about winching, but the idea that I could be a part of something similar in wakeboarding got me stoked. I enthusiastically agreed to join the ZMT project, watched every winch part I could possibly find on the wake mag sites, and quickly came to the realization I needed to learn how to ollie ASAP.

Photo- Dylan Mead

Laughably, my initial foray into the winch experience was far from idyllic. Long story short, I had been coaching snowboarding in Virginia, and due to some unfortunately timed storms, I was unable to go home to Michigan first before joining the ZMT crew in Rockford, IL for a filming weekend. I arrived with no wakeboard gear and a total of 2 hours of sleep under a chair at the airport. It was about 90 degrees at our first spot, our winch broke first pull, and I was rocking some West Rock Wakepark open-toe rental bindings and Matt Gagnon’s way-too-large helmet that kept falling over my eyes. My first winch pull was a mellow little rock ollie that opens my part in tape, and it took me a stupid amount of tries, but I cast most of that blame on American Airlines.

Regardless of the challenges, and I think maybe even because of them, I was hooked on winching. There is so much room for growth and progression, not just in my riding, but in my friendships and in my ability and knowledge as a person. (Ask any of the guys who winched with me early on. I was well-intentioned but largely unhelpful and my filming skills left much to be desired). Creating a winch part is more than a video, it’s a story. You might watch a clip that comes and goes within 5 seconds, but I’m seeing the 6 am wakeup call to beat the rising of both the sun and the kick out potential, the irate bystander attempting to cut the line with a pocket knife, the best Jersey Mikes sub I’ve ever had, or the kayak man with a trained duck and a machete. There is a measure of myself and my life within the video parts I’ve been able to film and I am beyond thankful for the opportunity to be able to find a home within a niche of wakeboarding that I relate to on a personal level.

Photo- Dylan Mead