A wake all day: Bell sets world mark
Bell aims for Guinness Book of World Records on Lac La Belle
Warrick Bell began his quest for a place in the Guinness Book of World Records with confidence.
"The first hour, I thought to myself, 'This is going to be easy,'" he said. "Second hour, 'This isn't going to be that bad.' Third hour, 'I think I can do this, but it might be a tad difficult.' Fourth hour, 'I'm going to be in so much pain if I can do this.' Basically after the fourth hour, I wanted to physically stop."
He had 20 hours to go.
Going on record
What Bell was trying to endure was 24 consecutive hours of wake surfing, a feat he ultimately accomplished on Lac La Belle in Oconomowoc. The 22-year-old native of South Africa put hours of planning into the performance and came away with the achievement he coveted for that celebrated reference work.
"I've always wanted to set a world record, but since wakesurfing is a newer water sport, I also thought setting a wakesurfing world record could really push the sport to the next level and help it grow," Bell said.
The sport bears similarity to wakeboarding, in which a surfer trails behind a ski boat, surfing the boat's wake without being directly attached to the boat. Wakesurfers use tow ropes to get to the wave, then drop the rope and ride the steep face below the wave's peak, much like an ocean surfer would do.
"I saw wakesurfing in a magazine in the summer of 2006, and lucky for me, my parents bought a house on Lac La Belle in the spring of 2007 and then purchased a boat," said Bell, who attended high school in Illinois and college at Carthage in Kenosha after his family moved to the United States in 2001. "Once we got our boat, I told myself, 'I have to buy a wakesurf board to try this new sport out.'
"So here I stand and have been wakesurfing for four summers now. I started competing in wakesufing in the summer of 2008. After the summer of 2008, I picked up a sponsor (Inland Surfer Wakesurfer Boards) and since then I have traveled to Nashville, Texas, Seattle, Minnesota, Ohio, and many other places competing as a professional wakesurfer."
But he had never tried anything like this. Bell began his quest at 4 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 26 and finished 24 hours and 19 minutes later Friday afternoon.
The experience wasn't just a one-day adventure, however. Bell said he began preparation to execute the task as early as last November.
"I've been trying to figure out what exactly would I need to do in order to be allowed to wakesurf at night on Lac La Belle," he said. "I have also been training since February building up my endurance to help with standing for 24 hours. There have been a lot of town, city and village meetings trying to get this event approved, about seven meetings total."
Staying on board
He said he was thinking about all that work right around the time he hit the wall on Lac La Belle.
"I knew that there had been so much planning involved to get this World Record approved; I couldn't give up," he said. "When I hit the 12-hour marker, it was 4 a.m., 50 degrees out and everyone on the boat was just about dead, so that was one of the more difficult times ... plus the fact that you think you've done so much and you're nearly there when you still have 12 more hours.
"Overall I'd say that planning this event was about 80 percent of the work and the surfing was 20 percent" he added. "Saying setting a world record was only 20 percent of the work doesn't do it justice."
As Bell got colder, the water against his legs began to feel hotter by comparison.
"It felt like a hot tub and I wanted nothing else but to jump in and stay in the water until the sun came up," he said. "The absolute worst time was about 5 a.m. to 8 a.m. The day didn't start off too well ... the sun was behind all the clouds and I wasn't getting any warmer."
By 9 a.m., Bell had already been awake 24 hours, including the handful of hours making final arrangements before starting the surf. During the 31 hours he was awake, his meals consisted of a bowl of pasta prior to jumping on his board, a couple peanut butter sandwiches during the ride and ample doses of water and Gatorade.
During the attempt, his team had to refuel eight times.
"Now this wasn't an easy task because on Lac La Belle, there is no gas station, so I had to have people running back and forth to the gas station on land, fill up a bunch of gas cans, unload them put them onto a pontoon boat and then bring it out to the Centurion where we had to refuel in open water with the boats rocking and bumping into each other. "The first refuel took about 15 minutes to put 45 gallons of gas in, and we lost one of the gas cups to the bottom of the lake. Lucky we had duct tape. After the first refuel, we had the time down to about 8 to 9 minutes."
Draped in the flag of his native South Africa, Bell videotaped the adventure and placed snippets on his website, saltlesssurfer.com. The site also chronicles some of his professional ventures, including second place in a pair of national and world amateur wakesurfing competitions.
"The thing that draws me the most to wakesurfing is the fact that it is for all ages," he said. "I will be able to do this sport until I can't walk anymore. Wakesurfing is not hard on the body when you fall, because the boat is only moving at about 10 miles per hour, which makes it great for all ages."
Portions of Bell's comments were forwarded through e-mail by Bell from another published interview.
The Guinness Book of World Records receives 50,000 applicants annually for new and broken records. The process has several steps for applicants
• Meeting the requirements and reading a checklist of records the organization does not sponsor - such as dangerous situations involving minimum age requirements ("youngest driver," for example) or things that cannot be properly quantified ("most beautiful")
• Completing an application
• Explaining the claim, which will be evaluated within a month. Guinness will either accept it, reject it or suggest a similar record already on file that the applicant may wish to break
• Fully documenting attempt, followed by 6 to 8 weeks of evaluation to determine successful completion (Bell's attempt is therefore not yet official)
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