INQUIRER SOUTHERN LUZON

In CamSur, wakeboarding fun can wait

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CLOSED The big wakeboard lake of CamSur Watersports Complex in Pili, Camarines Sur, is temporarily closed for “reinvention,” while the beginner’s lake, resto bar and clubhouse are still open. JOANNA LOS BAÑOS

Excitement has died down at the iconic CamSur Watersports Complex (CWC), credited for putting Camarines Sur on the local and international tourism maps and the phenomenal increase of tourist arrivals in the province.

Nowhere in sight at the 4-5-hectare oval artificial lake ringing a mounted island are the usual wakeboard riders out for a thrill, nor the multitude of spectators and other visitors milling at the six-hectare cable park complex.

The reprieve may last until November as the provincial government “reinvents” the facility, seven years after it began full operations. Gov. Miguel “Migz” Luis Villafuerte, a wakeboard enthusiast himself, wants a better and upgraded facility with higher pylons.

The higher the pylons and cable, the higher the wake rider can “fly” and do better stunts, said Villafuerte, the country’s youngest governor at 24 years old who took over the reins of the provincial government from his father, Luis Raymund or “LRay.”

Tourism icon

He said the CWC needed to be upgraded to maintain its reputation as one of the best wake parks in the world. Using the original concept of his father, wake parks in Thailand and Turkey had already mounted higher pylons for higher cable.

Villafuerte himself operates a family-owned wakeboarding facility in Laguna. He is the founder and president of Republic Inc., which operates a wakepark in Nuvali, Calamba City.

The CWC is a six-point cable ski system owned by the provincial government, which allows watersports enthusiasts to do waterskiing and its three derivative extreme sports—wakeboarding, wake skating and kneeboarding without a towing motorboat (cable technology is instead used for riders).

It involves an overhead cable suspended by specially designed pylons. The cables run clockwise around the lake and powered by a variable electric motor that generates speed of 20-65 kilometers per hour.

In an interview with the governor’s father in March 2009, he said the wakeboarding facility had already recovered the P120 million it cost to build it after only three years of full operation.

Seasonal

Since 2006, the CWC has become a tourist icon of Camarines Sur. The Iron Man triathlon was held there for three consecutive years, as well as the world wakeboarding championships.

It was also credited for the phenomenal increase of tourist arrivals in the province, outpacing Manila, Cebu and Boracay in Aklan in 2010, 2011 and 2012, according to reports submitted to the Department of Tourism.

Villafuerte acknowledged a recent drop in tourist arrivals at CWC. ““There is a little bit of decline because of politics like the split-Camarines Sur issue, and that investors like the Ayala companies deferred its plan for development inside the complex because they were afraid,” he explained.

The CWC’s auxiliary services, such as transportation business and souvenir shops, have also been affected.

Sonny Audian, 45, a motorcycle driver, recalled that at the height of tourist arrivals in 2009, 2010 and 2011, at least 70 motorcycles were plying every day the route from the capitol road entrance to the CWC, aside from the regular tricycles. A driver used to earn P200 in two hours, he said.

At present, he said, the motorcycles numbered 30 a day. The driver would earn an average of P300 for 12 hours, including waiting time for passengers.

Ningning Villanueva, owner of Pili and Sili Souvenirs Unlimited, said the peak years of selling CWC T-shirts, caps, hats and other items were also from 2009-2011.

Now, Villanueva said better sales were only during holidays and vacation. “It is seasonal now,” she noted.

Villafuerte vowed to put on high gear anew the promotion of the CWC after the renovation, targeting both local and foreign markets. He said other services in places like the restaurant, massage and the beginner’s lake could still be enjoyed by visitors, except the main lake for wakeboarding.

He said he would bring back the big events and bid again for the Iron Man race.

According to a billboard notice near the entrance of CWC, the soft opening of the renovated CWC will be this month and the grand opening is in November.

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