Student takes up extreme hobbies

Kelli O'Donnell

Mitchell Hallmark is a freshman at St. Edward’s University from Dripping Springs, Texas. In his spare time, Hallmark participates in extreme sports such as wakeboarding, wakesurfing, and motocross biking.

Q:  How did you initially get involved in extreme sports?

A: One Christmas, my brother and I got skateboards. It started off with us just sitting on them and rolling around, but it eventually became something we both really enjoyed doing during our off time. We made ramps and learned the basic tricks like ollies and manuals. In seventh grade my brother Travis took me to Texas Ski Ranch, and ever since then I’ve been hooked on trying new sports that allow me to be independent. 

Q: Are there any other extreme sports that you have tried?

A: My friends are the ones who motivate me to try new things. I’ve done something called wakesurfing. You load up a boat with a lot of weight, and you get a wave that is about 3-15 feet from the boat that you can actually surf on without a rope. Special wakesurfing boards are actually made for this sport. I also got a motocross bike last April, and I ride at a track past the airport called Del Valley. It is a lot of fun. If I could do that more I would, but it is hard for me to get my bike all the way from Dripping Springs to Del Valley. 

Q: Why do you enjoy these extreme sports so much?

A:  The real reason I love these sports so much is because I can have my own style, and my performance is not dependent on someone else. It is a true sense of freedom for me because there are no limits or rules when it comes to sports like this. Another reason that keeps me coming back to these sports is that every new day of riding allows me to find something new to get my adrenaline pumping. For me, nothing feels better than landing a new trick or trying a new ramp or rail. Even if I fail, the reward of success is a means for me to go back and try again.

Q: When did you start wakeboarding?

A:  I started wakeboarding in seventh grade. The first time I went wakeboarding was at Texas Ski Ranch, located in New Braunfels. It is a man-made lake in a circular shape, and a cable that is about 30 feet off the ground pulls you around. Texas Ski Ranch has rails, jumps, and other cool stunts. For about a year I strictly wakeboarded, and I would drive out to Texas Ski Ranch as many times a week as I could. I got comfortable hitting some of the rails and the jumps wakeboarding. After that year went by, I got into wakeskating. You can buy different sessions at Texas Ski Ranch, and I would get an “all day” session. I would wakeboard for the first part of the day and use the second part of the day to wakeskate.For about the next two years, I did nothing but wakeskating. Then I started competing in wakeskating competitions. The first competition I participated in was called the Lone Star Wakeskating Jam at Texas Ski Ranch in the summer of 2006. I competed in the beginner division and received third place. It was a great accomplishment for me. The next year I competed in the same competition, but I went up to the intermediate level, and I won fourth place. 

Q:  What is the difference between wakeboarding and wakeskating?

A: Wakeskating is basically wakeboarding without bindings. A lot of the tricks with wakeskating are more about moving the board in different directions. In a sense, you are using the board like a skateboard, spinning it and rotating it in different ways. Rails play a huge part in the trick aspect of wakeboarding, but in wakeskating the board is much smaller, and there is a lot less board to stand on. In wakeboarding, it is easy to correct yourself if you slip up, but in wakeskating you are not attached to the board, so it is extremely difficult to correct yourself if you mess up. If you can balance well on a wakeboard then you should balance well on a wakeskate. 

Q:  Do you have any injury stories from all of these extreme sports?

A: Bikes seem to be the thing I injure myself the most on. I grew up on a ranch, and I would use my bike to get around. The first scar I ever got was on my hand when I fell over my handlebars onto some gravel. A few years after that, I was biking down a hill, and I hit a rock with my front tire. I again fell completely over my handlebars and got a huge scar on my upper lip.

Just recently, I got my stitches removed from my left leg. I was biking out on a track and my left foot slipped out of my bike pedal; the pedal came back out and hit me right in the shin. Initially, I thought I broke my leg because it had swelled up so much. I ended up going to the hospital, and I found out I only needed stitches. I got my stitches out about two weeks ago. I’ve crashed many times throughout the years, but I’ve never had a broken bone.