Coast teen rides waves of success


Skye Herbett is a 14-year-old Sunshine Coast wakeboarding star. Photo by Rebecca Mugridge

The water fans out in a perfect blue arc as the young wakeboarder at Bli Bli Aquapark lands an exit at speeds that would make James Bond shake.

With flushed cheeks, wet hair and a happy smile, wakeboarder Skye Herbett is an incredible young athlete with a world title on her mind.

In 2018 Skye placed second in a national wakeboarding championship.

Her Instagram boasts over 4,000 followers and at just 14 she is driven and passionate about the sport beyond her years.

While other teenagers might be on TikTok, Skye is out there every day honing her skills and showing dedication to the sport of wakeboarding.

“My goal is to make it to America and Worlds and to be an inspiration to all the young wakeboarder girls,” she said.

“When I first started, I had no idea I would be here one day, six years later, with board sponsors and clothes sponsors and my eye on Worlds.

“It’s pretty hectic.”

Skye said reaching such a level in the sport has taken a lot of dedication and training, but hard work does pay off.

“In 2018 for nationals I trained from 8.30 until 5, from Monday to Friday, getting ready for that comp.

“It was hard work, very mentally and physically draining.

“We got two runs and I did my two runs and I got into the final heat and then I landed everything in that final heat, everything I had been working for and I came second place in Australia.”

Skye is backed by owner and manager of Bli Bli Water Sports Centre and Bli Bli Wake Park, Mick Neville, who said Australia produces some of the best wakeboarders in the world.

Skye Herbert with her proud dad Darren at Bli Bli Wakepark, where Skye trains. Photo by Rebecca Mugridge

“Not just in the cable scene but behind the boat as well, currently the professional [wakeboarding] boat scene worldwide is dominated by Australian talent in both junior and senior ranks,” he said.

“The same is true for cable.”

Mick and his wife Karen Neville (Bowkett) were both professional water-skiers and members of the Australian team for more than 15 years, winning more than a dozen medals at World Championships.

Mick believes Skye has every chance to go a long way in the wakeboarding world.

“And not just because of her abundant skill at wakeboarding but because of all her other qualities that make her a good human being, qualities that are also essential to becoming a true professional athlete,” he said.

Skye trains at Bli Bli Wake Park, a location that is getting a reputation around the world after producing many world champions over the years.

Plastic Playgrounds, the biggest professional event in the world last season, was won by two riders who began their careers at Bli Bli in their KLids Club Programme, James Windsor and Angus Hodges Frazier.

Mick said the skill level on the Sunshine Coast was right up there.

“There is a huge amount of talent here on the Sunshine Coast and we literally have hundreds of groms who basically live and love the lifestyle that we provide and promote,” he said.

It takes long hours and extensive training, but Skye said if you’re passionate about it, go for it.

“You’re here every weekend, you have to be really committed,” she said.

She loves every aspect of the sport including being a role models to the younger kids, many of whom she also now teaches at Bli Bli.

“I coach kids now and I have them come up to me to get photos with me and they message you on Instagram and say thank you for helping me,” she said.

“I had a girl come up from Melbourne who was so sweet and said, ‘I really wanted to meet you’…It’s so great to know you have helped or inspired a kid.”

Like many athletes, Skye has lost an important event for the year due to Coronavirus restrictions and is unable to train at the water park.

In the meantime, Skye is looking to the future and keeping those world titles in her sights.