Growing up every summer Bellingham's own Mike and Nick Ennen would head to their family's lake house on Big Lake in Mount Vernon. The Ennen clan, which totaled seven boys including cousins, enjoyed the usual lake activities as the summer months wore on.
But suddenly a whole new world opened to them when one day their grandpa brought home a wakeboard.
"We just all started wakeboarding right then when the sport was getting big," Mike said in a phone interview. "We started riding everyday and were pushing it with our cousins and brothers."
Mike, 32, and Nick, 35, fell in love with the sport and began competing in regional events. Mike maintained focus on wakeboarding and his art career, while Nick became both a pro wakeboarder and snowboarder.
Both attended Sehome High School, and as they grew so did their careers by using Whatcom County's entire natural playground.
"The terrain we have in the Northwest with the mountains, rivers, lakes, and ocean, it has given me an opportunity to do new things," Nick said.
Both Ennen brothers began competing in events called Northwest Sessions, which would take place them to Washington, Idaho, Montana and Oregon. Their success ultimately opened up more opportunities, and their dreams of becoming pro boarders became reality.
Sponsorships came as Nick and Mike competed around the world, Mike graduated with a fine arts degree from Western Washington University and has implemented his art skills into clothing and board design and Nick has become widely recognized for using an innovative winching system, which allows riders to wakeboard in remote areas boats can't reach.
Mike said his big break came with success in junior men's competitions that led to him joining the pro level. He was riding at the perfect time when the sport gained more popularity in the late 1990's, early 2000's. He began doing demos, video and movie shoots and succeeded in both contests and the magazine, video, TV realm.
Nick said his career took off when he landed the cover of Wakeboarding Magazine with a photo of him completing a tail grab down Whatcom Falls eight years ago.
"That was one moment in my career that made me standout from the others," he said, "and it gave myself my niche in wakeboarding."
The Ennen brother's wakeboarding careers have taken them all around the world from Germany, to the Philippines, to Spain, to Japan, but Mike still believes Whatcom County owns the best scenery in the world and some of the best places to ride for aspiring wakeboarders.
In fact, while Mike was attending Western, he had numerous friends who flocked to WWU because of the chance to become pro after graduation. During college, Mike and his wakeboarding team won three national titles.
"If you want to be a wakeboarder on the West Coast it's here or Sacramento," Mike said.
And Mike has helped further bolster wakeboarding opportunities in Whatcom County by producing the newly opened Permacation Cable Park at man-made Bow Lake in Bow.
The park opened June 28 and comes complete with a flatbar, incline, box and kicker for wakeboarders of all skill levels. The cable system provides interested wakeboards a chance to hone their skills without needing a boat or knowing someone who has one.
All new 2014 equipment is provided, and there are also private lessons, water sports camps, kids day camps and drop in sets.
Mike, fellow pro Kevin Henshaw and Bow Lake owner Doug Spady own and operate the park, and Mike said Nick also has been a major influence.
"It's been a passion for me to grow this sport," Mike said. "Boats are super expensive, so we brought in the cable, and you pay as you go. ... We just built this park to grow the community."
The park opens at noon and closes around 9 p.m., although Mike said their stadium lights allow for night riding. He also said they are flexible and can open earlier if need be.
"It's been a dream, you know," said Mike of being able to make a career out of his love for wakeboarding and art. "It's been a lot of hard work and dedication. It's a great lifestyle to live your passions and grow as a person with them."
Reach Andrew Lang at email@example.com or call 360-756-2862. Follow @bhamsports on Twitter for Whatcom County sports updates.
PERMACATION CABLE PARK AT BOW LAKE
Where: 18055 Bow Lake Ln in Bow
Pricing: $35 for single day; Passes include $150 for five sets, $250 for 10 sets, $400 for 20 sets and $525 for 35 sets. Each set lasts 10 minutes.
Contact: Visit bowlakewatersports.com for more information and to make reservations
Reach ANDREW LANG at firstname.lastname@example.org or call ext. 862.