ben wakelinBen Wakelin takes German exchange student Naomi Doffing for a spin on Lake Hood in his homemade boat. Photo suppliedYour average 17-year-old boy might be handy with a tool or two, and may have built or fixed bits and pieces.

But not many teenagers would have built a bright green fibreglass boat mostly by themselves, but that’s what Ben Wakelin has done.

In 2015 Ben finished a two-person boat in little over a year.

He’s been interested in building, fixing and pulling things apart for as long as he can remember.

So when it came to deciding what his next challenge would be, Ben decided to build a boat.

It took half a year of research to determine if he should build it and what methods he would use.

He then bought the plans from America and started building.

It took little over a year to build the boat in his parents’ shed.

He used general building skills and turned components on the lathe.

Some parts of the boat required welding and he taught himself how to build with fibreglass.

When it came to fibreglassing he called in two friends to help and another to help him build the trailer.

Once his masterpiece was completed and tested, the bright green boat was fully functional and was taken to Lake Camp.

It proved its worth when it towed a waterskier.

Along with building the boat as a hobby, Ben used this project for his Queen Scout award as a new skill.

He’s also interesting in providing lighting and sound for stage events and this hobby started while he was at Ashburton College where he worked with the tech crew.

That saw him play a crucial role in assemblies and college productions.

His skills have also been used with the Mid Canterbury Children’s Theatre shows.

Last year Ben supplied and set up the lighting at the Ashburton Volunteer Fire Brigade’s fundraiser, the fireman’s ball which took place in early October.

This year Ben heads to Canterbury University to study engineering.

By Maddison Gourley - Student © The Ashburton Guardian - 4 January 2017

george hugh donaldsonGeorge and Hugh Donaldson, ready to take on the world at the junior water ski championships in Chile. Photo suppliedThere’s not much of the world George and Hugh Donaldson haven’t seen – from the water of a lake.

The Ashburton 17-year-olds are about to spread their travel net a little wider today as they leave for the World Junior Water Ski Championships in Santiago, Chile.

This morning they were up at 4am, bags packed and ready to hit the road with mum Janene and dad Neil, looking forward to playing their part in earning honours for both the New Zealand team and for themselves.

George and Hugh are no strangers to international competition.

They’ve been competing in the Oz-Kiwi championships every year since they were 10 and this is their second outing as members of the New Zealand junior team to the world champs.

Last time the pair scored personal bests in several events and this year, older and stronger, they’re hoping to make the finals and perhaps come home with medals.

For the last event in Peru they were the team babies; this time they’re the old hands.

In an odd quirk this year’s New Zealand team is made up of two sets of twins (both males) and two individual females.

This is the first time the event has hosted teams of six (previously teams were made up of four skiers) and that will make securing top placings just that bit more difficult, mum Janene said.

Making it onto the world stage doesn’t come without hours, months and years of practice.

For the pair that means Lake Hood is their second home.

Standing out at the top simply means being better, faster and turning on more complex and perfectly executed tricks than the competition.

“But the better you get the harder it gets to keep improving,” Hugh said.

Getting better, however, means water skiing has to become the number one focus in your life, George said.

“We never get sick of it.

“We’ve got friends all over from skiing and it’s great to ski with friends.”

Trips to international events are usually family affairs, with the opportunity taken to spend a few days post event on holiday.

This time that will include a few days in Buenos Aires and a trip to the Iguazu Falls; at the Peru champs they walked the Inca trail.

If there’s a downside, it’s the travel to training camp, the days of missed schooling and the lack of time to play other sports.

George and Hugh will be Year 13 students at Ashburton College next year and know they’ll have to make some big decisions before that year is over.

Already there have been approaches from American universities, but both are noncommittal when they look at where their future might lie.

The pair have been water skiing since they were six, competing since they were seven.

The sport is what the Donaldsons do as a family.

Like any sport, water skiing comes with a high chance of injury and 19 stitches in George’s mouth are an example of how easily a jump can go wrong even for an expert.

The pair are looking forward to competing on a lake that is as close to the perfect venue as you can get – privately owned with wrap-around shelter.

Like every other competitor, they’ll be fighting for water time during the five-day lead up, but with months of training behind them, George and Hugh say they’re as ready as they’ll ever be to foot it on the international stage.

By Sue Newman © The Ashburton Guardian - 29 December 2016

Ashlee StrawbridgeAshburton basketballer Ashlee Strawbridge prepares for Gator Winter Classic tournament in Las Vegas. Photo Jamie AdairVery soon, Ashlee Strawbridge will be swapping Boxing Day sales and New Year’s celebrations at home for basketball in Las Vegas.

Leaving for Las Vegas on Boxing Day, Ashlee will be playing for the Mainland Eagles at the Gator Winter Classic.

The team will stay for 18 days and compete with 28 other teams.

Not originally part of the main squad, Ashlee was called into the squad from the reserves and is the team’s youngest player.

The squad is classed as U-18 but the Ashburton College Student has only just finished Year 10 and will be surrounded by mainly Year 12 and 13 students.

Mum Paula will be travelling with Ashlee and will be manager of the team.

Ashlee has been part of the Mainland Eagles academy for the past year.

Trainings operate during school terms on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays with Ashlee attempting to attend as many of these as possible.

Having picked up basketball at age six, Ashlee started to take things seriously in Year 8 after making it into the Mid Canterbury rep team.

Until this year she had partnered her basketball with netball but chose to stop netball this year to focus on basketball.

Ashlee’s main goal is to play college basketball in the United States.

This tournament could be a great proving ground as all the games will be filmed, and colleges will then have access to these recordings to use as scouting material.

Ashlee is also hoping to represent New Zealand at age-grade level.

She is currently waiting to hear back about the trial list for the next stage of trials for the New Zealand team.

By Jaime Pitt-MacKay © The Ashburton Guardian - 23 December 2016