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Bath native shreds at Shred the Gnar Wake School

Bath native Cole Woolard has spent much of his life on the water, so when he was offered the chance to be captain of Wrightsville Beach-based Shred the Gnar Wake School and train people from around the world how to ski, wakeboard and more, he jumped at it.

CAPTAIN: Captain Cole Woolard “hanging loose” behind the steering wheel of a boat he’s preparing to drive. (Cole Woolard)

Woolard said his father, Wayne, strapped him into a pair of trainer skis when he was 2 years old, and “the rest is history.”

“I actually started barefoot waterskiing before I even thought about wakeboarding,” Woolard said. “I started wakeboarding at the age of 14. It was something that all my close friends enjoyed, and I just picked it up, learned with them, and it gave us something to do on the weekends in Bath Creek.”

After finishing school at Pungo Christian Academy, Woolard attended the University of North Carolina-Wilmington.

“I ended up meeting the owner of Shred the Gnar, Kara Austin, through a friend. Shortly after, I became the president of the UNCW Wakeboarding Club, managing over 50 college students and grew very close with Kara, since her wake school sponsored our club,” Woolard explained. “One day, she offered the opportunity to obtain a captain’s license and coach people from all over the world visiting our region. I knew when the opportunity knocked, I couldn’t resist.”

In 2012, Austin, Women’s World Champion and a Liquid Force team rider, wanted to tackle a new market for the sport and launched Shred the Gnar Wake School. At the time, there was no wake school on a beach from North Carolina all the way down to the Bahamas, according to Woolard.

“This created the idea of bringing a first-class watersports experience that nobody has ever witnessed to our very own coast of North Carolina in Wrightsville Beach,” Woolard said. “(Austin) just wanted to take a fun experience and give the people an environment like no other.”

During the peak season of May to August, the school runs two to three boats every day, potentially catering to more than 2,000 people per summer, according to Woolard.

“Every year, the company grows. There has never been a shortfall due to exceptional experiences we provide our customers. People love the beach, and they love boats. This is a perfect opportunity to learn the sport and bring their family or friends together,” Woolard said.

Every week, Mondays through Thursdays, the school offers kids camps for ages 4 to 15, teaching any type of skill level. They also offer overnight camps per request, with opportunities to wake surf or tube among other sports for birthdays, bachelor and bachelorette parties.

“Every day, at least one person comes up to me and tells me, ‘You must have the best job ever.’ Well, I couldn’t agree more,” Woolard said. “Working in a tourist-dominated area, you get to coach people from literally all parts of the world. It’s something new every day, and I think that’s what makes it so enjoyable and exciting. People are just fascinated with the area and can’t believe we offer such fun activities for them to do.”

When it comes to plans for Shred the Gnar’s future, Woolard said they are hoping to create a second school.

“Our goal is to give back to the community as much as possible and keep growing every year. Who knows what the future will hold for us? But we hope to create a second school with a similar beach environment soon,” Woolard said. “I’m just so grateful to be a part of a very special company. We are so blessed with our clients and the opportunities they have allowed for us to do for that next step in growing.”

HAVING A BLAST: A drone takes a photo of Cole Woolard and a group of students he took out for a trip earlier this week. (Cole Woolard)

For more information about Shred the Gnar’s Wake School, visit the website at www.shredthegnarnc.com.