Find something in life that you love as much as David O’Caoimh loves wakeboarding.
The Dubliner’s enthusiasm for his sport crackles down the phone line. It shoots off the YouTube videos he shoots and edits of his exploits in much the same way his board propels off a ramp in Ballyhass in Cork or one of the many exotic venues where he plies his trade around the world.
That unfiltered joy, and a knack for harnessing social media and the digital world in general, fed into the now 26-year-old being named as 2018’s favourite male wakeboarder by Wakeboarding Magazine but that doesn’t happen without a certain degree of talent either.
He is at this since he was five years of age. A former European champion, it was only last October when he finished fourth at the World Championships in Abu Dhabi despite injuring his back in the semi-final and struggling to walk before returning to the water.
“I’d heard people talking about how adrenalin takes over but I’d never experienced it until then,” he said.
This was at the end of a long season. His muscles were tired and a touch of sciatica didn’t help but this isn’t what you would call a punishing sport on the body.
Technique is critical although his greatest challenge appears to be in finding a balance between his talents with the board and in multimedia.
Plenty of Irish sportspeople have made the media, whether traditional or digital, work for them but few have moulded it to their liking to this extent.
Fewer again have managed it with such success in a sport which is so far below the general public’s radar.
O’Caoimh has close to 40,000 Instagram followers. His YouTube channel has over 57,000 subscribers. These aren’t enormous numbers by some standards but they are Himalayan peaks in his corner of the sports industry. World champion Nic Rapa has under 50,000 people following him on Instagram.
The Irishman has carved out a niche in an already niche sport with tutorials, fun videos and podcasts, an upbeat personality and an appetite to further his sport’s footprint.
This expertise in the digital space has even extended to his own media company which offers video production and social media management services.
“It’s funny. I never, ever intended for it to go that way,” he explained to the Irish Examiner.
“In the beginning I was just a wakeboarder and then for my 21st I got a camera just to film videos and learn because it’s a great way to do it, watch yourself do a trick.
“I started posting a few on YouTube, then I was filming some other stuff and it kind of progressed. It was never intended. If you had told me when I was 18 that I would be spending half of my life in front of a computer editing I would have laughed.”
The profile all this gave him opened all sorts of doors.
There are maybe a hundred wakeboarders scrambling for backing from the 10 or so sponsors who operate in the field and he has some of the biggest on board. That online profile gives him global coverage and it allowed him to relocate back to Ireland after years living in the States.
There have been cons as well as pros. Such concentration on the media side has impacted what he can do on the water.
Capturing tricks for videos requires repetition which reduces the amount of variation he can attempt in training. Then again, it has made him more consistent in what he does.
“I have still been competing and still doing pretty well so I can’t complain. You do have to wonder if I didn’t have to do any of that [media] where would I be? And in saying that then, if I didn’t have the funding I wouldn’t be able to wakeboard at all. It’s kind of a Catch-22.”
Maybe so but not one he has had to think about much this year.
A calendar that normally calls for a hundred flights every 12 months has been emptied in much the same way as every other sport.
It will be September at the earliest before the competitive juices can flow again, quite possibly with the Irish nationals.
For now it is enough just to be back on the water, wakeboarding and filming and sharing that passion with the world again.