“It’s just non-stop action,” says Nathan Wallick about his business Peoria Carp Hunters, which is described on its website as an “epic aerial bowfishing experience.” A full-time firefighter, Wallick also has a certified U.S. Coast Guard license to lead tours on his customized boat, the Carpocalypse, along the Illinois River near Peoria. Spectators equipped with specialized, retrievable bows prepare themselves for a barrage of jumping carp that they are expected to shoot at.
It should come as no surprise, then, that Wallick and his friends sought out a different sort extreme water sport—something they dubbed ‘Skarping.’ The game, which involves catching fish with a net while water skiing and tossing them into a toy basketball hoop rigged to an inner-tube, really started out as a form of protection.
“It seems funny until one of those things smacks you in the face,” says Wallick. After one too many body hits, he and his friends decided to retaliate, gathering swords and tridents to bat the fish away. “Every year we built upon it, and it turned into this.”
Wallick filmed his antics and posted them to Youtube, where he amassed a cult following. Soon after, he was receiving free gear from the CEO of a wakeboard company; Animal Planet’s ‘Off The Hook’ has already featured Wallick in an episode, and he’s been approached by several producers to turn his business into a reality TV program.
We caught up with the Godfather of Skarping to learn more about his sport, and why it’s utterly essential to wear a jockstrap.
How did this come about?
First off, bowfishing is something completely separate from Skarping. Some people find hunting and fishing to be boring. But with bowfishing, as soon as you pull out on the boat, you’re shooting.
Traditional bowfishing has been around for a long time. The Native Americans were doing it. You’d go out at night in backwater areas and shoot the fish in the water. But once these Asian carp got into the river systems, it changed the game. They jump out so much that they practically fly through the air. We thought it’d be fun to start bowfishing again.
I couldn’t get insurance for to lead Skarping tours (laughs). It started because my buddies and I loved to wakeboard and water ski. And all of a sudden we see these freakin’ fish flying out of the water. Then one of them smacks my buddy. So we think, if they’re going to attack us, we’ll fight back. One guy brings out a baseball bat, hitting fish left and right. Then we decide to bring out football gear cause we’re getting pummeled by them. We were having fun with it. One day we were at a thrift store and we saw one of those toy basketball hoops. And we thought, if we can strap that to an inner-tube, we can make a sport out of hitting these carp. It brings an entirely new and fun level to water sports. This is much more than just jumping the wake—you’re fishing while you’re water skiing. It’s hilarious and unpredictable. It never gets old.
How does the game work?
We use shallow nets so it’s easy to grab the fish. We set up the hoop in a trashcan so you can collect the ones you’ve caught. There’s a scoring system too. While you’re skiing, if you pull carp out of the net and slam dunk it, it’s 2 points. If you transfer the fish in the net, it’s 1 point.
“People think we [wear gear] just to be goofy, but we do it stay alive. Think about it: we’re doing 15 mph on water skis. The average size of a carp is between three and 10 pounds. Some get as big as 30 pounds. Their heads are like solid bone.”
Why do they jump?
They jump because they get excited. Most fish swim downwards, but these guys go up, and what causes that is turbulence and vibration. You need the right boat to achieve this though. Fiberglass boats absorb sound. Certain motors will make them jump more too.
Why do you wear football gear?
People think we do it just to be goofy, but we do it stay alive. Think about it: we’re doing 15 mph on water skis. The average size of a carp is between three and 10 pounds. Some get as big as 30 pounds. Their heads are like solid bone. So picture going that fast on a motorcycle and having someone throw a rock at your head. It’s dangerous to go out there. Some people let their kids go out on the water in an inner-tube. It’s funny seeing all these jumping until your kid gets nailed in the face and killed. We learned our lesson about not wearing jockstraps pretty quickly…it put me out for almost a whole day.
How do you train for this?
We can hold on with one hand because we water ski all the time. People see my videos and try to recreate them, but they can’t ge the fish to jump. There’s a trick to it. Fish like to hang out in shallow water, so you have to know where to operate your boat without wrecking your motor.