In the 1960s, Benidormwas becoming known as a holiday destination and Spain was experiencing the birth of the package holiday. A number of impresarios contributed with their particular grain of sand to build a modern Benidorm different from other Spanish beach resorts. Among these impresarios was Humberto Armas. Born in the Canary Islands, he created something unique in Spain, the Cable Ski. Today, 45 years later the cable ski receives millions of visitors each year and is an important part of Benidorm’s tourist offer to the many that visit our shores. Today it is Humberto’s son holding the reins; he has been at the front of the business, running it for the last five years.
How did you come up with the idea more than 40 years ago to start an activity such as this?
It was 1962, I was studying in Hamburg (Germany) and read an article in a local newspaper that they were trying to water ski without using a speed boat and I was fascinated. I consulted with an engineer, and then became obsessed with the idea of bringing this over to Spain. At that time Sr. Manuel Fraga was the Tourist Minister for Spain and he recommended that I take a look at Benidorm and San Antonio in Ibiza as possible locations. I wasn’t impressed with San Antonio, because of the clients and the calmness of the water so I came to Benidorm, had a look at the Rincon de Loix area and thought it was perfect.
Once you had chosen the location, how did you convert your dream to reality?
I paid a visit to Don Pedro Zaragoza who was the Mayor of Benidorm at that time and he endorsed the project, he gave it the O.K. The building permits took two years to finalise and the construction took six months. The construction costs were very high, there was no pier or jetty in the area and the towers had to be built with blocks of cement weighing 120 tonnes. Thousands of small blocks were constructed along the Avenida Mediterraneo, they were placed into small three wheeled vehicles and taken down to the shore; from there they were placed into small rowing boats and taken the last few metres out to sea. Local fishermen from Villajoyosa where brought in to help during the construction.
In Germany they already practised this sport but how was it received in Spain?
The patent is actually German and there are more than 100 Cable Skis in Germany. Today it is rare to find a country that does not have a cable ski. In Spain, there is a cable ski installation in the reservoir in Segovia, another one in Marbella but the one here in Benidorm is unique because it is located in the sea a few metres from the shore and the only one with a diesel motor.
How did the locals react to the installation of the Cable Ski?
People had no idea what it was at first and many local fishermen were reticent. In fact the skiers move the water and the fish which is actually favourable for fishing. We also have a good safety record and have not had any accidents over the 45 years which has meant that the local administrations have allowed us to continue to operate from this location.
How many people visit the Cable Ski in Benidorm?
Thousands enjoy the cable ski each season, between 50.000 – 100.000 people. The price is reasonable and allows the visitor to practise water skiing exactly the same as if with a speed boat. Many tourists come to Benidorm primarily to water ski and then take advantage of the other activities on offer.
How have things changed over the years?
The Cable Ski started with the classic mountain skis, i.e. with two skis, now that has evolved into the single ski or wakeboard which is really popular with the younger age group.
Has the skier profile changed too?
There has been an increase in National visitors, i.e. Spanish visitors, before the visitors were mainly German or other nationalities that practice Alpine skiing in their own countries. Now we have clients from Alicante, Valencia, Madrid, the Basque Country and Asturias along with French and British skiers. Many Russians are now living in the province and we even have Spanish pensioners using our facilities.
Have the installations changed much over the years?
Yes. We have renovated and improved the connection between the skier and the cable. We have also renovated the towers, with all of these improvements it means that it is easier and safer to practice water skiing in the kilometre long circuit.
Do you think that Benidorm has taken full advantage of its coastline in regard to the practise of water or nautical sports?
Benidorm has beautiful weather and beaches but has not taken advantage of the tourism connected to nautical sports and one of the reasons for this is that Benidorm does not have mooring facilities that other areas have. The Town hall has always financed courses for children in different sports but each year we see less diving and surfing has completely disappeared. They should encourage more nautical sports as apart from it being a healthy activity it is much better than the trend today of “Botellon” or binge drinking.
How do people from other areas and countries find out about the Cable Ski in Benidorm?
Normally via the internet although the best publicity is word of mouth.
After 45 years you must have some great anecdotes?
Of course. There is one in particular that I remember well. When women first started wearing bikinis in Benidorm, it was only the foreigners that wore them. One day a French woman lost the top half of her bikini and all the Spaniards ran to cover her up. Later on when women started to sunbathe topless the local women collected signatures to stop them bathing topless on the platform.
Did they succeed?
I have no idea.
Has there been any other interesting occurrences’ over the years?
Yes, various skiers have met in Benidorm while practising water ski from our platform and later married.