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Summers on the lake with Tyler Johnson

The Bolts forward spends most of his offseason wakesurfing at his home in Idaho but took a break this week to help out at the Lightning Made Summer Camp

by Bryan Burns / TampaBayLightning.com

If you follow Tyler Johnson on Instagram, there's a good chance this summer you've seen the Lightning forward riding a scaled-down surfboard on a wave of sparkling blue water surrounded by pine tree-covered mountains.

It's an idyllic scene, Johnson cutting back and forth deftly through the wake, his left foot toward the back of the board to keep the nose up and the ride going while the beauty of his Coeur d'Alene summer home distracts in the background.

It's also one that's been a part of Johnson's offseason regimen for five years now.

Wakesurfing is a challenging water sport similar to wakeboarding except the former is performed without a rope while the rider travels continuously down a sizable wake. The ride can last as long as desired (or as long as one can stay on the board and remain in the wake). It's similar to surfing but with the added benefit of slides and spins and shove its to maximize the fun.

📷- @kylerezin

A post shared by Tyler Johnson (@tjohnny09) on

And fret not, Bolts fans. It's pretty difficult to hurt yourself wakesurfing. Inboard boats are used to render the chance of falling and hitting a propeller basically impossible.

"When I was growing up, I used to love to do all the water sports and everything," Johnson said. "But those are a little bit dangerous in the aspect that I really don't want to get injured doing something fun. Surfing is so nice when you do fall or you do mess up, it's basically just jumping in the water from a swimming pool or whatever. That was the reason why I started to do it in the first place and been having a lot of fun with it."

A typical offseason day for Johnson goes like this: skating in the morning, training in the afternoon and then a round of golf or some wakesurfing to wind down.

"During the season, you're around hockey so much that for the offseason, you try to get away from it as much as you can," Johnson said. "Obviously, you're still training, getting ready in every other aspect. Just being out on the boat is just so relaxing to me. Throw in some surfing with that, it's a pretty good day."

It's a pretty good workout too. Wakesurfers use muscles in their lower body that aren't actively engaged in more traditional training exercises. That extra bit of lower body work certainly doesn't hurt in Johnson's preparation for the upcoming hockey season.

"It definitely is hard work," he said. "Your quads and your calves really feel it. The first time every summer, my legs are pretty sore afterwards."

Johnson has a group of friends he'll text throughout the day to see who's ready to go on the boat that afternoon. One of those friends is Ottawa Senators forward Bobby Ryan, who also owns a summer home in Idaho.

"We have a group up there that we try to get out quite a bit," Johnson said. "Either do that or go golfing. Try to do something outdoors, get out of the house a little bit. It's kind of an active recovery in a way."

The sport is growing in popularity too. On Thursday, Lightning defenseman Mikhail Sergachev posted his own wakesurfing photo to twitter.

Tweet from @sergachev31: New hobby 🏄��������� pic.twitter.com/bo2yHXb50r

Perhaps a competition is in order to see who's the best wakesurfer among the Bolts?

"I can do a few tricks here and there. Definitely not pro," he laughed. "Some of those wakesurfing experts are unbelievable."

Johnson said his best trick is a 360 spin, although he'd love by the end of the summer to learn how to spin the board while jumping and landing fluidly all in one motion.

"I just love cutting in and out and trying to be kind of crazy there, staying within the wake and everything," he said. "I've never been a skateboarder or anything like that, so I don't know how to do too many of those other things."

This week, Johnson was back in Tampa serving as a special instructor during Lightning Made Summer Camp at the Ice Sports Forum for 10 and under and 15 and under youngsters looking to develop their hockey skills.

There was Johnson, dressed in standard coach garb, giving helpful pointers as campers stickhandled around obstacles, skated through a series of cones set up on the ice and took shots on a manned net.

"Some of the kids are taller than me, so that's nice," Johnson joked.

Johnson was naturally the most popular counselor on the ice. Whenever there was a break in the action, kids gathered around the star forward and peppered him with questions:

"What kind of car do you drive?"

"Is Kucherov a nice guy?"
"Do you hang out with Brayden Point?"
Johnson says he enjoys the opportunity to return to Tampa for a few days and give back to a Lightning community that's given him so much during his time with the Bolts.

But in a few days, he'll head back west to Idaho, where he can continue improving his wakesurfing skills while the offseason winds down.

"It's absolutely gorgeous out on the water. I love it."

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