If you’ve seen professional wakeboarders launching off waves and accomplishing incredible mid-air acrobatics, you know how exciting (and intimidating) their style of wakeboarding can look. But if you’ve thought about keeping your tow sports limited to water skis and tubes, you are missing out on some great fun. And getting started is easier than you think.
With a little on-land preparation and a mental note to always relax and let the boat do the work, you will be well on your way in no time. First, make sure that you and the other riders have properly fitted life jackets, approved by the U.S. Coast Guard. You’ll also need a wakeboard with adjustable bindings that fit your feet snugly, a tow rope with a handle and, for best results, a boat with a tower or deck pylon.
Now, before you think about getting in the water, it’s time for some work on the dock. The first thing you need to decide is which foot you would naturally have in front while riding. If you snowboard, skateboard or surf, you probably already know the answer. Still not sure? Stand with your feet together and have someone give you a (gentle) push from behind. Whichever foot comes to your rescue first is your lead foot and should be out front when you’re riding. Most folks ride “regular,” which is left-foot forward, but there is a small, but proud, minority who ride “goofy,” which is right-foot forward.
Time to practice looking silly for a minute. It will be time well spent. Put your feet in the bindings and sit down on the dock with your feet out in front of you. Hold the tow-rope handle and have a friend hold the rope so it extends from your hand, between your feet and over the board. Your friend will now pretend to be the boat and give you a strong, constant pull. Resist the urge to stand up. Always let the “boat” do the work. As the handle starts to pull you up, let your chest slowly come forward to your knees, keeping your arms on the outside of your knees. Here’s the trick: Never stand up until your “rear” hits the board. You will pop up automatically as long as you never try to stand up too early. As you continue to rise up, pull the tow-rope handle toward your front hip (same side as your front foot), and you will notice that you naturally turn in that direction.
That’s all you do on dry land. Time to take to the water! You’ll be happy to know that with wakeboarding, unlike water skiing, you can get up to speed (usually between 15-20 miles per hour) gradually. Start in the water on your back with the board toward the boat, holding the handle and the rope attached to the pylon (or tow harness). Signal the driver that you’re ready, and you’ll start moving through the water. Keep your arms straight and your knees together (arms outside of your knees). As the boat gains speed, let the pressure of the water on the board push your knees into your chest. Remember…don’t stand up!
From the crouched position, as you feel yourself starting to rise up, slide the tow-rope handle to your front hip, which will turn the board 90 degrees and straighten out your ride. Make sure you keep your knees slightly bent and your chest up as you continue to rise. Keep your eyes on the boat, not down at the water. This will help ensure correct riding position. If you look down, you will fall down. Keep the tow handle pulled toward your leading hip, and you’ll feel the ride getting more and more stable as the fins on the board start to do their job. Once you feel more stable, use your front shoulder to turn and point the board where you want it to go.
Now go give it a try, and enjoy the world of wakeboarding. Sure there are advanced maneuvers you can work up to, but you are guaranteed to get a thrill out of tackling a fun new watersport
, even as a beginner!