Learning how to kneeboard is usually the logical "next step" in terms of watersports once your kids start to get a little bored with tubing.Some kids call it kneeboard surfing, but it’s long been known as kneeboarding for short. The kneeboard has been around for almost half a century, if you can believe that. By most accounts, it originated in the early 1970s as the Knee Ski, and it presented a new way to get people on the water and behind a boat. It’s still a great way to introduce people to towed watersports.
Yes, kneeboarding can be seen as rung on the water sports ladder, but it’s also something of a sport unto itself, with a full complement of kneeboard tricks and expertise a rider can develop over time. The best kneeboard riders are fun to watch.
How to Get Up on a Kneeboard
- Start in deep water laying on top of the kneeboard.
- Place your arms under the kneeboard strap and hold onto the tow rope.
- Position your torso forward on the board so you can tuck your knees.
- Once the boat starts moving, wait till the kneeboard gets on a plane.
- Tuck your knees all the way into position so your shins are flat.
- Tighten the strap over your thighs.
- Keep your weight balanced to the back of the board.
The first question kneeboarding beginners ask is how to get up on a kneeboard. Everyone has his or her own way, but probably the easiest way to do a deep-water start on kneeboard is by laying on top of the kneeboard with your arms under the kneeboard strap holding the tow rope handle.
Facing the boat, place your torso forward enough that you can tuck your knees in front of you almost all the way into the impressions in the foam where your shins go. When you’re ready, tell the driver to hit it.
As the boat takes off, the kneeboard will get on plane on top of the water and you can scooch your knees all the way into position, swap your arms one at a time from under to over the kneeboard strap and tighten it over your thighs all while keeping your weight biased to the rear of the board. Too much weight forward of center will result in a face plant—entertaining for the people in the boat, but not so much for the rider. Don’t pull yourself up too soon. Let the boat do the work.
It might take a time or two before you figure it out, but by placing your arms under the strap at first, you ensure that the strap ends up on top of your thighs where it belongs rather than under your shins, which is difficult to adjust for once you’re up and running. Now it’s just a matter of practice before you’re ready for extreme kneeboarding!
One of the great things about kneeboarding is that aside from a boat, the equipment isn’t exorbitantly expensive—but some high-end boards are $500, which isn’t what we’d call cheap—and you don’t need much to get started.
Essentially, what you need to kneeboard is:
- A kneeboard
- A life jacket
- A tow rope
Above all else, you will need a personal flotation device that fits properly—learn more in Life Jackets, Vests & PFDs: How to Choose the Right Fit. Kids can fall off a kneeboard and be left floating in the water, so it’s best that they be wearing a life jacket that stays put. There are literally hundreds of options, but go with bright colors for kids because it makes them easier to see in the water.
Bear in mind that the driver bears a large responsibility for the safety of the kneeboarder. The driver needs to be aware of everything in every direction. Think head on a swivel and you get the picture. A kneeboarder typically swings out wide opposite of the direction you’re turning, so it’s especially important to be aware of shorelines, docks, trees and other boats. The less traffic on the lake when towing kids on a kneeboard, the better.
To pull your rider, you need a kneeboard rope, and they’re sold based on the number of people you’re planning to tow. In most cases, you’re only going to be pulling one kneeboarder per rope. Like ski ropes, ropes for tubing have a little “give” to them. Some tow ropes for tubes have a “bungee” function to them, but those likely are not suitable or safe for towing kneeboarders.
That just leaves the board, and there are a number of brands and variations from which to choose. For example, some kneeboards are built to help foster the transition from kneeboarding to stand-up water sports like wakeboarding. The best kneeboards have plush cushions for your shins and a nice wide strap with hook-and-loop fastening strips for ease of use.
The good news is that there are hundreds of options when choosing a kid’s kneeboard. Large specialty retailers like Bass Pro Shops, Cabela's, Overtons, Bart’s, West Marine and others offer great variety that lets you get the right board for the riders you plan to pull.
Types of Boats Used for Kneeboarding
At least part of what makes kneeboarding so great is that you can do it with virtually any kind of boat. From bowriders to deck boats, ski and wake boats, cruisers, anything works. Wake boats are great for experienced riders because of the tricks they can do off big wakes; however, even pontoon boats are suitable for towing kids on a kneeboard, though you probably need more than a 25-horsepower engine to ensure your riders can do a deep-water start. Obviously, when riders mature and and improve, pontoon boats might fall a little short of the mark, so know that up front.
Boat Speed for Kneeboarding
The short answer to finding the right boating speed is “whatever your rider is comfortable with,” but it also depends on what kind of boat you’re using. For wakeboard boats, the size of the wakes decreases with higher boat speeds, so faster isn’t always better. For little kids, though keep it under 10 MPH or the slowest, safest speed at which they can get a deep-water start and stay on plane.
- 5-10 years: 10 mph, give or take a few MPH
- 10-13 years: 10 to 15 MPH
- 14-17 years: 15-20 MPH
- 18 and up: Rider preference
Types of Kneeboards
Kneeboards vary in terms of the rider for whom they’re designed and that tends to have an effect on materials and the designs themselves.
- Beginner boards are often roto-molded plastic, with bottoms designed for ease of use for beginning riders.
- Middle-of-the-road boards often go with stiffer compression molded construction.
- The expert, or professional, boards features wood stringers and a CNC-machined foam core and sandwich construction that stores energy that releases when it launches from a wake.
The construction lessons learned in skis and wakeboards have trickled down to kneeboards over the years. There’s quite a bit of science to it. For storage, there’s really no such thing as a dedicated kneeboard rack, but you can get wakeboard racks with an extra wide fork that will accommodate a kneeboard.
What is kneeboarding?
How to kneeboard?
Refer to our step-by-step instructions at the top of this article. Focus on keeping your weight biased toward the rear and your arms outstretched in front you, but not with locked elbows.
How to do a 360 on a kneeboard?
This is the first in a kneeboarder’s bag of tricks. It’s difficult to describe, but you have to keep the leading edge of the kneeboard up and the weight biased toward the rear, and that’s especially true when you’re sideways.
Kneeboards have what’s called “rocker” from front to rear. It’s basically a slight curvature. But the board has less rocker, if any, from side to side. Start by trying to kneeboard backward, then returning to straight ahead. When you can do that, try to turn all the way around, swapping the handle behind your back as you turn.
How to flip on a kneeboard?
It helps to have a decent size wake to provide the “ramp” for you. Start outside the wake and steer into the wake, but keeping the board pointed straight ahead. You’ll need some core strength and some speed here, but when you launch off the wake, twist to get the linear rotation and keep your core tight so that when the board comes back around to the surface of the water, the nose of the board is pointed up and your weight is biased toward the rear. Practice will involve wipeouts, so be OK with that.
How to jump the wake on a kneeboard?
When you want to jump the wake, you want to point the board toward the wake, with your weight biased toward the rear and the nose up so it doesn’t dig into the wake. If you’ve built up some speed, the wake does the work for you like jumping a bike off a ramp. Just keep the nose up when you land or you’ll crash. If you’re sensing a theme here, you’re right. Crashing is part of the game.
How to do tricks on a kneeboard?
Every trick is derivative of the the flip and the wake jump. Start with those and work your way up from there. You can’t learn how to do all tricks on a website. You have to start with the basics behind a boat and go from there.
Looking for more on watersports? Read...
- Wakesurfing: How to Get Started
- How to Get Up on a Wakeboard
- Boat Tubing Basics
- Watersports Safety Guide
- Explore Ski Boats/Wake Boats