You are gliding on the water. You turn toward the boat’s wake and launch yourself skyward, pulling the handle around your back as you execute a perfect 360. After you nail the landing on the other side of the wake, you flash a “shaka” to your friends in the boat. Then you do it again.
This could be you. However, first, you need to learn the basics.
Wakeboarding took off in the 1980s and since then, has largely displaced waterskiing as a water sport. Why? Wakeboards, with their wide bodies, are much easier to “get up” on than narrow slalom skis, and they provide a great platform for aerial acrobatics. Additionally, wakeboarding requires less speed from the boat, which means riders go slower, and are able to ride longer before their arms get too tired to continue.
If you have considered wakeboarding in the past but are intimidated by the learning curve, you should not be. Below are a few tips for the first-timers.
You will need a wakeboard and boots, of course; a US Coast Guard-approved life vest; and a towrope with a handle (sometimes towropes and handles are sold separately). Ideally, your boat will have a tower—a structure that is about eight feet tall that allows the towrope to be connected to the boat. Towers provide two benefits: they make it easier to get out of the water by creating an upward pull when you are in the water, and they make it easier to get airborne when you want to. Finally, you need an orange flag—a universal signal that there is a person in the water near your boat. These flags are available at most marinas. Raise the flag whenever a rider is in the water—before you start and when he or she falls or is preparing to get back on the boat.
Getting a wakeboard that works for you is relatively simple—they are sized-based on rider weight. Online shops and local shops will have size charts for every board. Boots are sold separately and can get quite pricey. The cheaper ones are “one size fits all” and have Velcro straps that can come loose in the water. Laced boots that can be adjusted and kept tightly laced with a clasp work better, if you can afford them. You can get boots for your exact foot size (size 6, 7, 8, etc.) or that fit a range of foot sizes (7-9, 10-12, etc.). Make sure your feet will be good and snug. If you do not have boots or a board, you can always rent them. This way you can test the sizes until you find the perfect fit.
Most boats have a swim platform on the rear end, which is a place where you can sit and put the board on your feet. Sit close enough to the edge so that you can pull your feet up and rest the board on the swim platform, and once the board is on, extend your legs into the water. Getting into the water on a wakeboard can be awkward. Wiggle your way off the swim platform. Putting boots on in the water is not recommended, especially for beginners. If you have a hard time getting your foot in the boot, try a little squirt of biodegradable dish soap. Wakeboard shops also sell a special goo to help your feet slide in.
One reason many people do not try wakeboarding (or waterskiing, for that matter) is that they do not want to look foolish or they think it will be an imposition on the rest of the folks in the boat to spend time learning. In reality, we have all been there. Your captain and crew are likely to be very patient and give you lots of encouragement and advice. Everyone was in the water, hoping to miraculously rise above the water the first time. So relax and enjoy the experience.
Here are a few tips and tricks to “standing up” on your wakeboard.
If you keep these tips in mind, you will be a wake-jumping hero! It may take you one try, or it may take you four or five tries. Don’t worry about it. Remember to just relax. It’s supposed to be fun!