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How Wakeboarding Works

Basic Wakeboarding Maneuvers
Once you master basic wakeboarding moves, you can also learn to do tricks like this.
Once you master basic wakeboarding moves, you can also learn to do tricks like this.
Copyright© iStock/Julie Masson Deshaies

Wakeboarding is a fairly easy sport to learn, especially if you have surfing experience. It's a little different than waterskiing, however, because wakeboards travel at lowered speeds and different angles, which might challenge a person accustomed to waterskiing. Whatever your level of water sport experience, in only a few lessons, you can learn how to mount your board, develop skills in several wakeboarding positions and even attempt a jump.

First things first: Getting up onto your wakeboard might seem daunting to a beginner, but it's actually quite easy. Start by sitting with your knees bent, your arms straight, and the board perpendicular to the boat. Let the boat pull you up as it takes off. Once you're standing, maintain equal weight on both feet. Keep your head up and your shoulders in line with your hips.

Now that you're up on your board, you may want to try a few more moves. Two popular jumps are the roll and the flip. When you roll, you move end-over-end (edge-over-edge) -- either toeside-over-heelside or heelside-over-toeside. Toeside just means the side of the board closest to your toes and heelside means the side of the board closest to your heels. You take the wakeboard over your head end-over-end, landing in the same direction in which you started. When you flip, the tail -- the end of the board farthest from the boat -- moves over the tip (nose) -- the part of the board closest to the boat.

These two movements refer to the board itself, rather than the rider. In gymnastics terms, a roll is similar to a somersault as the board goes end over end. A flip is like a cartwheel as the board moves nose over tail.

Imagine what it feels like to flip like this!
Imagine what it feels like to flip like this!
Copyright© iStock/Keith Binns

Once you've mastered the two basic jumps, you'll want to increase the height you pop into the air from the wake. Pop or air refers to the amount of space between you and the water. The higher the jump, the more air you've got. The most important part of getting more air is the way you edge into the wake. Gradually increase your edge as you approach the wake. Then, jump off the top of the wake by extending your knees. You'll get more lift and more air.

A few other maneuvers include:

  • Tantrum: You approach the wake from the back and execute a back flip.
  • Temper tantrum: Double the fun of the tantrum; execute a double back roll.
  • Speedball: This is a double front roll.
  • Whirlybird: This is a back roll with a full 360 degree spin.
  • Raley: Once you hit the wake and extend your body, raise your feet and board above your head.
  • Fakie: When you're riding backward, switch the foot that you usually place in front. For example, if you ride with your left leg in front, switch to your right leg. This is also called a switch.
  • Roll-to-revert: Perform a roll, and land fakie.

When you first begin wakeboarding, it's generally a good idea to start with a boat speed of 20 mph (32 kph). This speed will allow you to develop control and will give you enough speed to get lift on jumps. As you develop confidence in your skills, you can build up speed to 23-24 mph (37-39 kph). Keep in mind your body size, rope length and comfort zone when you decide the speed of your boat.

Now that we've reviewed basic wakeboard maneuvers, let's try a new twist. Learn the physics of wakeboarding, and try a few more tricks.