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Catching Air: Wakeboarding
In recent years, wakeboarding has become one of the fastest growing water sports around the country. But whether you're an expert wakeboarder or a novice, one thing is certain: wakeboarding is a fun way to spend time on the lake.
What is wakeboarding?
Wakeboarding is like waterskiing, except that you use a single, short, broad board - a wakeboard - instead of two, long narrow skis. With your feet secured to the board with bindings, you are towed behind a boat that generally traveling at about 14-19 mph. The boat creates two waves to form the wake.
Wakeboarders use the wake as a ramp of sorts. And as wakeboarder stands up - the first skill that must be mastered - they are then able to perform jumps and other aerial tricks. Standing up and learning to balance takes some practice. The jumps and other tricks come with experience and expertise.
How to get started?
Every sport typically has some rules you should follow to learn proper technique and to protect yourself from injury. Wakeboarding is no different. If you're interested in learning to wakeboard, consider these tips to make the most of your ride:
- Wear safety attire. Lifejackets are a must for every wakeboarder, from the newbie to seasoned one. It's a "no exceptions" boating safety rule. If you're on the boat or in the water, make sure you are wearing a lifejacket or other personal flotation device - always.
- Use a spotter. Using a spotter is a smart water safety practice. A spotter's job is to alert the driver of the wakeboarder's position and keep an eye out for approaching boats or objects in the water. If you're starting out, there will be several starts and stops as you learn to stand up on the wakeboard and keep your balance, making the spotter's job all the more important.
- Stay low and go slow. As you learn how to stand on the wakeboard, experts advise tucking in both your arms and knees and keeping yourself crouched down until you are fully out of the water. At that point, slowly try standing. The key is to let the boat pull you out of the water before moving your body. Just like skiing, this will likely require several attempts before you are able to achieve it.
- Distribute the weight. As you pull yourself out of the water, you should try to distribute about 60% of your weight to your front foot. But once you are in a standing position, adjust that and shift more of your weight back to your back foot.
- Stand sideways. Your hips and shoulders should not directly face the boat. Wakeboarding, instead, requires a sideways position, which may feel unnatural at first. But once you practice this a couple of times, it becomes more natural and comfortable.
- Shorten up. Beginner wakeboarders often find it best to learn on a shorter rope that makes it easier to get up and out of the water. Most recommend using rope between 30-50 feet, depending on your age and size.
- Control boat speed. A common mistake with wakeboarding actually occurs with the boat driver. Wakeboarding requires less boat speed than most water sports. Remember to keep the boat speed at 14-19 mph - if you go much faster, you lose your ability to stand and ride the wake.
Remember, wakeboarding is no different than any other sport. Falling is part of the learning process and practice makes perfect. But if you can hang in there, you'll experience the exhilarating feeling that comes with catching air!