Wakeboarding is one of the most fun ways to take to the water. As snowboarding overtook skiing on snow, wakeboarding is fast taking over water skiing as the funkiest way to ride the water by boat power.
What is wakeboarding?
Often described as a blend of snowboarding, surfing and skateboarding, wakeboarding involves the use of one wide board instead of two long planks attached to the feet as in water skiing. The rider uses rubber bindings to keep their feet on the board and steers the board in much the same way as a snowboarder.
Wakeboarding can be a little scary at first, but once you’ve picked up the basics, wakeboarding is extremely easy to learn and extremely fun to do. Gliding above the water is a real buzz and learning to ride the boat’s wake (hence the sport's name) is even more exhilarating. But be warned, once you’ve ridden a wakeboard, there’s a good chance you’ll become addicted!
The fitness required
Wakeboarding does require a fairly good level of fitness and particularly strong arms, but the one thing you will definitely need is good sense of humour. You are going to perform all sorts of gymnastic moves trying to stop yourself crashing into the water. So anyone thinking of having a go at wakeboarding must be prepared for a laugh and to get extremely wet.
Anyone thinking of having a go at wakeboarding must be prepared for a laugh and to get extremely wet.
Wakeboarding has become such a popular sport that cables systems have been devised in order to cope with the amount of participants. On lakes, a high speed cable system will pull you around, allowing multiple wakeboarders to be on the water at a time. Some lakes that welcome professional wakeboarders will have ramps and obstacles in order to spice it up a bit.
Health and fitness benefits of wakeboarding
Wakeboarding has a number of health and fitness benefits. Here are just a few of them:
- Strengthens arm and leg muscles, with most of wakeboarding's physical demand placed on these key areas.
- Improves flexibility in the hands and feet, as wakeboarding requires a nimble approach.
- Improves reaction times and versatility, with sudden changes of direction and position required.
- Develops hand-eye co-ordination, with the rider needing to stay balanced and focused.
- Boosts your swimming ability, as you'll no doubt end up falling into the water more than once!
- Improves mental concentration and refreshes the mind from daily distractions.
Before you get started you must make sure that you are using the right wakeboarding equipment. Avoid any pro-boards out there, the best way to begin is to use a wakeboard that is forgiving and helps you to progress. A larger wakeboard with one or more large rear fins will help give the board more direction and is ideal for starting out.
A larger wakeboard with one or more large rear fins will help give the board more direction and is ideal for starting out.
Beginners are generally given a shorter rope; this gets them closer to the boat and there is a bigger wake. Surprisingly, it is much easier to control the wakeboard in a larger wake as they allow the rider more speed to edge through.
You should also be provided with some wakeboarding safety equipment, such as a buoyancy vest. As well as keeping you afloat, the buoyancy vest will keep you warm whilst waiting for the launch and save your energy when crashing into the water.
Your instructor will start by finding out what stance on the wakeboard is comfortable and natural for you. It must be determined whether you are regular (left-foot-forward) or ‘goofy’ (right-foot-forward). Those familiar with snowboarding and skateboarding should know which stance suits them. If you haven’t tried out a wakeboard sport before, don’t panic. The wakeboarding instructor will get you to stand up with your feet together and push you forward on land – whichever foot moves forward first should be your lead foot.
The next step is to work out what angle your bindings should be set at – again, this will be a familiar exercise for snowboarders. The instructor will talk you through this process and explain which binding angle is best.
Finally, before taking to the water, learning your hand signals to the boat is one of the most important safety aspects of wakeboarding. Your instructor should go through these, explaining how to inform the boat to stop, turn or slow down during your wakeboarding.
If you’re not using a boat to tow you around you’ll still be shown certain hand signals that will indicate different things, such as when your turn is over.