As one of the most popular cottage sports, wakeboarding has grown immensely over the past decade or so. In fact, an entire culture has grown around the sport, taking it from the lakes of Muskoka all the way to the X Games. So how do you start your wakeboarding career? Below, we’ve outlined everything a beginner needs to know.
The essentials are a boat, a tow-rope, a PFD, a wakeboard, a driver, and a spotter. The wakeboard you choose will influence how quickly you learn. Wakeboards for beginners are generally priced for recreational users and feature rockers, and shapes that will help you learn. Your local wakeboard retailer can point you in the right direction.
Do you need to take lessons to learn to wakeboard? Well if you, the driver, or anyone else with you has never done it before, then the answer is probably yes. A trained instructor will help you avoid any dangerous situations and have you riding with proper technique and form. They can even teach you how to fall correctly.
If this is your first board sport, you’ll need to figure out which foot goes first. To determine this, stand on dry land and have someone push you from behind. Whichever foot goes forward first is your front foot. If your right foot goes forward you’re ‘goofy.’ If you’re left goes forward you’re regular.
Once you’ve determined your stance, mount your bindings accordingly. Your bindings should be about shoulder-width apart with your back foot a bit closer to the tail of the board. Your local retailer should also be able to help you mount your bindings according to your ability, size, and stance.
Before you get on the water, establishing hand signals with the driver and spotter is essential. The signals should be clear—especially for stopping. While you can come up with your own unique set of signals, here are a few universal ones, so you can be sure everyone is on the same page.
The spotter will communicate your directions to the driver, so the driver can keep his eyes on the water ahead.
While dock starting is a great way to avoid cold water, generally, deep water starts are easier for beginners.
Once you’re in the water with your PFD, your wakeboard, and the tow-rope in your hands, it’s time to start wakeboarding. Lean back so you’re floating with your PFD. Your board should be perpendicular to the rope and between you and the boat. When you’re ready, signal the driver to start slowly. Keep your arms straight as you are pulled forward. The pressure against the board will allow you to get into a starting position; keep your knees bent into your chest, then slowly push your front foot toward the boat. As the boat picks up speed, remain in a crouched position, and begin shifting your weight to your front foot. Be sure to keep the front of the board above the water. As the board planes on top of the water, rise to the standing position by extending your legs, but keep a slight bend in your knees once you’re up. Staying low and standing up slowly will help you get the feel for wakeboarding.
Once you feel balanced and confident, try turning by leaning onto your toe edge, or your heel edge—and don’t be afraid to fall!
Instructors of just about any sport will tell you that if you aren’t falling, you aren’t learning. Falling while wakeboarding is inevitable. The key is to let go of the rope when you do and have faith that your PFD will keep you afloat. The next step is to make sure you get up and try again!