If you’re looking to try out a new towed surface water sport, you might be looking at wakeboarding. This fun variation on water skiing differs primarily in that you’re pulled along on a board rather than on one or two water skis. You use the board to ride the wake created by the tow boat. This should make it pretty clear where the activity takes its name from.
Wakeboarding is an exciting water sport, but like any water activity, it comes with definite risks of accidents and injuries. And if things go really wrong, they can prove fatal. These tips for beginner wakeboarders focus on safety and proper technique to help minimize the chances of a serious problem.
Read them over, take them to heart, then have fun!
Advice for Novice Wakeboarders
- First—just in case it needs to be said—don’t go wakeboarding if you’ve been drinking alcohol or are under the influence of any other substance that can affect your coordination, balance, concentration, judgment, etc.
- Learn a system of hand signals for communicating from the water with the people on the boat
- Before leaving land, take a good look at your board, towrope, handles, and other equipment to make sure there’s no damage, fraying, etc.
- Only go out on the water for this activity when there’s enough daylight to see clearly
- No wakeboarding in shallow water
- Always wear a life jacket or similar personal flotation device while wakeboarding
- The tow handle is just for holding onto; never put any other body parts like a foot into the handle
- Also, never wrap the towrope around any part of your body
- Have a spotter at the rear of the boat watching you, looking out for other boats and objects in the water, and facilitating communication between you and the driver at all times
- Stay far clear of docks, pilings, rocks, other boats and people, buoys, and all other things you might encounter in the water; never ride right in front of another watercraft
- Put the back binding all the way to the rear of the board and align it at zero degrees so you can put your weight on the rear fin; the front binding should point slightly toward the front of the board, angled at 15 to 27 degrees
- Place your dominant foot to the front of the board
- Start with a short towrope of about 30 to 50 feet, which makes it less of a struggle to get up and out of the water
- Never give the start signal until you’re sure you’re ready, that all the slack is out of the towrope, and that you’re clear of any potential hazards
- Go slowly, as wakeboarding requires even lower speeds than water skiing; in general, 14 to 19 miles per hour should be your target range
- Crouch low with your arms tucked in until you’re completely out of the water; then, rise slowly, focusing on your balance
- Let the boat do most of the work of pulling you up
- While getting up into a standing position, a little more than half of your body weight should go toward the front of the board; once you’re up, a little more weight should be toward the back
- Once standing, keep your knees slightly bent, your arms straight, and your head up; your upper torso should be twisted just a little through your hips and shoulders toward the boat
- Keep the tow handle low and parallel to the water using a knuckles-up grip (if you’ve water skied before, note that this is different from many tow handles for that activity, often held perpendicular to the water)
- When you’re going to fall, aim to fall backwards or to the side; falling forward is the most dangerous
- If you fall and there are other boats around, lift your board out of the water so they can see you
- Don’t forget to use the “I’m OK” hand signal after a fall
- Stop wakeboarding as soon as you start getting tired; fatigue increases the odds of doing something wrong or missing a danger
- Turn off the boat motor whenever a wakeboarder is re-entering the watercraft
- Don’t forget your sun protection!