The sun's just rising and the water's like glass. You've got a fast boat
on a big lake, and you're pulling your first hoochie glide of the day (read
on for assistance with the lingo). Encouraging words from inside the boat
are like music to your ears: "Dude, that was killer! It was totally sick!"
And the words ring true. You're pulling off some serious style while having
a great time.
Wakeboarding evolved partially out of waterskiing and partially out of
surfing. Wakeboarders ride in a boat's wake on a scaled-down surfboard while
performing spins and jumps.
Wakeboarding is an international sport, with competitions held annually
in Europe and the Far East. But North America is the hotbed and where it began
as a sport.
According to Stoke City, historians have found evidence of surfers being
towed behind boats years ago. In 1985, wakeboarding really planted its roots
when a San Diego surfer developed a tiny board called the Skurfer, a crude,
strapless ancestor of the wakeboard.
Florida, in particular, is where the pros from both Canada and the U.S.
meet for pre-season prep in early spring.
Lisa St. John, owner of Aquatics Sports Training, explains why Florida
is the place to be. "Because every day is a ski day here, a wakeboard day.
I've done this school for seven years in Orlando, and...we've never ever closed
the school, except for hurricane Floyd, the big one!"
"The water's warm. When you're learning any sport, we try to make it so
that the conditions are not a consideration....The conditions here [allow
you to] focus totally on what you're learning and here, the water conditions
are beautiful. You don't have to deal with the cold or the wind or the rain!"
They're not household names, but professional wakeboarders are achieving
fame for their aggressive and stylish riding. Don't think you have to turn
pro to do this sport. It's plenty of fun just as a summer recreation.
There are two types of board -- directional, or surf-style boards,
and twin tips. Directional boards have front and back ends, like a
surfboard. A twin tip has what looks like two back ends.
Most riders choose twin tip boards because they allow them to ride and
jump backwards. Other necessary items include boots and bindings -- similar
to downhill skis or snowboards -- a helmet and a life jacket.
Like any other sport, wakeboarding has its own language. Here are some
of the basics:
- When you ride on your opposite foot. Left-foot-forward riders go right
- Blind Side
- When you rotate or land so that you can't see where you're going.
- A group of moves in which you approach the wake backwards, then flip the
board to travel sideways through wake.
- When the board is flung out behind your body in the air. Basically you're
- Hoochie Glide
- It's similar to a raley except you grab your wakeboard with a heel side
or front hand grab.
- When you let go of the towrope and spin around to grab it again.
Many people who ride wakeboards can be found on snowboards during the winter
or on skateboards on dry land. The boards look a lot like snowboards and have
similar binding systems.
If you really enjoy this sport, you might even turn pro! Most pros, says
Stoke City, aren't much older than 22 or 23.
Or, you may find yourself working for one of the wakeboard companies. If
you don't, there are plenty of career options in the marine sports field.
You may find yourself working on boats and motors or selling treats at a marina
This is a sport that requires plenty of practising. Those in the know suggest
you take a few lessons first -- that way you'll be riding sooner, with fewer
Lessons are offered at nearly every water-sports haven. Shops that offer
lessons in regular waterskiing will also likely offer lessons in wakeboarding.
Phone around to the shops to find out more.
Some wakeboarders say it's easier to wakeboard than to water ski, mainly
because it's easier to balance on the wider board with firmer bindings. The
first ride can be an adventure, but once you're up, you'll never forget how
to do it -- kind of like learning to ride a bike!
An important thing to keep in mind is the potential expense of wakeboarding.
It's not as easy as putting on your rattiest sneakers and throwing a skateboard
under your feet. Wakeboarding is a little more upscale and financially draining.
You'll need safety equipment, a board, a boat and money for fuel.
Brian MacPherson, executive director of Water Ski Canada, wants to dispel
the myth that wakeboarding is a rich kid's sport, he admits that becoming
a pro costs bucks. Traveling to Florida each year for pre-season training
costs money. As well, it's tough to hold a permanent job when you have to
pick up and go to training camps and tournaments. "These athletes have a hard
time," says MacPherson.
However, there are ways around financial barriers. When starting out, see
if you even like the sport. Tag along with a friend who's got access to the
gear. As well, most ski clubs are eager to introduce newcomers to the sport
and will lend out their equipment for a few bucks. Then, you can decide whether
or not to invest in your own stuff.
Because most riders are between the ages of 15 and 24, says MacPherson,
they still depend on family income.
USA Water Ski has a long list of affiliated schools and camps that offer
wakeboard training. Here are just a couple of them:
World Ski and Wakeboard Center
Cory Picko's World Ski and Wakeboard School
716 Slalom Way
Santa Rosa Beach
YMCA Camp Thunderbird
One Thunderbird Lane
World Wakeboard Association
American Wakeboard Association
799 Overton Dr.
Pro Wakeboard Tour
Up-to-date contest coverage
An all-wakeboarding site packed with links, news and gear information
Swiss Wakeboard Association
Wakeboarding is hot around the world!