Do you fancy a quick fix of adrenaline without needing to spend hours learning a new board sport?
Wakeboarding will certainly give you your fix and is relatively quick to learn.
Unlike most other watersports, wakeboarding has a satisfyingly steep learning curve and depending on your confidence and previous board experience, you can be popping ollies and carving up a watery storm even on your first go.
Though successfully being pulled out onto the water for the first time is enough to fuel the addiction on its own!
What Is Wakeboarding?
Wakeboarding is the younger (and now more popular) brother of waterskiing – a sport originating with a boat towing a person standing on two planks.
Wakeboarding has evolved in the last 30 years from a mixture of waterskiing, and other land and snow based boardsports.
The result? A rad feeling of being towed across the water on a board a bit bigger than a skateboard, smaller than a surfboard and fatter than a snowboard, so fun!
This is the oldest type of wakeboarding, where you are towed by a boat or jet-ski, using the wake to do tricks and surf/play on.
This type of wakeboarding can be practiced on lakes, the sea, rivers or any body of water with enough room for a fair tow.
It is one of the best feelings to be pulled up behind a boat on glassy flat water that goes on for miles!
Full Length Cable Wakeboarding
Cables have been developed from the technology and engineering behind drag lifts in ski resorts, they are cheaper to ride and more environmentally friendly than boats.
The two main forms of cable in the UK are full length cables and two tower cables.
Full length cables are the cheapest way to wakeboard and are usually set up on a lake pulling riders around in an anti-clockwise direction.
Starting on the dock the cable operator will pass you a handle and off you go. Full cables can tow multiple riders at the same time so once you fall over, ypu can get your board off, swim to the edge and start again.
Two Tower Cable Wakeboarding
Two tower cables have become hugely popular over the last 5 years in the UK, especially for first time wakeboarders.
Just two towers with one length of cable between , is the best way for a beginner to learn.
The towing handle is operated by a driver/instructor to go back and forth pulling the rider at variable speeds.
There is only one rider at one time so when you fall, the handle will stop and wait for you.
Getting The Right Kit
It’s sensible to borrow equipment at first from the centre you chose to learn at then start investing as you get more involved.
Wetsuit – Depending on the time of year and how brave you are, most people opt for wearing a wetsuit, which will keep your body warm in the water. This does make sense for your first lesson as there may be waiting around and more time spent in the water than out, wetsuits can also be used for plenty of other sports such as surfing and kitesurfing.
Impact vest/buoyancy aid – It is pretty vital to stay afloat while in the water especially when starting out (you may learn more!). Impact vests are padded jacket/vests that protect your body from falls. Buoyancy aids don’t give as much protection to being winded by a faceplant but will give you more buoyancy while lying in the water listening to instructions. For your first few sessions it is definitely advisable to wear something with more buoyancy, once you have mastered getting up you can go for something with less float and more protection.
Helmet – Helmets are vital for cable riding, there are plenty of bits and bobs to hit your head on. Most centres will supply helmets for free. If you are purchasing a helmet, you can get helmets that you can wear for multi sports like wakeboarding, snowboarding and mountain biking.
Board and bindings – Once you are ready to buy your old board, make sure your board is right for the type of wakeboarding you are going to do. If you are boat riding, cruising the wake and never intend to hit any sort of solid object, then you will want a board with fins (for grip).
If you know you want to hit rails, kickers and obstacles at cable parks then make sure you get a board specifically made for obstacle riding with either no fins, very shallow moulded fins or detachable fins.
Make yourself feel as relaxed and as calm as possible, this will make your body more adaptable to balance!
Get your knees bent up to your chest and all your joints as soft and relaxed as possible. Stretch out your arms in front of you trying not to bend your elbows, keep a strong but relaxed grip on the handle.
When the handle pulls forward, let it roll you forward onto a balanced position on top of the board (still knees bent, crouched down). This position on the balls of your feet is your base for standing up so take your time. The slower you move, the more your body will find a comfortable balance!
Once you are comfortable slowly start to rise a little higher on your legs, still with your arms outstretched.
Once you are balanced in a standing position (knees still soft and bendy) bring the handle around to your side, in-line with your ‘leading hip’ and look over your ‘leading shoulder’.
Finding Your Leading Foot
You should now be in the wakeboarding position with the board moving across the water at a classic board (sideways) angle.
You will either be goofy or regular. Goofy is right foot forward, regular left foot.
It should come fairly naturally when the rope pulls you forward. If you have snowboarded, skated or surfed before it will most likely be the foot you stood forward with in that sport.
The only way to find out is to just try it and feel what is best.
Once you have conquered standing up, there are some core skills that you will want to learn, the easiest of these is carving.
The same as most other board sports, when wakeboarding your heels are along one edge of the board and your toes are along the other.
Putting pressure on either your heels or toes will dig the edge into the water and the board will move in the direction of the edge you have dug.
Start with gentle carves on your heels, progressing to toeside carves.
Riding switch is riding with your non-natural foot forward. If you are goofy, left foot forward is riding switch.
To turn the board to switch start off with a flat board with a fairly even weight on each foot and bend your knees as much as you can.
Slowly bring the handle from your leading hip out in front of you keeping your knees bent, binging the board to a board slide position (90 degrees) for a second, then carry on moving the handle so that it is in line with your other hip.
An ollie on your wakeboard is similar to an ollie on a skateboard or snowboard.
The idea is to jump over something or onto something from the flat water (start with something imaginary before aiming for rails and boxes!)
To create the pop for the ollie, push down on your board with your back foot and scoop the front foot up.
A good tip for finding your pop is to bounce once or twice first pushing on both feet to break the tension on the water.
Where Can You Wakeboard In The UK?
There are hundreds of lakes and bodies of water in the UK with centres running lessons, the following are 3 recommended centres: