You would think that gliding on top of the water using a wakeboard is a skill that’s all about the water skier. If you look closely, however, you’ll realize that wakeboarding also requires an excellent boat driver to handle the rope. The boat speed, boat length, weight, and even the way the boat accelerates can all affect the experience – whether you’re towing a professional or a complete beginner in the sport.
What is Wakeboarding?
If you’re reading this, chances are you have a fairly good idea about wakeboarding. Watch videos about the sport and they looks like such a fun thing to do – even kids are doing it! Wakeboarding is an activity that lets you hop on a board and be pulled by a rope tied to the end of a boat. As the boat speeds up, it creates wakes which are little waves on either side of the boat. This is what you ride on, the wakes propelling the board so that you stay on the water. Now, this might seem like such an easy thing to do for the one driving the boat – but pulling the line is actually more complicated than it seems.
What Kind Of Boat Do You Need To Tow A Wakeboard?
Each boat is different and could significantly impact the quality of the wakeboarding experience. Some boats would make it easier for you to perform a power turn or control the wheel while others would make you work hard to give your rider the best time of his life. For wakeboarding, bigger isn’t always better. In fact, smaller boats measuring 18 to 20 feet in length often perform beautifully since they’re lighter and easier to handle.
Mid-sized boats are also a popular choice because they’re very good on choppy waters while still easy to handle. Boat length of middle-sized boats range anywhere from 21 to 22 feet. As for larger boats, typically with measurements of 22 to 23 feet, they have better storage capacity. They can hold more stuff and the added weight helps with stability on the water – but this also means more work and engine upgrades needed.
What kind of safety gear should be worn for wakeboarding?
The number of safety gear depends on the expertise of the wakeboarders. For the most part however, this means wearing a wetsuit or a bodysuit which protects the rider from the cold as they hit the wake coming from the boat. For those who are used to the exercise however, wearing a one-piece suit or even a two-piece suit is enough as they launch through the air behind the wake.
Some safety equipment are within the control of the driver of the boat. For example, the rope attached to the board should be strong and secure. It has to be quality rope built specifically for the job as it takes the weight of the rider and the pressure that comes with the wake. A wakeboard boat can also come with mirrors. The mirror lets the wakeboarder be aware of his surroundings at all times so that they’re able to move along with the boat.
How Does The Driver And Wakeboarder Communicate?
A good driver should be able to anticipate and plan their drives according to the needs and experience of the wakeboarder. It’s also important to establish hand signals before the wakeboard start, otherwise you might have a hard time communicating with each other. These hand signals will tell the rider when the ride is about to start, slow down, execute a pre turn, or even if they have to brace themselves for choppier waters. Good communication on the side of the driver can go a long way in keeping riders happy and safe during the whole experience.
What If The Wakeboard Rider Falls?
This is the most important skill a driver should know when towing wakeboarders. When a rider falls, you want to drastically decrease the speed of the boat to prevent dragging. Stop completely on the water and watch your rider to find out their status. You have the option of turning the boat around but do this very slowly, especially if you’re towing new wakeboarders. Some would simply swim closer to the boat so that you can start all over again.
How Old Do You Have To Be For Wakeboarding?
Wakeboarders can be as young as eight years old when they first hit the water with the board. Kids are therefore welcome, especially for introductory or beginner classes. Anyone can attempt the sport if they are enthusiastic about new experiences. Some rider may have more advantage than most however, when it comes to picking up the skills on the board. For example, anyone who is used to using a surfing board, a skateboard, or skiing, would have no problem adjusting as a wakeboarder. Those who have a good sense of balance should easily pick up what it means to be a rider and therefore find it easier to navigate on top of the board.
The proper age for wakeboarding is a tad different however. The requirement can change from state to state but for the most part, you need to be at least 14 years old before being able to drive the boat. The HP of the boat since you need to be 16 years old or older in order to run a boat with an HP of more than 10.
What Speed Should You Pull A Wakeboarder?
Pulling the boat line during wakeboarding depends on the experience of the rider. If you have someone who is a complete beginner at the other end of the line, then the driver should start slow. A speed of 12 mph should get the board on top of the water and provide a decent start to the ride. A speed of 15 mph is already a lot for a new wakeboarder and should give them a secure ride while still enjoying the whole wakeboard experience.
Maximum wakebording speeds really depend on the boat itself. However, it’s best to stay under 23 mph if you want to keep the whole experience safe. For an intermediate wakeboarder however, the boat driver should stay within 12 to 22 mph.
What's The Correct Length Of The Rope?
The length of the rope should be just enough that the rider can enjoy the wake produced by the boat. It should be just at the edge of the wake at the point where it turns from a ramp to foamy water. Typically, the rope should measure from 65 to 85 feet. The rule is that a shorter rope is better for beginners because it helps them catch the wake and keep them above water. For the more experienced ones however, a longer rope may provide more of a challenge.
How Do You Tow A Wakeboard?
Driving a boat for wakeboarding is very different from skiing. A driver cannot put their foot on the pedal and just “hit it” because wakeboarding speeds need to increase gradually and the maintain a stable speed. The rule of thumb is to slowly move the throttle up, starting at 12 mph until the rider has maintained a steady hand and body position. This is why it’s important to watch your rider at all times and be mindful of the tow rope.
It’s also important to note that the movement of the boat can predict the movement and experience of the wakeboarder. Ideally, the boat should run a straight and steady path so that the wakeboarder gets used to the setup. As long as the wakeboards stay above the surface, the rider should be content with his experience. As they get used to the water however, the boat driver can start to play with the wake and give the wakeboarder a much more thrilling experience. For example, you throttle or speed up the boat to encourage tricks and jumps while on the board.
Executing a turn could also add to the excitement but needs some delicate maneuvering. For example, if you pull a novice wakeboarder, it’s important to execute a keyhole turn so that they can get used to the motion. A keyhole turn happens when you first steer to the left gently and then steer to the right, executing a smooth pull that lets the wakeboarder adjust their weight with the motion of the boat.
Tips For Better Rider Experience
When towing a wakeboarder, safety is really the most important thing to remember – especially if you have riders completely new to the activity. Here are some tips you should remember when taking riders with you:
Get to know your riders first.
Have they done this before? Do they know how to handle the wake? Understanding the ability of your riders will help you gauge your speed, wake, roughness of the water, throttle, and even the path you’re going to take during the drive.
Hold yourself off from executing tricks using the boat.
This is true even if you’re carrying a professional with you. Any water move you make should be agreed upon beforehand so that the person knowns exactly what to expect.
A big wake isn’t always good.
Most believe that a huge wake is best because it can help the rider launch onto the air. However, focusing on this can actually create problems in your overall form. One wrong curve of the arms or elbow can cause serious injury. It’s best to focus on creating a small wake at your back that’s easy to manage. Only add more weight or generate a bigger wake once the rider is clearing through the wake path without any effort.
Look back once in a while to make sure your rider is still in good shape behind you.
It takes some practice, but you should be able to read when your rider is getting used to the water. They would start to be more confident with their stance, perhaps veering off to the side, or even attempting to jump the wake. Once they do this, you know that they are ready for higher speeds.
Always be mindful of the distance and slack of the rope to guarantee safety.
To wrap it up, the skill of a wakeboarder is just one of the few things that determine how fun the whole experience can be for the rider. If you’re driving the boat, you should know that your expertise also counts towards the sport and safety of your rider. Take the time to learn more about the sport, study the boat itself, play with the wake, and perhaps experiment with the throttle before deciding to pull someone behind.