Wakesurfing is increasingly becoming a popular sport and it cuts across the board. Whether it’s children, young people, or adults, more and more people want a piece of the fun. Apart from gliding the waves, you get to enjoy airtime and try different tricks. It’s relatively easy to learn the sport that is great fun once you master it. Those who haven’t interacted with the sport before may find it intimidating. We want to assure you that this isn’t true. Wakesurfing is one of the easiest watersports to learn and we assure you it is safe. In this article, we take you through the various steps of learning how to wakesurf? Besides, we mention the equipment that you need to successfully wakesurf. This piece is especially tailored to beginners and those who don’t have any prior experience in wakesurfing. Let’s begin!
Brief History of Wakesurfing
As it quickly mushrooms into one of the most challenging and exciting sports, we may be quick to forget that wakesurfing is a fairly recent sport. Still, it is not as popular as surfing.
A concept that was brought up by the surfing community in the 60s and 70s, the main idea behind wakesurfing was to ride behind a boat and catch the resulting waking waves. Literally, the boat creates waves as it cruises at high speeds and the surfer follows the emerging wave also called the wake wave. It was then referred to as boat surfing. At the time, a normal surfboard was used to ride behind the boat. This was a challenge and there was continued research and development in this sport. It was in the 90s that new board designs (wakesurf boards) and boats uniquely made for this sport started to appear. At this point, the sport started picking up and accommodating more people including children.
The newly built wakesurfing boards were smaller, thinner and lighter and allowed riders to do a myriad of styles. The original surfing boards were larger since they were uniquely curated for the ocean waves which have more speed and pressure. The original boats used for wakesurfing didn’t leave a neat wave compared to what modern boats do. It was more of a messy wave. Modern boats bear the weight of the boat to one side creating a perfect neat wave as a result. In 1996, the first wakesurfing competition was organized in Michin bay.
How does it work?
One of the greatest things you’ll experience in wakesurfing is successfully getting locked into a wave. At that point, you’ll know why you’re never looking back. Wakesurfing is a lifetime sport and the earlier you start the better. So where exactly does one start?
Wakesurfing is a surface water sport where the rider is tagged behind a boat using a tow rope and upon getting on the boats’ wake, the rider drops the rope and surf’s the wake waves. Special boards are used in wakesurfing referred to as wakesurf boards.
Basic Requirements for Wakesurfing
As we mentioned earlier, you of course need a boat that will tow you until you capture the waves. However, there are also other things that you need including a life jacket, a wakesurf rope, and of course a wakesurf board.
Preparation is key before going out to the water. You will need a lifejacket and a swimsuit that fits you well and one you feel comfortable in. If you’re a beginner, you may opt to wear a rashguard or a wetsuit because you may spend longer periods in the water and since it may be chilly, the rashguard or wetsuit protects you. Remember more coverage further ensures protection from the falls which of course are many when starting.
Anytime before you go on your board, always remember to wear a life jacket. Apart from ensuring you stay afloat, it also protects you during falls. Always choose a proper fitting jacket that is approved by the Coast Guard.
Choosing a Beginner Wakesurf Board
There are many wakesurf boards out there that cover various skill categories i.e. beginner, intermediate and advanced level. Besides wakesurf boards come in different styles namely surf, skim and hybrid. As a beginner, you may want to go for a surf style board since they have a large surface area and stable three fin system. This provides buoyancy and stability giving you room to learn the basics. Skim style boards and hybrid boards are thinner and, in most cases, narrow. These are geared to those who at least have prior experience wakesurfing.
Another thing to consider is the board’s buoyancy. Wakesurf boards designed for beginners are constructed with materials that make the board less buoyant. The board sits lower in the water and this provides stability although the net effect is that of lower speeds. Once you master your balance, you can then opt for ultra-poppy boards and simple nimble boards.
Driving a Wakesurf Boat
A wakesurf boat pulls the wakesurfer before they drop the towing rope and continue surfing the wake waves. A three-speed start is recommended to ensure that it gently pulls the rider up instead of jerking them up suddenly which can result in bails and falls.
- First place the boat under gear to get the towing rope tight
- Accelerate slowly as you watch the rider until the board flips to the rider’s feet
- At this point accelerate to the desired surfing speed – between 10-12 mph
How To Wakesurf Steps
- Position yourself in the water in a sitting position, heels on the edge and toes pointing upwards on the wakesurf board about shoulder width apart. Back foot should be positioned about 3 inches to the traction pad heel pad and the front foot about 1/4 of the board length from the front of the board. The nose of the board should be facing the outside of the boat. For right-footed people, the board will be pointing to the left (port) side of the boat) and left-footed people towards the right (starboard) side of the boat. While resting in the water, with the hand that is on the outside of the boat, hold the towing rope, and with the hand that is towards the inside of the boat, reach between your legs and hold the board to remain stable.
- Once the board starts moving and the rope becomes taut, move your knees into your chest as you dig gently in your heels.
- Maintaining your knees in a bending position, the board will flip up and will start to press against your feet. It is important to spread your weight equally over the board to keep it from turning while the boat is moving. As someone who has taught many wakesurfers to surf, get comfortable with this position and being pulled. Have the driver go and pull you, then stop, pull again and stop. Get used to how it feels to have the boat pull, board flip up and pressure of water on your feet.
- Don’t fight to try to pull yourself in closer to the boat. This is a common mistake many beginners have, instead let the boat do the work. Once a comfortable position with the board against your feet, give the command to the driver to accelerate. Drivers should accelerate slowly at first instead of punching the gas. As the boat takes off, let the boat pull you gently up and the board will want to go flat on the water and will be perpendicular to the boat. Once the board is flat on the water, stand up slowly and rotate the board so the nose is facing towards the back of the boat.
- Once you are up, hold the rope with your front arm and make gentle adjustments to move yourself into the wave. Shifting your weight will get you to where you want to be by leaning left, right, with your front foot is the gas pedal and back foot as your brake.
You’ll often hear people say, (and as we said above) one should relax and let the boat do all the work. More often than not, this can be frustrating to beginners especially if they are trying to get up with no success. When starting, we strongly advise that you be patient. Once you are firmly on the board, slightly bend your knees and get into a crouched position. You’ll feel the weight shift and you can lean into the rope and your weight will shift to the other side of the board. At this point, gently stand up.
A common mistake beginners make is pushing their feet too hard into the board once the boat starts moving. Instead, it should be a natural transition where the pull of the boat flips the wakesurfer naturally. There are also those who prefer pulling themselves up which works just fine but often, it can result in falls. Bending one’s knees and remaining in an athletic position is key to mastering this first step.
A wonderful tip that made a lot of sense when I was learning was once you are up and surfing, pretend to do the “hula”. Leaning your hips forward, puts pressure on your front foot and moves forward and same thing for backwards.
Dropping the Rope
It is interesting that many beginners initially think that you can drop the rope in any manner. They are always surprised when they are informed that there is a special way they are supposed to drop the rope. Once you are in the pocket of the wave, you can keep riding as a result of the push from the wave. You, therefore, don’t need to hold onto the rope.
The first thing before you throw the rope is to ensure that you have the right posture. Ensure that you bend over at your waist and you’re standing straight. A great way to check your posture is placing the other hand (which isn’t holding onto the handle) on your lower back and pushing forwards to straighten your posture.
Once you master the wave, it is time to toss the rope. There are two methods of throwing away the rope. You can either throw it across the other side or you can throw it back to the boat. The whole point is to throw it effectively to ensure you aren’t caught up with it.
To control your speed, you change the weight under your feet. While wakesurfing, your front feet are the gas pedal. To slow down, shift weight to your back foot and to speed up, put more pressure on your front foot. Another method you can use to speed up is weighing your toes. Pressuring your heels slows you down. To stay in the wave, you turn up and quickly back down.
Another trick to staying in the sweet spot of the wave is to stick your front arm out like “Superman” when you fall back in the wave while your other arm is reaching around your body and placed on the small of your back. This position helps to accentuate your body’s weight forward to help you catch up to the wave when you fall out of the “sweet spot”
Easy. Isn’t it? Well, you can’t know until you try. With this info, I believe you can now start your wakesurfing adventure and with consistent practice and effort, you can turn into a pro someday. We assure you that you’ll love it.