Waterskiing and wakeboarding offers a wide variety of ways in which you can participate. The following guide is designed to give an overview of the many exciting disciplines that exist within the sport so that you know your "kneeboard" from your "barefoot".
Wakeboarding has many features in common with sports such as snowboarding, waterskiing, surfing and skateboarding but is very much a sport in its own right. In fact, wakeboarding has been said to be the fastest growing water sport in the world.
As with waterskiing, the rider is towed behind either a boat or a cable setup, but typically at slower speeds (18 - 24mph).
The rider wears a single board with stationary non-release bindings for each foot, standing sideways as with a snowboard or skateboard. The boards, which can float, are typically 130 - 147cm long and up to 45cm wide and convex (tips 15 - 25cm).
The rope is mounted about 2 metres above the water line and the boat is weighted and trimmed, with strategically placed large water ballast tanks in order to give a larger wake. The wake is used as kickers or ramps would be in other board sports. Steering the board using a combination of body direction and cutting the edges into the water, the rider cuts rapidly in toward the wake, using it to launch themselves into the air.
As with many freestyle sports such as snowboarding and surfing, there is almost an entire language of terms to describe various tricks. The sport is growing enormously in popularity, with many participants finding it relatively straightforward to learn, whilst offering a massive opportunity for self-expression.
A more advanced variation is wakeskating, which has extremely close ties to street skateboarding. This consists of a similar shaped board with no bindings. The rider stands on the board either barefoot or wearing a pair of trainers and performs tricks that would typically be performed on a skateboard.
Waterskiing is an exciting, exhilarating water sport, combining technique and agility with speed and fitness.
Recreational waterskiing is very similar to alpine skiing. Both activities incorporate a similar body position and motion, with the key differences being the shape of the skis, the bindings and the surface upon which they are performed.
Recreational skiers usually learn to waterski with a ski on each foot. As they improve, skiers progress onto a single ski (mono), with one foot behind the other in separate bindings.
Variations of the sport include slalom, trick, jump, racing and barefoot skiing.
Beginners are usually pulled along at speeds of 18-22mph, whereas more experienced skiers are towed at speeds up to 36mph. Once confidence is gained, faster speeds help the skier by giving greater lift and stability.
Within the confines of being towed behind the boat, skiers can control their direction by balancing their weight on different sides of their ski in order to travel back and forth across the wake.
Slalom is all about technique and skill, incorporating reaction time, rhythm, strength, coordination and balance.
The goal for the skier is to pass through the slalom course while being pulled by the ski boat on an 18.25m rope. Whilst this may sound straightforward, there are many elements that can combine to make this extremely difficult…
To complete the course, the skier must pass inside two entrance gates, ski around 6 buoys (three each side of the boat) and ski through two exit gates. In competition, skiers run the course at the start speed of 24mph, with the boat speed increasing by 2mph after each completed pass until the speed reaches 36mph for men and 34mph for veterans, juniors and women.
As if this was not enough, slalom becomes even more challenging when the rope length shortens after each successful pass until the rope is just 9.75m. The World slalom record is one and a half buoy at 9.75m.
Trick skiing is slightly different from waterskiing. The skis are shorter, have no fins, and are purposely designed to do tricks. "Tricking" is highly creative and is extremely fun to learn. In competition, each skier has two twenty second passes, during which they have the freedom to complete as many tricks as possible.
The tricks may vary from simple 180 degree turns on the surface of the water, to a somersault with twist. The points awarded for each trick are based on difficulty. The skier may not repeat any trick, although they may perform the same trick in the opposite rotational direction. This is called a “reverse” trick.
The boat speed for tricks is much slower than for slalom at around 18 - 20 mph, and each skier chooses their own speed. For each trick, the judges must decide whether it was performed within the rules and time.
In this event the skier passes over a ramp (6′ for men and 5′ for women), lands and recovers to ski through a set course. Each skier has three attempts at the ramp. The skier attempts to position themselves as wide as possible to the side of the boat and cut as late as possible at the ramp to generate the most speed and spring possible. All that matters is distance jumped and not the style used to achieve that distance.
Skiers can generate speeds of up to 70mph onto the ramp and cover distances in excess of 200ft.
Kneeboarding offers anther fantastic way to enjoy the water. One of the key advantages to this discipline is its accessibility - kneeboarders enjoy a much lower centre of gravity, making balancing much easier. In competition, riders compete in slalom, trick and expression session events.
Ski Racing is a high adrenaline, high-octane branch of waterskiing and is the fastest form of skiing there is, with competitors travelling at up to 200km/h. A real endurance discipline, skiers use a special race ski, designed to ensure better control at high speeds.
Races take place on both seawater and inland, although they do require quite a lot of space. Categories vary according to ability and the power of boats involved. If you are addicted to speed, this may just be the sport for you…
No Skis? No Problem!
Barefooting really is exactly what it says on the tin. Starting out on the boom, skiers will start with a pair of "ski shoes before progressing to the point where they are no longer needed and the skier can barefioot behind the boat! A thrilling, high-octane discipline, barefooting is a discipline truly like no other. As with regular waterskiing, barefooting has three competitive events:
For barefoot slalom, the skier crosses the wake of the boat as many times as possible within two 15-second passes. This may be completed both forwards and backwards and on one or two feet.
When "tricking" barefoot, the skier performs as many tricks as possible within two 15-second passes.
Unlike conventional skiing, Barefooters use a small, 18" ramp. This is a highly skilled, expert-only discipline. Competitors must gain a certificate of competence before they are able to enter a barefoot jump competition and should only attempt to jump under the supervision of an expert coach.