We have a saying at our Orlando-based wakeboard school, Freedom Wake Park. It’s basically this: “Your friends are your worst teachers.” They mean well, and of course they want to help, but they lack real expertise and experience. (Ed. note: Mikacich is a professional wakeboarder.) Just because they think things work one way doesn’t mean that’s the case, and it certainly doesn’t mean that their way is the best way or easiest way to do it.
Many visitors to our school (freedomwakepark.com) have shared advice they’ve received from well-meaning friends … and much of it is totally wrong! Maybe you’ve heard these suggestions too; maybe you’ve even tried to follow them. Check out the following list of “advice,” and find out how to correct the misguided words.
1. “To get someone out of the water, you gotta floor it!” We’ve all seen this scenario. Some poor kid is trying to get up on waterskis, a wakeboard or a wakesurf board. The driver is hammering the throttle as hard as he can, and the beginner at the end of the rope is tumbling head over heels, left to right, drinking all the lake water. The truth is, he doesn’t need more speed or more horsepower to get out of the water. He just needs a smooth start, so he can find the correct body position to go with the boat more efficiently. The driver can slowly raise the speed above idle, and that’s the easiest way for someone to learn.
2. “When the rider falls, whip the boat around to get back to him.” This is called a power turn, and it is an absolute no-no — except in extreme circumstances. The problem with power turns is they send waves across the entire lake, ruining the water for everyone. Power turns are not even very efficient, because the driver ends up driving a big arcing turn back to the fallen rider. The best thing to do when a rider falls is pull back the throttle and turn the wheel to one side as the boat slows. Once the boat is pointed back at the rider, the driver should idle straight in his direction. It’s direct and doesn’t send rollers everywhere. The only time a full-speed turn back to a fallen rider should be pulled is if the rider is injured or another boat is headed straight at him. Those are your extreme circumstances.
3. “Cut as hard as you can to clear the wake.” I hear this all the time, especially from intermediate wakeboarders learning to jump wake to wake. They think they have to turn and burn with all the cross speed they can muster in order to gap the wakes. Truth is, speed doesn’t equal height. What you want is a nice easy edge that gets stronger as you get closer to the wake. Then, as you go up the wake, stand tall and push against the energy of the wake. Doing so will give you a nice floaty wake jump, without all the line tension — and crashes.
4. “You have to lean forward while wakesurfing.” This piece of advice is a little tricky. The intent is to help wakesurfers accelerate down the wave and stay with the wave without using the rope. And while it’s true that you don’t want to lean back, the reality is that you don’t want to lean in any direction. The trick to controlling your speed while wakesurfing is actually to keep your shoulders and torso upright. The acceleration and deceleration come from shifting your hips over your front or back foot, which will move your weight on the board, thus changing the attitude of the surfboard on the wave. Pushing your hips over your front foot will make the board accelerate and stay with the wave. And you can always do a quick “brake check” on your back foot.
The real problem with telling someone to lean forward is that, inevitably, that person will bend at the waist. Her shoulders will lean forward toward the boat, but her hips will sit back over her back foot, which makes the board slow down. It’s the opposite result of the advice’s intent.
5. “Always hold on with both hands.” Great advice. For riders who love faceplants. If you want to watch your buddy fall super hard, tell him to keep both hands on the handle. Or if you personally like the feeling of smacking your face on the water, just keep both hands on the handle when going through rough water or landing a jump. I can almost guarantee a face-plant. So here’s the deal: Because you’re standing sideways on a wakeboard, your back arm wants to twist your body around to face forward. But if you turn forward, your edge catches and you fall down — go boom. When you’re edging, it’s OK to keep two hands on. But when you land a jump or go through the chop — really anytime you’re a little unstable — drop your back hand off the handle. Doing so will line your body up with your board. The line will pull you straight instead of twisting you. It doesn’t matter which direction you’re traveling. If your left leg is in front, hang on with your left hand. If your right leg is in front, hang on with your right hand. It will save you nine out of 10 times.