With any luck, by this point in the season you’ve spent some quality time on the water and knocked off the rust that accumulated during the off-season. Even if you’re not completely back to your old self, you probably feel a lot better than you did during your first set of the year. That’s what we want: constant improvement. Unfortunately, most riders improve, improve, improve and then hit a plateau. All that progress comes to a screeching halt and frustration ensues.
What are you supposed to do now? Well, don’t freak out. You’ve hit the dreaded midseason slump. You haven’t hit your full potential yet, and there are probably a few things you’ve overlooked that are holding you back. So let’s explore some of the culprits and get you back on the path of progress.
1. Trying too hard. Relax and stop forcing it. If you ever watch really good wakeboarders, notice that their riding looks effortless. They are letting their body position and technique do all the work. Try to mimic that. The more tense and rigid you are, the harder any towsport is.
2. Blissful ignorance. Most riders have no idea what they look like when they ride. Get a friend to film you. It’s really important to see what you are doing on the water. You may feel like you are doing something properly when in reality you might be doing it completely wrong. You can use a phone’s camera, but a dedicated video camera will allow you to zoom in and maintain image clarity — easier to see what’s going on. Take the time to study good riders and compare what they are doing to what you are doing.
3. Bad body position. Body position has a direct impact on every element of towsports, so it’s important to keep it in check. Bad body position usually means that the handle is up too high, your shoulders are being pulled toward the boat, you’re bending forward at the waist, your legs are locked straight, your knees are too bent — or any combination of these. So here’s what you’ll want to focus on regarding body position:
-Keep your head and chest up. Keep your arms relatively straight and the handle lower than your shoulders, so you are being pulled through your core.
-Keep your hips forward; in other words, don’t stick your butt out.
-Bend both knees slightly and keep an even weight distribution between both feet.
-Always lean slightly away from the pull of the rope.
4. Looking at the wrong spot. Your vision provides you with a significant amount of awareness, and looking the wrong direction will leave you unprepared. Don’t stare down at your feet or randomly off to the side. Instead, stay focused on where you want to go. It’s best to remain in a state of preparedness and not have to react at the last second.
5. Not riding enough. If you are only riding every once in a while, it’s difficult to see significant improvement. Make it a goal to ride three times per week. You’ll feel more comfortable on the water, which will translate into elevated performance.
6. Fear of falling. Most people don’t learn a trick on their first attempt … or second … or third… It’s OK to fall — everyone does. It means you are pushing yourself. Embrace those crashes and learn from mistakes.
7. Relying heavily on speed. Lots of people ride faster than they should. Going faster makes the wake narrower, which makes jumping from wake to wake “easier,” but at the same time it tends to take away the upward force that launches riders up into the air. So instead of a floating jump, they kind of skip across the wake. When you don’t have hang time, it’s difficult to complete new tricks and the crashes hurt more — mostly because you are shooting across the wake. So rely less on speed and more on your edge and using your legs to launch you upward off the wake. Speaking of getting air…
8. Trying to physically jump off the wake. A lot of people think that jumping on a wakeboard is the same motion as jumping on the ground; it’s not. Instead, it’s about maintaining an edge and standing tall as you are leaving the wake. That’s what delivers the vertical pop you are looking for. Don’t overcomplicate it.
9. Not being challenged. Being the best rider in your crew is great, but if you don’t have someone who inspires you or drives you to be a better rider, you are missing out. Find some better riders in your local community and start riding with them on occasion. They may give you pointers or you may just pick up some techniques that drastically change the way you ride.