Kneeboarding is a great entry-level sport. It’s easy to get into and the basics are easy to learn, but if you really want to turn some heads and impress the wakeboarders, the back roll is a great first invert to learn. Often referred to as the barrel roll, the back roll is easy to learn, though it took me a while years ago (Note: Kohl is a professional rider sponsored by O’Brien and Sanger Boats), and can open up the next level of wake tricks for any kneeboarder. This roll teaches novice riders the fundamentals of invert tricks that are important to advancing any kneeboarder’s trick arsenal.
Before you start hurling yourself aimlessly upside down through the air, know how to do two things. First, be able to clear the wake and land smoothly on the other wake 99.9 percent of the time. Second, when you jump the wake, be able to keep the rope tight all the way through the landing. This comes from a controlled cut and is the key to an effortless rotation. With a tight rope, the center of rotation of the flip/roll comes from the handle and carries your momentum. If you can do these two things, you may be ready to try the back roll.
1 | THE CUT
Body position is important. Keep your back straight, shoulders square and elbows at your hips. Make a solid, smooth cut at the wake, just like you would make for a regular wake-to-wake jump. Hold the cut until just before you hit the wake and then back off to a 25 percent cut. Hold your position. Remember: back straight, elbows at your hips.
2 | THE FLIP
The first thing to think about when preparing to throw the back roll is wait! The hardest part about learning this flip is knowing when to throw it. Timing is important, because if you throw too early you will come up short. I have to repeat in my head, “Wait, wait, wait,” as I come up to the wake. If I don’t, I will throw it early every time. At the top of the wake, throw your shoulders to the side, in the direction you want to roll. Keep your head and neck aligned with your back during this motion, which will keep the roll straight. The back roll is not achieved by throwing your head back or to the side. It is more about throwing your shoulders.
3 | THE ROTATION
Once you have thrown the flip, there is not much more to do. Gently turn your head and look toward the landing wake. Keep your elbows in to your hips and hold on. Turning your head really fast will spin your rotation and cause you to land sideways or backward. A slow look over your shoulder should suffice.
4 | THE LANDING
As you are looking over your shoulder, start spotting your landing. Once you spot the landing point, keep your back straight and elbows in, hold on and brace for the landing. If all goes well you should land smoothly on the other side.
WHAT THE FLIP AM I DOING WRONG?
Try to avoid four common mistakes other riders make.
1. Flipping Too Early
If you come up short and land on top of, or even in the middle of, the wake, you are likely throwing the roll too early. Remind yourself to wait or tell yourself not to throw the roll until you are in the air. That will help get your timing right.
Many times this will come with throwing the trick too early. The larger the wake, the less work you have to do to initiate this trick. If you are over-rotating, throw the trick a little softer next time. A little less shoulder throw is all you will need.
Not getting all the way around or losing momentum and landing upside down can stem from two things. First, not keeping your back straight. All of your momentum is carried in the shoulders, and keeping your back straight helps throw your weight into the rolling motion. Second, letting off your cut too early or by too much. You need to back off the cut and flatten out, but not completely. Keep resisting the boat’s pull.
4. Cutting too Hard
Making too hard of a cut may lead to a landing out in the flats, which could result in a big bounce, a hard crash and a face plant. Remember, elbows at hips, back straight and hold on. This will help keep your center of gravity back so you can ride away from those tough landings. Dial your cut back just a little.