Have you finally conquered the elusive wake-to-wake jump but aren’t sure what’s next? While your buddy might suggest hucking yourself into a backroll or a 360, I can assure you that neither of those represents the next logical step in your progression. Trust me now and your body will thank you later. I conduct wake clinics all over the world, and often my goal is to demonstrate this: Wakeboarding does not need to be intimidating or painful. It’s all about learning tricks in the correct order and having your boat set up in a way that increases the likelihood for success.
We want to get your jumps and grabs dialed, and to that end I have several tips. These are two of the most foundational elements in wakeboarding and need to be mastered before more technical tricks become a possibility. Plus, it’s fun to learn a consistent, effortless wake jump and then add your own personal style to it. There are countless grab variations, and they all require different body control, but we’ll walk through a few of the most common ones.
First, however, we need to conduct a brief review of the proper mechanics for a textbook heelside jump.
Nearly all novice wakeboarders focus exclusively on heelside jumps, which simply means they are approaching the wake on their heel edge (facing the boat) rather than their toe edge (back more toward the boat). Heelside is a more natural position and therefore offers a better place to start when learning grabs and jumps. Don’t become a “heelside hero,” though; be sure to work on one-wake toeside jumps (landing in the middle of the wake) while you practice heelside jumps.
In terms of wake-jumping mechanics, remember two things. One, be sure to use a progressive edge, meaning that after you’ve set up for a jump by cutting outside the wake, you want to roll back toward the takeoff ramp in a gradual and progressive manner. Make a nice slow turn at the wake, and once your angle is set and the nose of the board is heading toward the takeoff point, just hold and maintain that edge. Two, and this is directly related to the first, less is more when trying to master the perfect wake jump. Don’t try to cut too hard, don’t try to jump off the wake and don’t pull on the handle. The less you move, the better!
Once you’ve cleaned up and perfected wake jumps, you’re ready to add uniqueness to your riding with some grabs. The first question people typically ask me when learning their first grab is this: “Where is the easiest place to grab the board?” That brings us to the third takeaway. Only grab your board on the nose, the tail or on the siderail between your feet. Yes, grabbing in these areas is slightly more challenging, but if you’re going to grab, it might as well be legit!
My recommendation for your first grab would be either a tail grab (see photo on page 18) or an indy grab, which is when you use your back hand to grab the toeside rail — between your feet, of course. To complete a tail grab, simply use your back hand to grab the tail of the board. Start with back-hand grabs, and then work up to fronthand grabs, which require a bit more control.
Now you have a textbook wake jump and you know where to grab, but you’re “slapping” at the grab rather than locking onto it. No worries. Once you’re slapping, you’re only a few adjustments away from throwing down your first legit grab. The key to having more time to hold onto the grab is a bit counterintuitive. Be patient and remember that the perfect grab starts with the perfect wake jump. The more you rush off the wake and drop a hand early to get the grab, the less time you’ll actually have to complete it correctly. Hold your edge, take off with two hands, get your good upward lift, and then go for the grab by bringing the board up toward your hand. Keep your chest up just like you would on a normal wake jump and don’t break at the waist.
Last, once you are consistently getting solid grabs, you’re prepped for the final progression. Poke or tweak the grab to add some additional style and originality. This is where you’ll start to get addicted. There’s something so rewarding and fun about putting your own stamp and identity on a move; plus, you’ll be set to progress to 180s, 360s or even your first invert.