Depending on where you live in this gorgeous country, you may have taken a few months off the water for winter, or winter may have made the decision for you by turning your lake to ice. Whichever is the case, you need to have a smart game plan for your first session back on the water. Of course you’ll be anxious to get the boat in the lake and finally feel water drops on your face instead of snowflakes, but I urge you to set your expectations for your first set of the season much lower than usual. What you want to accomplish during your first ride is threefold:
1. Feel more comfortable at the end of the set than at the beginning.
2. Avoid injuries on the first day back.
3. Remember how it feels to be on the water and how much you love it.
The first thing I do in any set, but especially early season sets, is carve around on my board, to get used to the edges of the board again — how they grip the water, accelerate, and turn. Stretch your muscles out and really get a renewed feel for board control. If you feel like your back, shoulders or hips aren’t able to hold position when you do this, then it’s probably not time to move forward yet. You may need to put extra emphasis on rolling your shoulders back or tightening your abs to tuck your hips under you. It’s a lot easier to adjust your body position when you’re carving around outside the wake than it is while cutting in for a big jump.
I would encourage you to do some switch riding next, unless riding switch was not one of your skills last season. The idea is to work your way back up, reinforcing the foundations of your riding step by step. Never go for your hardest tricks the first day back on the water. If riding switch is solidly in your skill set, spend a pass or two giving it some attention. The last thing you want to do is feel like you’ve overworked one side of your body. If you’re going to be sore (I guarantee it), you want to be sore evenly. It sounds like a funny concept, but it’s true. If muscles on only one side of your body are sore, you’re a lot more likely to compensate in unusual and detrimental ways. You’ll twist in funny ways and end up taking unnatural falls, which can lead to injuries, and it’s just not worth it.
As you start feeling more comfortable, go for some wake jumps. Keep a nice, easy rhythm and focus on the transition of the wake. I find that after some months, or even weeks, off my timing is generally the first thing to go. When I focus on the transition of the wake, I can dial in where my board is supposed to be for the takeoff. I notice that the energy I feel through the rope and the energy against the water start to feel more normal again. The purpose of the season’s first set is to let one’s body remember what it’s like to be on the water. Your body might not remember a whole lot on day one, but each day will be better than the one before. So success in this first session is simply laying the groundwork for each set after to be more and more productive.
If you have some stock tricks, try one or two of them. It’ll be like breaking the air-awareness ice. Most likely, some things will feel natural because you have enough muscle memory built up. And other things will feel unnaturally awkward. On day one, just accept the awkwardness and leave the tricks alone that don’t want to work. Come back to them in the next sets as your body remembers what it’s doing. If your energy is holding up, try to finish the set with a few more wake jumps. These last repetitious movements can build confidence and consistency moving forward.
Go easy on yourself and don’t let anyone in the boat egg you on and convince you to do something that doesn’t feel comfortable. I strongly suggest keeping the session a little shorter than you would in midseason. Like I said, the odds of being sore after this first set are really high, so don’t overdo it. Remember, being productive on the water during the rest of the season is your goal. Day one doesn’t prove anything; it just sets you up. So, keep a good tune in your head, smile because you’re on the water and enjoy the first step moving toward your 2017 summer.