Recreational enthusiasts of the various towsports often get so caught up in the fun of waterskiing and wakeboarding that they don’t think about body position. Sound like you? Correct body position makes learning and improving easier, affecting your success on the water. The pros know that body position is the foundation of consistent performance and rapid advancement.
Most towsports, including wakeboarding and waterskiing (on two skis, slalom, trick skiing and barefooting), share the same body-position fundamentals. The only thing that changes is the position of your feet — side by side for two skis and barefoot, one foot in front of the other for slalom and tricks, and sideways for wakeboarding. Optimal body position focuses on four key areas of your body:
3) Hips/seat, back and head
4) Shoulders, arms and hands
Body position starts with your feet. Towsports are lower body activities, just like snow skiing. The lower body provides the balance, stability and power while the upper body remains quiet. Imagine that the tow line merely connects you to the boat and don’t put any added pressure on it.
To make your lower body most effective, consider that the job of your feet is to support all of your weight. Just like in snow skiing, ice skating or golf, the feet provide the foundation for balance, stability and power. To achieve this powerful position, distribute your weight evenly over your feet, from heel to toe and from side to side. Doing so keeps your body weight centered over your feet, which is the core element of balance, either on skis, a wakeboard or your bare feet.
Because they are continuously moving forward, skimming across the water, towsports enthusiasts often stand heel heavy, which diminishes their balance. To correct this in your own riding, relax your calves and heels. Use the entire surface of your feet to support your weight. Particularly in barefoot skiing, where the surface area is very small, using your feet effectively is important for consistency, and when learning more difficult tricks, like a front-to-back 180 turn.
The common admonition in towsports is “bend your knees,” which is correct. But too often when recreational skiers and wakeboarders think about bending their knees, they drop their hips and seat away from the boat, which means they are no longer balanced over their skis or board.
Instead, think about flexing your ankles, like a snow skier traversing moguls, a ballet dancer in a plie position, or a floor gymnast starting and landing a trick. The same ankle fl exion works for towsports. It distributes your body weight evenly over your feet, providing optimal balance and thus giving you better control of the ski or wakeboard. By focusing on flexing your ankles, your knees will automatically bend and your hips will line up over your feet. It is helpful to practice this on land — maybe even while holding a tow rope — before taking it to the water.
Hips/Seat, Back and Head
When it comes to your core and upper body, you want to achieve a stacked body position — your head in a vertical line with your hips and your feet. Remember how your mom nagged you about good posture? This is what she was talking about. No slouching please. Because this upright posture places your upper body over your feet, your balance is optimal, and the likelihood of falling is greatly reduced.
Shoulders, Arms and Hands
An upright posture places your upper body in the best position to absorb the pull from the towboat. Beginning towsports enthusiasts let their shoulders and arms stretch out to the boat, which places them off balance and makes them vulnerable to falling forward (the dreaded face plant).
To get into a stronger position, keep your shoulders in and down (away from your ears) and put a small amount of bend in your elbows, placing them near your hips. Then lower your hands so that the handle is at your waist. This position permits some give to absorb the line’s pull. You will be using your lats, biceps and triceps to achieve this position. Keep your grip on the handle relaxed. Too tight a grip creates tension in your upper body.
Again, it is helpful to get a handle and practice on land first. Then, when you take it to the water, your weight will be perfectly balanced and you will enjoy an effortless pull down the water.
As you improve and begin focusing on more advanced skiing or wakeboarding, remember that this body position should never change. Make sure you are maintaining the same balanced, strong body position when you are crossing the wake, making a slalom turn or doing wakeboard jumps or tricks. Eventually good body position will become second nature to you. You will be amazed at how quickly you advance, and how much fun you will have with your favorite tow sport.