Most of us put away water-sports equipment the way Clark Griswold stored lights in National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation — in a heap, wherever it lands. But a hasty retreat from the boat will only spell trouble next time you use your gear. It won't be long before you're greeted with odiferous scents normally reserved for rural farms, or even worse, equipment that resembles Mickey Rourke — not that old, but wearing its years without grace. Truth is, it doesn't take much to keep your gear like new.
It Isn't a Stand-Up Board
A wakeboard's edge is critical not only to how the board performs, but how it ages. Stand it up in a corner, on a hard surface, and it can easily crack the joint where the top and bottom of the board come together. This can cause the board to delaminate, or separate. It's a painful, ugly process (especially if you're the board). While it might take up more room, lay your board binding-side down, so that the water drains from the bindings.
Insider Tip: If you've got the time, release your bindings from the board and keep them in a cool, dry place, around room temperature. (It's much easier with today's quick-release bindings.) This will help preserve the rubber — it tends to crack in direct sun. You can also use this Ladder Rack ($19.99 at airhead.com) to hang multiple boards.
Don't Be a Rope Dope
A ski rope can resemble a teenager's mane after a restless night of no sleep, full of knots and tangles. Like most recreational skiers, your rope probably gets pulled into the boat, then left on the floor or stuffed under a seat until you're ready to unload, magically transforming into a nylon pretzel in the process. Take a couple of precautions to avoiding rope wear: Coil it up after each use, being careful to loop it in 1- to 3-foot-long sections so that it rolls easily on itself. Loop the loose end around the coils and handle, and pull it all tight.
Insider Tip: Give your wrist a half-turn when coiling the rope. This little turn will enable the rope to twist nicely and avoid the inevitable knots that will start your next day on the wrong foot.
Contrary to their name, wetsuits shouldn't be put away wet. And unlike a suit, you shouldn't hang it when drying. If you're peeling off a wetsuit after a chilly spring ride, turn it inside out to dry. By laying the suit out on a flat surface — and out of the direct sunlight — you'll maintain the integrity of the seams and material, and allow it to dry gracefully.
Insider Tip: When dry, instead of storing your wetsuit on the same hanger you might use for your polo, find a real suit hanger with broad shoulders. This will help the suit maintain its shape and stitching, especially around the shoulders, where you need the most flexibility and strength for skiing.
Save a Life (Vest)
Did you know that by drying your life vest in the sun you could be shaving years off its life? Direct sunlight can break down a vest's nylon fibers and cause it to rot, especially around the seams. And vests left to dry in unventilated or carpeted storage compartments can create smells and mildew reminiscent of a high-school locker room. It's best to drip-dry your vest in a cool, dry area, either by hanging it on a clothes hanger, or standing it up so that the water drains out the bottom.
Insider Tip: Don't forget your zipper. Lube it with beeswax or paraffin to keep it sliding smoothly. We found a tube of Snap-Stick (great for boat-cover snaps too) retailing for $6.48 at shurhold.com.