Sometimes all it takes is the right word or two to get children to see things your way. By speaking their language, you simplify a complex thought so they can put it into action. When it comes to teaching children to ride a wakeboard, "phraseology" has a place.
Instead of teaching a progression of steps, try using these four phrases — representing four critical stages of getting up on a board.
"Spacewalk": Play it cool and hang loose, say the experts. Easy for them to say. It's more likely that a young one will get all twisted up at the end of the rope, with the waves having their way with the board. It's also natural for kids to "fight and get tight" while getting into position.
"It's important to stay calm back there," says the World Wakeboard Association's Shawn Perry. "Have your child imagine he's on a spacewalk, like an astronaut — smooth and effortless."
"Be a Ball, Boy": The key to a good start is keeping body parts close. Arms pulled toward the chest, butt dragging, knees locked out — they all result in a faceful of water, and that's just not kid-friendly. Have your rider form a ball, allowing the board to float comfortably in front of his shorts, with knees bent and elbows outside the knees. Your kid can practice this position on land, forming that tight little ball with an adult providing the pull with a rope.
"Stand Up When Your Shorts Show": Once your "Mini You" has broken the water (which won't take more than a second or two if you're nursing the throttle properly), have him stay in that compact position until his shorts are clear of the water, then simply stand up. That doesn't mean straighten his legs and break at the waist, which will result in a nasty face-slapper. The motion is similar to rising out of a chair without assistance.
"Squash the Bug": Normally, standing will move the back foot to the rear. But, says the WWA's Perry, just in case the board fails to turn with one end pointed toward the boat, ask your child to imagine squashing a bug with the heel of his back foot. We're not talking stomping, but squishing the guts out, slowly. That will push his weight to the rear, setting the board up for a great riding stance.