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How to Stay Balanced During Wake Sports

The first rule of watersports is to focus on your feet.

Wakesurfing behind a boat
When learning to wakesurf, think of your feet as the pedals in a car. Put weight on your forward foot for the gas and on your back foot for the brake. Courtesy Zenon Bilas

Most people who try to water-ski, wakeboard or wakesurf think they don’t have good balance. That’s because they fall for no apparent reason during the start or once up, or they sense that riding skis or a board feels slippery. 

However, the problem is not a matter of having good balance. If you can stand up from a chair and walk, then you have the balance to do any of the popular wake sports.

The real problem is how you stand on the skis or board and where your body weight is focused on your feet. Typically, almost all wake-sports enthusiasts, even the competitive types, tend to have too much body weight focused on the heels of their feet.

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The problem occurs when you push your feet in front of your knees toward the boat. Most do this to some extent because it’s a defensive reaction from getting pulled by the boat on top of the surface of the water. The line and handle complicate matters because most riders pull against the handle to some degree. Pulling the handle toward you also causes you to push your feet in front of your knees toward the boat. When that happens, your seat pushes back over the tail of the ski or board. It can also make you break at the waist. These common body-position mistakes will limit your progress, give a slippery feeling, or cause you to fall either on your back or face.

The remedy is to exhale and allow your body to relax during the start. Your hands should be relaxed with a light grip on the handle. This technique will reduce the chance of pulling on the handle during the start or once up. The purpose of the handle is to just tow you along and not to support any of your body weight. Instead, your feet should support all of your body weight no matter what the wake sport.

During the start and once up, you need to develop an awareness of where exactly your weight is over your feet. Most don’t ever think of this because they are focused on what they are looking at. To develop an awareness of where the weight is on your feet, first focus your eyes on the boat, looking just above the windshield. This will get you to stop looking at the water or the boat’s wake. Then think about your feet while skiing or riding, asking yourself whether your body weight is focused on the heels or evenly spread over your feet from heels to toes.

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If you are heel-heavy, let your feet, ankles, shins and calves relax, and bring your feet under your knees while simultaneously raising your seat up until it is directly over the middle of your feet. Think of a stacked position with your feet under your knees and hips, and your hips and head directly over the middle of your feet. Imagine a vertical line running from your head to the middle of your feet.

Once in the stacked position, develop an awareness of where your weight is over your feet. By flexing your ankles and knees, you can direct pressure to specific points on your feet. This will allow you to control the ski or board much better, and it gives you the balance you need to improve and learn a lot while practicing your favorite wake sport.

Remember that it’s all in the feet, and the balance will follow—and so will your skill level and enjoyment.

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