Wakeboarding is a water sport during which a person rides a board that resembles a large skateboard with foot bindings while being towed by a boat. It is often also referred to as a combination of water skiing, surfing, and snowboarding.
This water sport was introduced in 1985 when a man named Tony Finn developed the skurfer, a sort of fusion of water skis and a surfboard. Around that time, in Texas, Jimmy Redman was also making and modifying his ‘skurfer’ without being aware of Tony Finn’s design.
Wakeboarding is still a well-known activity and is relatively easy to learn provided that you have previous board experience and depending on your level of confidence. You probably won’t be able to adopt the proper technique at first as it takes a bit of practice before you get there.
While wakeboarding is a good workout for the whole body and mind, it also poses some risks of injuries. Read along to know more about these.
How Wakeboarding Works
To better understand how this sport comes with risks of injuries, let us first tell you how wakeboarding works.
It is the most essential part of your gear, which is why you have to choose a good quality make. Beginners should either use a ‘twin tip’ or a ‘double-ended’ board.
- Wakeboard Bindings
The binding is the equipment that keeps your feet on the board. Beginners and those who plan on sharing a board should use some sandal or bungee bindings that can easily be adjusted so that they can suit different foot sizes. You can always upgrade to more supportive bindings once you build up experience.
- Wakeboard Boots
A pair of adjustable wakeboard boots is the best choice if you are looking for bindings that fit different foot sizes. A high-back boot is said to be the most supportive design and is best for tricks, spins, and flips. Snowboard-style wakeboard boots also come with tension straps that can support one or two foot sizes. Remember to always seek advice from a professional regarding the right size that suits you.
A 50-foot rope is better for beginners. And as you progress, you may upgrade to a 55-to-60-foot rope. Adjustable, sectioned ropes are also a great option because they allow you to easily change their length.
Wakeboard ropes come in two different types:
- No Stretch
This type of rope is made from spectra, an extremely durable material with practically no elasticity. That means the rope will not stretch, which is why it is ideal for wakeboarding. This type of rope has extremely low moisture absorption, causing it to be lighter, and does not cause fatigue while you hold onto the handle. This rope is also best for learning tricks.
- Low Stretch
This type of rope is composed of polyethylene or polyethylene blend to provide more elasticity than no-stretch spectra while maintaining enough stiffness. Thus, it proves beneficial to recreational riders.
- Wakeboard Handles
Handles for wakeboard ropes have a wider grip than those used for water skiing. They usually are 13-15 inches wide. Wider grips allow riders to perform tricks and pass the handle behind their backs. These handles have a neoprene foam float and often have features to make spin tricks easier. They are sometimes available in the form of a rope braid or come with a second, smaller handle built into the rope.
Safety Equipment Needed
- Buoyancy Vest or PFD for Wakeboarding
This equipment is essential for your safety when wakeboarding, which is why it is best to choose a vest designed specifically for wakeboarding. It should be able to provide a wide range of movement and be lighter than any standard buoyancy vest.
- Wakeboard Helmet
Also called “crash helmet,” this safety equipment is also meant to protect you from potentially serious accidents.
- Wakeboarding Wetsuit/Drysuit
A wetsuit or drysuit can protect you from extremely cold conditions and extended exposure to the sun, hence why you have to choose a wetsuit with the right thickness, based on the temperature of the water. Although some thicker suits can restrict movements, some others are designed to offer you freedom of movement. For extra insulation, you can always choose to wear an undersuit.
How it works
- The very first thing to do is float on your back. Your arms should be straight while holding your tow rope.
- Next, put your arms on each side of your knees, and bend your knees to start.
- You then have to put the board (which is strapped to your feet) in front of you and towards the towboat.
- Keep the board on its side and allow it to plane on the water surface once you start being towed.
- Remember that you have to determine whether you ride with a regular stance, meaning with your left foot forward, or goofy stance, with your right foot forward.
- Next, signal the driver or cable operator that you are set and ready to begin.
- Once you pick up speed, you should allow the boat or cable to pull you up in a standing position.
You are likely to physically injure yourself in any watersport, including wakeboarding. However, as evidence suggests, accidents from wakeboarding are always avoidable. These are the most common wakeboarding injuries you can prevent:
- Head and Neck Lacerations and Concussions
A ruptured ear resulting from a sudden fall, blow to the head, and lacerations on the neck and face are common.
- Arm Injuries
Sprains and strains, shoulder displacements, arm contusions, fractures, and abrasions are also common.
- Back/Trunk Injuries
Fractures, lower back pain, rib injuries, strains, and sprains are common as well.
No significant evidence indicates injury occurrence at various skill levels. However, the risks of injuries vary with the increase in skills and the attempts to learn and perform tricks and twists.
The most common wakeboarding injuries are often suffered on the face, head, arms, legs, back, and trunk. Besides, although a more significant number of males than females is involved in wakeboarding, the form of injuries suffered by males and females are still comparable.
About 25% of wakeboarding injuries consist of lacerations, 11% are concussions, 10% represent ankle sprains, 5% are fractures of the spine, and 5% refer to dislocations of the arms or shoulders.
Poor fitness can result in injuries as wakeboarding requires upper body strength to maintain balance and posture while riding.
Faulty equipment or failure to wear safety equipment, such as a helmet, life jacket or personal flotation device, and wet or drysuit can increase the risk of injury.
Every wakeboarder may get hurt, regardless of their experience. Beginners often get injured when submerged in the water during take-off, while intermediate to pro wakeboarders are most commonly injured as a result of falling.
Beginners can be at a higher risk of injury if they are not adequately educated about the techniques involved when getting out of the water, simple hand signals, and tactics to reduce the force of the tow rope. It is also important to know how to let go of the rope when you fall.
Boat Operator Education
The boat operator’s lack of training or experience, expertise, and ability is also a risk factor for injuries. Boat operators should indeed have enough knowledge about the required acceleration and speed of the vessel.
Tips for Injury Prevention
- Protect your knees
You should perform exercises to strengthen your knees.
- Stay focused
You need to pay attention to your surroundings instead of trying to impress your friends, family, and other spectators. Wakeboarding requires good coordination and balance, and since you are moving at a higher speed, you must stay focused.
- Do not wakeboard at night
Wakeboarding is not safe when it is dark outside since it is difficult to spot hazards.
- Wear a helmet
Wearing a helmet can literally save lives. That is why you have to choose a quality helmet that is specifically designed for the activity. Make sure you choose the right fit. It should feature an adjustable system with some ventilation holes, a chin closure, and mesh pads.
- Get in shape
You must take the necessary measures to get in shape. Do exercises that strengthen the muscles, especially the glutes, quads, hamstrings, and calves. You should enhance your core stability and improve your lower body strength.
Is wakeboarding bad for the knees?
Wakeboarding is bad for the knees if you make the common mistakes of locking your knees and keeping your legs straight, which further increases injury risk. Instead, keep your knees bent at all times.
On the other hand, if you’ve suffered knee injuries in the past, you should consult a physiotherapist so that your physical condition can be assessed and you can rest assured that you’re ready for this kind of sport. A physiotherapist can also give you an exercise plan so that you can strengthen the muscles around your knees.
Training and exercises
To prevent the risks of injuries from wakeboarding and help you progress, you should stay in shape when you are out of the water. Before the wakeboarding season starts, try to perform the following workouts five times a week, with at least a day off to rest and recover.
- Jumping Rope
Start at a leisure pace with 50 two-footed jumps. Next, perform 25 one-footed jumps. Do this on each foot, then go back to two-footed jumps, but this time with a faster pace. Finish with 10 double-unders. This exercise can improve your coordination and cardio and prevent injuries.
Do pull-ups while focusing on extending fully at the bottom and getting at least your chin over the bar. Stay in control all the way down and don’t just drop. Remember that your form is the key to doing this. Alternate between narrow and wide grips. It’s okay to do three or fewer reps on the first few tries; all that matters is that you do your best and work up to at least 10. This exercise can improve grip strength, toughen soft hands, and strengthen your back, core, shoulders, and arms.
- Frog Hops (Straight)
Do 10 straight-forward jumps from a full squat, and then, focus on fully extending your arms and legs. Try to gently cradle your landings by imagining landing on a scale. Try to keep the weight from reaching a high number. This exercise can improve leg strength for powerful takeoffs, as well as your strength, technique, and range of motion on your landings. It also improves core strength for better balance.
- Two-footed Step Jumps
Jump on a set of stairs, steps 1, 2, 3, and 4. Then, turn and jump down 4, 3, 2, and 1. Repeat the exercise until you feel the burn, and then do another set. This exercise improves leg strength, landing control, and coordination.
- Frog Hops (Angle)
Do 10 straight frog hops, but at a 45-degree angle. You should focus on full extension and soft landings. This exercise can increase the dynamic range of motion that contributes to controlled, injury-free landings and more powerful takeoffs.
- Hanging Leg-ups
While hanging from a bar, your arms should be fully extended with your feet together. Keep your legs straight and lift them slowly over a 1-second count. Hold for a count of “one Mississippi” once your legs reach a 90-degree angle. Then, lower them slowly over a 1-second count. Each rep should approximately last three seconds. Do a few reps if you feel the burn. This will improve your grip and strengthen your core.
- Pole or Rope Climb
The rope climb or pole climb is an upper body and grip workout for which you use both arms to pull, and then hold strong with only one arm while reaching as high as you can with the other. You can use your legs to rest on the first few tries, as long as you don’t use them to help you get higher and then work your way up to using no legs at all. This exercise improves your grip and strengthens your shoulders, arms, back, and core.
- Single-leg Box Jump
Start with the first step, on a flight of stairs, by doing 10 jumps with your left leg and another 10 with your right leg. Move on to the second step, and then do five jumps with your left leg and five using your right leg. Take all the time you need, but focus on soft and controlled landings. This exercise will increase power and control during takeoffs and landings, as well as strengthen your legs and core.
- Standard Box Jump
Jumping is important, but you should also focus on cradling every landing. Don’t make your box jump super high; instead, jump at a height at which you keep control. If it doesn’t feel right, stop and repeat at a lower height. Do three of these after feeling a burn, but be careful not to push your limits. This can increase your power and control on takeoffs and landings, can strengthen your legs and core, and will give you more pop off the wake.
A full extension may be a bit hard, but you should focus on maxing out your range when going up and down. To add a level of difficulty, you should keep your legs straight, and while going up and down, observe how far out in front you can keep them. This exercise can increase grip strength and strengthen your arms and core.
Benefits of wakeboarding
Now that you know about the dangers of wakeboarding, here is a list of the benefits this sport provides:
- Full body exercise
This sport requires you to have a lot of strength, especially in your arms, legs, and core since you use them when trying to stay up, jump off the wake, and perform tricks. It is a full body exercise considering it requires you to use numerous different muscles throughout your body.
You will become more flexible as you progress and start performing jumps, turns, and grabs.
- Balance and hand-eye coordination
It is difficult to perform tricks because it requires a lot of body movement. However, those will allow you to improve your balance and hand-eye coordination.
- Mental benefits
Studies have shown that people who spend more time doing outdoor activities are healthier and less likely to be depressed or anxious than those who don’t.
Exposure to the sun provides vitamin D, which is essential to remain healthy. Indeed, vitamin D deficiency has been linked to mental disorders, obesity, various types of cancers, and some other health problems. Although, remember to put on sunscreen and avoid extended exposure.