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How to Teach a Child to Wakeboard

Updated on July 31, 2014

As much as I love to waterski and try to get my kids to ski with me, all I hear is, "wakeboarding is much cooler. Skiing is for old people." Maybe its true. Wakeboarding is a lot of fun and offers the recreational rider more tricks to master like ollies, grabs, butterslides,180s, 360s, arial 180 and 360s, 540s, flips and so much more. It's a sport that has its own language that even sounds cool. See the table below to lean the terms.

Wakeboarding is also easier for kids to learn than getting up on skis.

Teach kids how to wakeboard on land first
Teach kids how to wakeboard on land first | Source
Simulate the boat pulling the rope so the child feels the tension in the rope
Simulate the boat pulling the rope so the child feels the tension in the rope | Source

First Wakeboard Lesson Starts on Land

The best way to teach a child how to wakeboard is to first simulate the way a boat would pull the rider up while you are on land. Have the child sit on a flat surface with his knees bent and toes pointed upward. Feet should be shoulder width apart. Next have the child hold the handle of a rope with their hands over their knees. The instructor should pull on the other end of the rope to simulate the tension of the boat. The pressure will pull the rider's bottom to his ankles. At that point the rider should stand up, twist one hip forward toward the instructor, and hold the handle near the forward hip. Once in the water, this action will turn the board into a riding position. Learning the mechanics on land makes it easier to execute in the water. Once up, the key is to remain balanced and gain confidence on the water.

Ready for Action

Once you are ready to proceed to the water, help your child put the board on while sitting on the transom of the boat (with the motor turned off). Then slide them into the water. Putting the board on is so much easier on the transom for kids who are learning.

Youth Wakeboard Equipment

Youth Sized Wakeboard
Like any other sport, having proper sized, quality equipment makes for better performance. Don't expect a child to learn to wakeboard on an adult board that is way too big and heavy. And, don't pull out a wakeboard that is a decade old. The board manufacturers continue making the boards lighter and easier to maneuver. There are plenty of youth wakeboards that are sized by your child's weight and foot size. Overton's and Dicks Sporting Goods both sell a wide range of junior wakeboards. Companies such as Liquidforce, Hyperlite, and CWB all make boards for beginning and intermediate kids.

Life Jacket
In most states it is the law for children under the age of sixteen to wear a life jacket on a boat. Not only is this the law on the boat, but it is a good, common sense safety law for people of any age doing water sports as well. Before you get started, have a US Coast Guard approved life jacket, also known as a Personal Floatation Device 2, that is the correct size for your child. Make sure the straps are tightened so the jacket fits snug when it is dry. If the jacket is too big, it will rise up on your body when you are in the water, making it uncomfortable. There are many life jackets on the market that are not PFDs. They are known as "performance life vests." These are vests that actually slip over your head. Although they may look cool and sporty, they are for competitive wakeboarders, not recreational or novice users.

Wakeboard Rope
Waterski ropes are not the same as wakeboard ropes. A wakeboard rope should not have any stretch in it. This is because a wakeboarder relies on the tightness of the rope to be able to launch over the wake. Any elasticity in the rope can cause a rider to become off balance, especially as they begin to learn tricks and jumps. The standard length is 50-75ft, but about 65 feet is best for beginners. Go ahead an invest in a wakeboard rope, it will make the experience more fun and improve your boarder's performance.

My daugher "getting air" for the first time
My daugher "getting air" for the first time | Source
My son landing a jump
My son landing a jump | Source

How to Drive a Beginning Wakeboarder

A good boat driver is essential to a pleasant wakeboard experience. Make sure to have a spotter in the boat with you and go over water signals before you begin. Although in many states, a is legal to use a mirror instead of an actual spotter, it is a safer and more fun to have another person in the boat to watch the child when he is first learning.

Find a Good Spot
It is helpful to find flat, smooth water that does not have too much boat traffic. A quiet, straight area without many turns is a good selection.

Watch Your Speed
When the wakeboarder has indicated he is ready, gradually tighten the rope. Then slowly push the throttle down for a slow, smooth start and gradually increase speed. It is very different than pulling a water skier--wake boarders can get up between five and ten miles per hour, depending on their weight. When making speed adjustments, do so in small increments by holding the throttle between two fingers on the metal shaft, not on top part. The worst thing a driver can do is to have too much speed when trying to get the wakeboarder up. For beginners, keep the boat at a steady speed of 14-15 mph. More experienced riders approach speeds of 20 mph. If you have Perfect Pass or cruise control on your boat be sure to set it. It makes it so much easier to ensure a constant speed.

Bring the Rope Back
The lighter the child, the easier they will be to pop up. If the wakeboarder does not get up, make sure your spotter tells you if the child is getting dragged. New wakeboarders fall easily by catching an edge or losing balance. Slowly bring the rope back to the wakeboarder by circling around him. Do not make your rider swim to the rope or struggle to reach it.

Be Patient and Make it Fun
It helps if the people in the boat encourage the wakeboarder. Remember to be patient. It takes some upper body strength to get up. Most new wakeboarders are capable of a few attempts before their arms no longer have the strength to hang on. If your rider just isn't getting it, don't make a big deal out of it. Go for a swim instead and try the wakeboarding again another time. Also, water sports make you really hungry. Bring some snacks on the boat so your new wake boarder doesn't get cranky from being hungry!

Wakeboarder's Lingo

Wakeboard Term
Meaning
Getting Air
The space between the rider and the water
Ballast
Extra weight added to the boat for a bigger wake
Bindings
The boots attached to the board
Butter
Smooth water
Edge
The side of the board
Fin
A piece on front and back underside of the baord to help stablaize the board
Glass
Smooth water
Grab
Whenthe rider reaches down and clasps their hand on the board as part of a trick
Heelside
The side ofthe board closest to your heels
Nose
The tip of the board on the closest end to the boat
Ollie
When the rider hops into the air and does a 180 turn
Perfect Pass
Cruise control
Rocker
The amount of curve in a board
Toeside
The side of the board closest to the rider's toes
Tower
A metal contraption attached to the boat for storing boards and speakers
Wake
The wave created behind the boat

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    • LauraGSpeaks profile image
      Author

      LauraGSpeaks 4 years ago from Raleigh, NC

      Hi Chris, you are correct--a kid has to WANT to learn the sport and not be afraid. Many people don't realize the risk of concussions from water sports--helmets are a good thing!

    • ChrisKoerner profile image

      ChrisKoerner 4 years ago

      Hey there!

      Well that's a comprehensive introduction to kid's wakeboarding. In my personal experience motivation is the key to success, right? It goes hand in hand with reputation of the sport itself. I see more and more kids using helmets and protection gear because now it's cool to use that finally.

    • WalkOnWater profile image

      WalkOnWater 5 years ago

      Thanks for the informative hub about teaching kids to get out and enjoy the water! I loved the guide to on-land training and, especially, the tips for driving someone just getting started.

    • LauraGSpeaks profile image
      Author

      LauraGSpeaks 5 years ago from Raleigh, NC

      Hi Robin, I love to ski but I have witnessed through having my kids and their friends on the boat that teaching a child to wakeboard really IS easier than learning to waterski. I think because the board is bigger that it is easier to balance. Most kids we see on the lake are wakeboarding, wake surfing or tubing. Its the old foggies like me who are skiing. That's OK, I still love it!

    • Robin profile image

      Robin Edmondson 5 years ago from San Francisco

      This is great advice! I learned to ski when I was 5 but have never wakeboarded. We've tried to teach our girls to waterski, but we don't go enough for them to get the hang of it. Do you think it's easier to learn to wakeboard? I felt like there was a time when there were no skiers on the lake, but there seems to be more lately. Have you noticed that? I wonder if it will be "cool" again to ski; it's such a fun sport!

    • theraggededge profile image

      Bev 5 years ago from Wales

      I bet I couldn't get my kids to try it. Well my daughter would but my teenage son prefers to do his surfing at a desk! Looks like lots of fun and something I would definitely try if I was... er... um.. many years younger.

    • LauraGSpeaks profile image
      Author

      LauraGSpeaks 5 years ago from Raleigh, NC

      twinstimes2 thanks so much for reading.

    • twinstimes2 profile image

      Karen Lackey 5 years ago from Ohio

      Fun and easy hub to follow. Great pictures and detailed instructions! Great job!