Five ways to get a taste of wake during the off-season
This is a rough time of year. The upcoming wake season is almost in sight, but it's not quite here yet. It's been tough hanging through winter without your wake fix and now you long for the sun and warm water that will surely make your life right again. It's within this transition period that most wakeboarders need something to fill the void while they wait.
For many, that void is filled with the purchase of some spankin' new gear or, if they're lucky, a nice new boat. However, if you've moved beyond the "shopping" phase and still have not found peace, it might be time to try something else. That's where we come in. We've come up with five things you can do to not only fill your empty days, but to also hone your skills so that you'll be ready when that joyful first ride of the season comes about.
Probably the most obvious off-season training tool for wakeboarders is the trampoline. Although they have the potential of being more dangerous than wakeboarding itself, when used properly a trampoline can give any rider an edge. The biggest benefit of bouncing on the trampoline is the air awareness you gain. It just helps your body get used to how the moves feel in the air and allows you to learn how to spot your landings.
If you're going to pick up a trampoline, you'll find that there is an extremely wide range of both quality and price and you usually get what you pay for. At the minimum, you want to make sure your tramp uses springs for its bounce. Don't fall for the bungy straps that you see on some discount trampolines. Whatever tramp you decide to pick up, be sure you top it off with one of those safety nets, so you don't end up on America's Funniest Home Videos or, even worse, in the hospital. The safety net posts also give you something on which you can attach a wakeboard handle to further simulate your time on the water. Now you'll be able to bounce away doing handle passes, Raleys, flips and anything else in your bag o' tricks.
For years wakeboarders have taken the trampoline thing to the next level by simulating the presence of the board beneath their feet. One of the most popular ways to pull this off is to wrap a skateboard deck with about 10 rolls of duct tape so that it ends up being soft with rounded edges. This prevents the board from damaging the trampoline surface. A few more pieces of duct tape to secure an old pair of sneakers to the deck and you've got yourself a wake simulator. Well, now there's something better.
While doing research online for the purchase of a trampoline, I came across a product called the BounceBoard Extreme by Jumpsport. It's basically a professional version of the duct tape skate deck described above. The BounceBoard is made of a closed-cell polyethylene foam and is 34" long and 12" wide. It has two binding-like indentations with Velcro straps to keep your feet attached and is incredibly light. It's a great way to work on grabs, spins and just about anything else you're trying to learn. Plus, it's easier on your trampoline surface and doesn't get that duct tape goo all over everything. The $100 price tag may be a little steep for some, but when you split it between all your friends that are going to want to use it, I think you'll agree that it's well worth it. Check out the BounceBoard Extreme photo gallery featuring Brian Davies.
This next product is one that really didn't appeal to me that much when they first sent it out. It's the Tierney Rides T-Board. It's a skateboard that only had two wheels; one in the back and one in the front. Sounds silly, right? Well, the idea is to ride this skateboard more like a wakeboard or snowboard. The two-wheel setup and unique trucks, one of which flexes from side to side, give the rider the ability to carve the board.
Upon first glance, it doesn't look like something that would be very easy to ride. However, the company's owner, Kurt Tierney, insisted that I give the T-Board a shot. I quickly found out that it's easier to ride than a normal skateboard. I started with a small hill down my driveway and was amazed at how easy it was to ride and what a unique sensation it provided. The balancing is almost like riding a bike. Being a generally uncoordinated person, I was stoked to be carving down the driveway in no time and quickly moving on to the hilly asphalt throughout my neighborhood.
I've been riding the T-Board for several weeks now and have yet to take a serious spill. In fact, my eight-year-old daughter insisted on giving it a try and she picked it up even quicker than I did. Although the ride of the T-Board is probably more similar to snowboarding than wakeboarding, it no doubt allows you to build up skills applicable to both sports. It also helps build up the key muscles in your legs that will be used when you're on the mountain or on the water.
Although they've been around for years, this article wouldn't be complete without mentioning some kind of balance board. A balance board is like a fat, thick skateboard deck on top of some kind of roller. The object is to stand on the board with both ends up off the ground while balancing on the roller. We've been using the Indo board for years and it's a great way to work on your balance. For you wakeskaters, it can also be used to work on a few skate maneuvers. Just make sure you're not working on your balance board skills in front of a mirror or something equally expensive. Many a time I've seen a balance board shoot across a room sans rider. It never ends well.
Another great way to get ready for the wake season is to work on your tricks in your mind. Mental preparation and visualization is key to performing better behind the boat. So until the ice thaws, break out one of the many wakeboarding instructional DVD's available and see if you can't learn something.
The latest instructional release is The Book. This is a five-DVD set with over eight hours of learning, making it the most comprehensive set of wakeboarding instruction ever produced. Not only does it include everything you can imagine, the presentation is like nothing I've ever seen before. You can choose different instructors, see tricks in switch and regular, split screens showing the trick on the trampoline, on the water, from different angles, with and without grabs and much more. They've even got an entire DVD devoted to the basics such as equipment, safety and driving a boat. This set of DVD's is so over the top comprehensive, I feel sorry for the next company that attempts to do an instructional. The Book is a tough act to follow.
Speaking of driving a boat, our final suggestion to cure your winter blues involves just that. It's the smallest Super Air 210 Team Edition you've ever seen. This scaled-down, remote-controlled version of Correct Craft's most popular wakeboarding vessel can be found at your local Correct Craft dealer. This dual propped machine, complete with tower, board racks (mine included two Byerly boards) and plenty of detail, performs as well as it looks. The mini Nautique gets going at a pretty good clip and leaves a wake that would have Barbie and Ken drooling. I highly recommend you pick one up to work on your towing and docking skills before summer arrives. I'd also recommend that you don't attempt to jump it off a vanishing edge swimming pool because I can assure you...it will vanish.
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Related WakeWorld Links: BounceBoard Extreme Photo Gallery
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