Tow sports have an amazing ability to evolve, to pull in new ideas from land sports, and to morph into a variety of tow-sport offspring.
Take wakeskating for example. It’s a tow sport heavily influenced by not another tow sport but by a sport done on land – skateboarding. And it’s quickly gaining in respect as well as popularity.
“Wakeboarding is like snowboarding, but I feel more free on a wakeskate,” says Pierre Atruz of Paris, France. Today, thanks to plenty of time on the Seine River just south of Paris and in the waters near West Palm Beach, Fla., Pierre has won three French national champion titles.
So what does it take to get into wakeskating? Pierre, pictured on the facing page, has some expert tips that will shorten your learning time and boost the fun factor.
Any Boat Will Do … Almost
The beauty of wakeskating is that almost any boat works. You can use an inboard tow boat with a tower and wake-building ballast. You can use a highly maneuverable personal watercraft. In fact, if your boat can go 20 mph, then virtually any type of boat propulsion system (inboard, stern drive, outboard, and jet drive) works.
Line It Up
Wakeskating’s line and handle come from wakeboarding. Most wakeskaters use a low-stretch, 70-foot line like Spectra. A 5-foot leader section attached to the main line features a 15-inch-wide highly padded handle to make grabbing the handle easier during spins.
Because there’s a non-skid surface on top, you can get up and ride a wakeskate with bare feet. However, Pierre says that skate shoes offer a lot more balance and stability. Companies like Reef and Nike recently started making shoes specifically for wakeskating.
Pick a Board, Any Board
Some of today’s best wakeskates are manufactured by Hyperlite, Ronix, O’Brien and CWB. Their construction ranges from basic wood to compression-molded fiberglass. Boards with multiple layers, known as bi-level boards, give the wakeskate a responsive skateboard feel.
Wakeskates range in length from 39 to 45 inches to fit a variety of riders. Because wakeskates are so wide and provide plenty of standing room, most riders are able to use any board style or size to get up on the water. Once you get comfortable riding a wakeskate, then you can narrow your choice to suit your own preferences.
YOUR FIRST RIDE
Starts with a wakeskate are not hard if you already know how to water-ski or wakeboard. There’s so much real estate to a wakeskate that it’s easy to get on top of the water. The solid pull of a boom off the side of the boat or the upward pull from a tower will definitely make starts even simpler. Speeds of a bit less than 20 mph should suit most people, but you can experiment with a little more or less speed for best stability.
Clear the Wake
Once you are up and comfortable, you are ready to start working on mastering the line, the wake and learning new tricks. First, jump the wake and land inside the wake. Then repeat from the other direction. The goal is to keep pushing yourself until you are clearing both wakes easily.
You’ll naturally feel more comfortable with either your right or left foot forward, likely depending on the hand with which you write. But try riding with the other foot in front as well to become equally strong. Ambidexterity opens the door to a flood of new tricks.
Go back to the edge of the wake. There you can begin to move the skate around a bit. Turn the wake skate 90 degrees or 180 or 360. You’ll soon accomplish this easily.
After you master this, you’re ready to do a Shuvit 180 – popping the board off the water and turning the skate 180 degrees in midair.
With tricks like Ollie 180, Shuvit 360, and Switch 360 Kick Flip, you might need a dictionary on hand while you’re learning. But this is one water sport where learning is the most enjoyable part.
By Zenon Bilas, Published: April 16, 2010
Zenon Bilas is a seven-time U.S. Barefoot Water-ski champion. He once footed the role of Tony the Tiger in a Frosted Flakes commercial.