so what’s this wake surfing thing all about…?

What a beautiful weekend. After a weeknight barbecue was cancelled due to some torrential downpour (that our drought ravaged lakes and rivers needed so desperately), the weather had cooled off to a manageable temperature.  A friend who has recently taken up wake surfing invited me to try this new sport that has gained local popularity.  We started out early and were up and at ’em by 8 am in time to see the sun rise over the water.

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With the anticipation of a beautiful day of clear skies and over 12 hours of sunlight, some of the more experienced wake surfers took their turns.  As I watched them take the boards from the stationary to upright positions, they seemed effortless and graceful.

I knew my turn would not be so refined.

The difference in wakeboarding and wake surfing have to do with the way the surfer utilizes the waves of the boat while behind it.  In wakeboarding, the rider is strapped into the board and boat pulls the rider behind at anywhere between 18-23 miles per hour.  The wakeboarder is pulled with a rope from the back of the boat and uses the wake from the boat to do tricks.

Sounds fun eh?  It is, but it’s a little tougher on the body.  The shoulders and knees have more pressure on them and there is more impact when the rider lets go of the rope because of the higher speeds.

As for wake skating, the boat pulls the rider up much closer and the rider uses the wake immediately behind the boat to sustain their speed and lets go of the rope to effectively “surf” behind along the waves.

A lot depends on the driver, as the boat needs to have control on the turns and the rider needs to ease into position during the first pull when the rope gathers tension and brings the rider upright.  We had a good driver 🙂  Other factor include how busy the river is, as it is more difficult to skate behind the boat in choppy water.  

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Once upright, the surfer can attempt tricks (but I would be very mindful).  Although the impact of falling stings less than wakeboarding, the lack of two feet securely fastened on the board can cause injury when the rider loses control and lands with one foot on the board and one foot in the water.  The simple act of shifting the hips around like they are on a ripstick along with the “wheelie” type action of the front and back feet allow the rider to add or decrease speed and maneuver on the inside of the wave.

After watching a less experienced rider attempt to get up on the board, I heard numerous tips from the more seasoned surfers.  Keeping the board perpendicular to the boat when starting, and as tension is added from the boat pulling away, the rider digs the heels into the board and pulls back on the rope simultaneously until an upright position is accomplished.

Once upright, the tip of the board is shifted parallel to the boat and the weight evens out in the feet.  Keeping a “surfing” stance allows for shifting of the hips and movement of the board.  Once in a stable stance, the rider releases the rope and rides behind the boat freely.

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A lot to think about all at once huh?  Fortunately, when it was my turn I was able to take all of the lessons I had just received to get up on my first try and actually stay up for almost a minute.  Once I caught the wave, it was then I was unsure of what to do 🙂

This is a really fun sport and I am looking forward to my next trip out.  Maybe next time, I’ll look like this…

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Not gonna lie, my arms, shoulders, abs, and legs were very, very sore the next day, although I’m not sure how much of that had to do with Friday’s stamina session, my side-flop front flip off the two-story deck, or the surfing itself.  That was definitely a great way to get a little bit of exercise, stay active on a weekend, and enjoy the summer.

Wearing plenty of sunscreen and reapplying after swimming and/or 80 minutes of sun exposure of course 😉


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