TIP 1: FIND YOUR ZONE
It basically comes down to finding where your personal balance spot is.
In my experience it should be somewhere around your belly button and hips- that's the area which is most stable when you wakesurf. The rest of the body moves around it, adjusting to the wake situation.
TIP 2: WATCH AND LEARN
There are a lot of very important details on how to wakesurf that beginners have to keep in mind. That's why I believe that watching YouTube tutorials before the first try is very helpful.
It is in our nature to learn things by watching others, before attempting to stand up on the board on land.
That is the crucial step where a majority of beginners struggle the most, especially when the time is ticking on the boat you've rented for the day...
TIP 3: START ON LAND
Ask a friend to pull you by the rope from the same position you'd have in the water.
It is key to ensure your arms are straight (never pull yourself, the boat will do the job for you), core is strong (like for sit ups) and your back is straight. Exercise few times till you get used to this feeling.
It is very helpful to have a coach, but if you don't have one, just ask someone to record your attempts on a video so you can analyse and correct your mistakes.
TIP 4: SAFETY FIRST
Ok, so you've done your part to prepare yourself. Then comes the practice.
Wakesurfing is so much fun! Just relax and enjoy- don't overthink and don't give up! You will fall, many times and that's fine- it's part of the fun especially for online fail compilations, but you just have to make sure you learn something every time you fall.
A life jacket is a must- it doesn't usually make you look cool, but it will help you to stand up and maintain an upright position (alongside other more obvious benefits of course).
*Always remember these two important things about falling:
1. Drop the rope immediately (or you can dislocate or twist something)
2. Cover your head with arms to protect it from getting hit by the board. Though it rarely happens and is not very traumatic, it definitely isn't pleasant.
TIP 5: LIFT OFF
So you're finally in the water. You're excited and nervous, trying to remember everything you know. Don't forget to breathe!
Grab the rope and the board, let the board float flat on the water, point it left or right depends on the leading leg, place your heels in a right position (on the edge of the board closest to you, leading leg's foot a little further from the middle and the other foot at the end of the board), holding the rope with straight arms somewhere between your feet.
The boat will slowly start moving to straighten the rope and once it's straight, the driver will start to speed up (you'll be happy to have a life jacket on at this point).
At this time, you need to press on your heels to flip the board to your feet, keep your core strong, arms straight and knees bent as mentioned before.
This is the point where the boat starts to pull you out of the water. Let it do it, but keep pressing your heels against the board, core strong, back straight, arms straight and slowly straighten your legs a bit to stand up, but only half way. Restrict your movements as much as possible. The stronger your posture, the longer you will stay above water.
Don't look down, and make sure your chin is high. Imagine that your knees are like a suspension system in a car. Move them to absorb the water kicks, while keeping the rest of your body strong and in balance.
Once you've passed the foamy stage, you no longer need to resist the water, so you can stop applying pressure with your heels and instead shift your weight forwards, slowly start to tiptoe and stand on the board.
TIP 6: FIND YOUR RELEASE
You should still be maintaining your posture- arms straight, back straight, knees bent, chin up.
Feel the water respond. You riding it. Slowly find your balance, move your body as little as you can, absorbing any kicks from the water with only your knees. Comfortable? Now for the next step.
When you feel that you have stabilised yourself and gotten used to the water kicks trying to knock you off the board, slowly turn your body to the wake, your hips, your shoulders and you'll have to bend your arms now.
It is important to make sure you're not pulling yourself- just maintain the pulling strength exerted by the boat, which you can adjust by bending and straightening your arms accordingly.
Very slowly move your front (leading) foot to the middle line of the board, such that your feet's arch is positioned on that line. Remember once again to maintain your balance and body position.
When your foot is in the right spot, you will be able to feel it. Your tiptoes will have enough pressure to speed up the board so the rope will become loose.
TIP 7: LET GO AND ENJOY
There are four pressure points to control the board, it's both heels and tiptoes. You'll master to control them later. Right now, you need a balance between your back foot and front tiptoes, which function as your break and gas pedals.
Move your weight between them very slow so you can stay on the spot without catching up with the boat and not relying on the rope. That's where you are ready to let go one arm. Yep, only one. One step at a time.
Most likely you'd have fallen about 5-7 times by now trying to get to this point and you definitely do not want to waste your time and energy. So, check the position: all your body is facing the wake (not the boat), your shoulders as well, chin up, don't look down, knees are bent, back is straight.
Now, slowly release your back arm from the rope while still gripping it with your front arm. However, make sure it is bent because you will need to soften the "pull" moment when you unexpectedly start to slow down.
Try to hold both of your arms at the shoulder level to help you balance. When you are able to keep this position for a while without relying on the rope to keep you on the spot, you can drop the rope (finally!).
Make sure someone is ready to pull it on the boat. Don't throw it, just drop it and keep the position (straight back, bent knees, hips and shoulders facing the wake, arms on the shoulder level helping you to balance and chin up -look at your friends on the boat cheering you on!).
Voila! The rest is just practice, my friend!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Originally from Russia, Nataliya is a Hong Kong-based full-time model with Model One agency.
After being introduced to wakesurfing by @surfingmermaids, she quickly developed a burning passion for the sport, which she describes as bringing her a "pure, childlike joy" and enabling her to learn more about how her body works.
Among her aspirations are to compete in a Wakesurf competition in Hong Kong,
master more tricks, eventually own her own boat and board, as well as to inspire as many people as possible to share her love for wakesurfing.