Here is a step by step approach to teaching kids how to do their first deep water start on a wakeboard.
I recommend this approach for kids weighing under 80lbs.
1. Spend some time in the garage or yard putting on the gear and getting familiar with all of the moving parts. Bindings can be tricky so work out the laces or strap system on dry land first.
2. While on land with the gear on, try a few simulated starts with the rope. Have the child sit down with the board flat on the ground while holding the handle. Stand in front of them holding the rope end in your hand with your foot against the toe edge of the board to support it. Have them get comfortable with keeping their butt low as you pull the rope and give them support. Teaching them to stand up very slowly is really important as when you take this to the water the technique is very similar.
3. Practice floating around behind the boat fully dressed out in all of the gear with the board on and the boat engine off. Many times it is better to be in the water with them (depending on their age and comfort level) to help them stayed relaxed and balanced.They should learn to float on their back and practice flipping over when they roll to their stomach.
4. With the little one in the water with the handle and a safe, trustworthy driver in the drivers seat, try kneeling over the back seat cushion while holding the other end of the rope. Being close to them should make them more comfortable and if you feel its necessary you can instantly let go of the rope.
5. Idle the boat in and out of gear to tighten up the line and get them used to floating and being pulled at idle speed. Here the rider needs to understand how NOT to push their legs out. I teach kids to pull their knees up against their chest and to wait until their butt is out of the water before starting to stand up.
6. If the rider keeps falling over onto one side they will will need to push the handle the other way. If the rider keeps getting pulled in the water to one side they will need to keep the line better centered over the middle of the board.
7. When the boat driver “hits it” teach the rider to keep their butt low by keeping their knees bent. Straightening your legs will cause a lot of pressure to build up in your arms. As long as your knees are super bent and your butt is low, the boat can do the work. If the rider can’t hold on it is not because they are not strong enough. It is because they are pushing hard with their legs to stand up too quickly and pushing all of the water in front of them.
8. Once the rider is on top of the water and riding they can slowly begin to stand up with their arms out with a little elbow bend. Pulling the handle in will cause them to fall back. Ride with 60% of the weight on the back foot 40% on the front.
9. After learning to get out of the water, pay close attention to getting your back straight as a bent over or “hunched” riding stance is rough on your lower back and not to mention bad form!
10. Dealing with all of the gear in the water is the most difficult part of this for kids in my experience so be patient and find the best time that you can for you and your child to accomplish this. I highly recommend a calm day with no other boats around if possible.
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