In my 9+ years of teaching wakeboard lessons, one of the most common questions I seem to get from clients has nothing to do with how to land a certain trick, but rather how to properly set up their boat for wakeboarding or wakesurfing in the first place.The question of how to “set up” your boat properly takes several factors into account: towing speed, rope length, and weighting your boat. I hope to answer all your questions with these wakesurfing and wakeboard boat tips.
Let’s start with speed. This is the area where you’re going to need to push yourself outside of your comfort zone the most. Most people equate slower speeds with safety, which is true to a point. Crawling along at slow speeds may keep you from getting hurt, however, it will also keep you from the most rewarding part of the sport: learning new tricks.
When I’m teaching beginners, and by that I mean truly first-timers, I drive really slow… like 12-14 mph. Nothing will end a person’s future in wakeboarding faster than catching a toe-side edge their first time out. Towing someone at almost painfully-slow speeds their first couple of times out will allow the rider to start to get comfortable with their edges and at least allow them to start picking up the concept of turning and avoiding the most painful way to crash.
Speeds that slow should only be driven once or twice, or until you as the driver aren’t constantly cringing in expectation of the impending doom of a toe-side edge being caught. Once the rider is at least starting to get the idea, it’s time to start bumping the speed up to about 18-19 mph. That doesn’t need to happen in one day on the water, but make a conscious effort to throttle 1 mph faster each time the rider falls until you’re at 18-19 mph. If the rider is screaming at you to slow down, listen to them. But, as soon as they’re comfortable, start to sneak in a few more rpm’s until the needle on the speedometer starts creeping up again.
Advanced riders will usually exceed 23 mph… pros usually ride a lot faster than that. But, chances are there aren’t any pro riders reading this article (they’ve probably figured out how fast to ride), so if you’re reading this, you probably shouldn’t be riding any faster than 23.
Another important thing to remember is that every boat is different. One boat at 23 mph might feel like 21 mph on another. As a driver, you need to work with the rider to feel out the optimal speed for different skill levels for your specific boat. It’s not uncommon to be driving a boat at a wakeboard contest and have a rider in the novice class tell you that they want to get towed at 23 mph. However, that may be the speed they ride at behind their Bayliner at home, and they’ll pee their pants once we hit 18 mph on our Tige RZ2. It’s all about getting to know your boat and figuring out how it should be driven.