Once you’ve figured out your speed, calculating how long your rope should be is a pretty easy process. The idea for wakeboarders is to be just in front of where the wake turns from a clean ramp to a white-washed mushy mess. You want to be hitting the wake at a spot that’s clean, solid, and doesn’t have a lip (that’s where the wake is cresting over on itself).
The general rule of jumping is that you want to be landing most of your tricks right on the downside of the second wake. Landing past that every time (called landing in ‘the flats’) will take its toll on your knees and likely cause you to bounce when you hit the water on some tricks. Just like watching a snowboarder or motocross rider, you’ll notice that they land on a downhill transition every time. If they were to land flat, they’d either bounce when they landed or their knees would buckle. Use the rope length to make sure that you’re always landing on the nice, gentle, downside of the second wake.
If you’re landing in the flats every time, let the rope out a length. If you’re coming up short, pull it in a few feet. Rope lengths for beginners are usually about 65 feet, for intermediate riders typically 65-75 feet (the longer you can manage, the better), and for advanced riders generally a rope 75-85 feet in length.
One thing to note is the importance of having a good, non-stretch rope for wakeboarding. Based on the cost, a lot of people question whether they’re worth it. Trust me, they are worth every penny. A rope with any stretch to it will destroy any hope you have of becoming even a halfway decent rider as the rope will stretch during your cut into the wake and then snap back to it’s original length in mid-air, throwing you off balance at the worst possible time.
With wakeboarding you can use rope length to your advantage if you’re looking to cheat on new tricks. If you were to look at your wake from above, you’d notice that it fans out from the back of your boat like a ‘V’. The further you are away from the boat, the further you have to jump in order to clear the second wake. Likewise, the closer you are to the back of the boat, the easier time you’ll have clearing the wake. When I’m teaching people how to jump the wake toe-side, I usually pull the rope in 5-10 feet to help them learn. The same strategy can be used to help someone who’s constantly coming up just shy of clearing the wake. Pull the rope in 1 length and see if it helps.
For the full blog on wakeboarding tips, check out the Evo Blog here.