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What Snowboarders Do in Summer

Wakeboarding - My First Time Out
by Lauren Traub Teton
(July 2004)

More Photos of Wakeboarding

Lauren wakeboards, first time out...

I had been hearing how much fun wakeboarding is from a friend, for a couple of years. So I decided to take a lesson, on a small lake in north central Massachusetts near Lowell. Chad Dooley is an expert wakeboarder, certified instructor, and college student who teaches wakeboarding there. He is outfitted with a gorgeous new wake boat, and has a selection of equipment to fit all size riders. We had a sunny day, and 80 degree water, and we were all set!

I had never even seen anyone wakeboard before I tried it. Wakeboarding is to water-skiing what snowboarding is to snow-skiing. Same idea, but you face sideways on one board and carve back and forth over the wake while holding onto the tow rope. The wakeboard is like a short snowboard, with high rubber bindings attached and you slip your feet into them with the help of a soapy liquid (slime). You ride sideways, as in other board sports. As in snowboarding it is possible to jump the wake and get enough air to do the same kind of aerial tricks that can be done in the halfpipe or off a kicker. Of course you have to deal with holding onto the rope too.

But we're getting ahead of ourselves. I slipped the board onto my feet and slid off the boat's platform into the water as my teacher instructed. I lay back in the water, being floated by a flotation vest with the board's toeside edge floating on the surface and my toes pointing up to the sky. I held the handle of the tow rope and when the line was taut as the boat moved forward, I gave the signal and I waited for the boat to pull me up into a standing positon. SPLASH! The boat circles back and you get back into position and try again. Again, and I was almost up for a second, and SPLASH, THUD. At least water is the softest of the surfaces I've fallen on in my boarding career.

Embarassment, defeat, and wet demon thoughts of  *why am I doing this? * I'll never get up * maybe my arms aren't strong enough * remember the time I tried waterskiing as a teen and couldn't get up * and * I thought this was supposed to be fun * started to gather around the edge of my brain to ridicule and haunt me.

Just then Chad reminded me to keep my knees deeply bent. Hey, that's the secret in all the board sports, isn't it? He said "have your heels actually touch your butt in the water while you're waiting to be pulled up. And don't stand up. Let the boat pull you up."

I did that on the next try, and miracle of miracles, the next thing I knew I was standing on the surface of the water and skimming along at 19 miles an hour across the lake! WOOHOO! I couldn't believe it! What a great feeling! Chad had said I'd have to turn the board from the starting position (where I'd be facing the back of the boat when I first got up) to the sideways (snowboard/skate) position with the board tip pointing at the boat. I don't remember doing that. It just happened naturally. It reminded me of riding my first rail on snow last season. Seems if you're in the right position, some things just take care of themselves through physics, I guess.

Chad's brother Trebor spotted me and took pictures so I could prove this amazing feat to my friends. Then Chad's buddies Eric and Pete joined us and I got to see Chad do some stunning tricks like jumps, grabs, and a tootsie roll. Eric demonstrated "wake surfing" where he rode a surf wakeboard - no bindings, behind the boat holding a short tow rope. After the boat's wake reached the right shape, he let go and just was carried along on the wake - no hands!- for a minute or two.


Since I was taking a private three-hour lesson, I had the opportunity to ride as often as I wanted to. I had about seven rides, each lasting a few minutes, but they seemed endless! Sometimes I would just drop the tow line for need to rest from this exhausting endeavor. I was glad to have the other riders along so I could stall and take a break! I learned to carve up on my heel edge (which put me over on the left side of the boat since I ride regular). Chad had me practice making S-turns, just like you do in your first snowboard lessons. The toe side is more of a challenge, as it is for many snowboarders on snow. It's a physical challenge just getting into the body position to go toeside. Letting go with my back (right) hand helped me a lot to turn to the right, to get near my toe edge. Crossing over the wake scared me at first, but if it wasn't white water, it was amazingly smooth, gentle and effortless. Crossing multiple wakes was a different story.

This sport is adrenaline city. I can't think of too many other sports where you go this fast your first time, except maybe skydiving. I was also amazed at my early success. I was actually doing some facsimile of wakeboarding my first day out. Which as you know doesn't happen with snowboarding. There are still plenty of challenges ahead for me in wakeboarding, should I choose to continue. And over time riders build up the strength and stamina to ride longer and better. After my session and the next day I was plenty sore from using muscles not normally called into action. Aspirin, arnica, bromelain and hot baths helped. But wakeboarding gave me my best day of this summer, so far. Chad asked me if I'll be back this season. I have a feeling the answer is YES!

Click here for wakeboarding teachers we recommend.

Chad will be competing at the INT League competition in Sturbridge, MA, on Aug 21-22, in the Outlaws Class.


Chad Dooley takes to the air:





Eric Wake Surfs

"Let's Ride!"






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