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When’s the Risk worth the Reward?

A few years ago, I briefly mentioned the “Risk vs. Reward” in wake sports. It’s honestly one of the big driving factors of the fastest growing sport, wakesurfing. Wakesurfingbecause the falls don’t hurt, and the probability of injury is slim to none.

So, is the inherent risk of injury worth landing a trick? For beginning wakeboarders – and by that, I mean starting out and, simply getting up and riding – the risk is low, and the rewards are high. You get to ride around on top of the water on the wakeboard or wakeskate.

We start all the new riders out slow, with a comfortable riding speed without drag, and teach the fundamentals, like posture, handle position and beginning edge control. The next steps are increasing speed for edge control and learning to ollie. Getting the board to “pop” off the water without jumping and pulling the board up to you. On a wakeskate, pulling the board up is not possible, so the ollie is important.

You have to learn a few other basics, the 180 and 360 on the surface of the water and the handle pass. You also reach the first part of “Risk,” which is catching an edge in rotation. The Risk, catching a frontside edge, is a nice face plant. It happens before you can blink your eye, and it will feel like your eyes were open and lakewater shot through your eye sockets to the back of your head.

Believe it or not, this is usually not enough to deter someone from continuing to progress. It’s a nice hard fall, but few actually stop here; the reward is too great. Reward being AIR, jumping wake to wake. The two wake sports launch (no pun intended) from here, getting air and doing tricks. Going wake to wake is not the first step though. There are one-wake jumps and the inside out jump and a heelside frontside 180.

In performing rotational tricks, frontside means that for the first 90-180 degrees of the rotation, the rider rotates to face the direction of travel. For a rider traveling in the “regular” stance (left foot leading), frontside means to rotate counter-clockwise. Conversely, a rider doing a backside rotation/trick is rotating clockwise. When riding switch, the term is reversed. For example, a rider in the “goofy” stance (right foot leading) does a frontside 180 when he/she rotates 180 degrees clockwise.

When applied to tricks involving obstacles, backside and frontside take on different meanings in that the terms define how the obstacle is being approached. For example, when performing a frontside boardslide, “frontside” means that the obstacle (e.g. rail) is to the front (the toe-side) of the wakeboarder. To carry out a frontside boardslide, a regular-stance skater will rotate slightly clockwise before sliding, facing away from the direction of travel. This is the opposite direction of rotation to a frontside ollie.

Getting air and doing your first heelside frontside 180 off a single wake usually erupts the boat into cheers and fist pumps and a loud blast of the horn to let everyone know you rode away. The reward is HUGE.

This done on a wakeskate, and you’re not strapped to the board. The reward is HUGE!

Note that the risk is equally as big, but you are moving toward wake to wake stardom, the Wake to Wake jump.
The risk goes up a little here. If you let up on a progressive edge, it’s highly likely you will case the second wake, bounce and catch a frontside edge, which equals a face plant, and this one … well, it really hurts.

This happens when your beginner body tells you to slow down, but that’s the last thing you need to do. You need more speed to make the jump. Reward for pulling through and landing W2W for the first time is – you got it – HUGE, and everyone goes nuts in the boat.
Next step is that he/she now gets to learn that W2W on the toe side.

Then onto doing them switch, and the tricks from here are endless: W2W inverted tricks and multiple 360 and the combination of the two are big tricks for which the rewards are truly great. You will have ridden away from a trick not a lot of people can do.

However, there is a lot more risk of a HARD fall, and sometimes riders get injured (I’m nursing an ankle as I type this).
Getting proper instruction can save you a lot of pain and suffering. It can also keep a rider from giving up on the sport.
If it was easy, everybody would be doing it, so keep practicing, set your goals, understand the risk, and look at the rewards you get from your dedication and hard work.
Stay safe and see you on the water.