Heelside Backroll

A heelside backroll is typically the first invert we will teach at camp, and is a right of passage for moving into the world of inverts. This trick is basically a side flip, or cartwheel type motion.


When I learned this trick the hardest part for me was taking the exact same approach to the wake on every attempt. You will want to land on the exact same spot of the wake each time; right on the downslope of the second wake. I think it helps to have heelside wake-to-wake 180s dialed in before attempting inverts because they help teach edge control towards the wake. Also, if you can spend a little time on the trampoline it will make your first couple of attempts much easier on the water.

For the Driver

Slow the boat down 2-3 MPH from normal boat speed. A big mushy wake will force the rider to edge all the way to the top of the wake before throwing the trick, and the slower speed will take away some of the fear of trying something new. On the first few attempts by the rider, just concentrate on initiating the trick correctly off the wake and landing in the water of both wakes.

The Approach

After trying a couple of slow speed attempts, bring the boat back up to normal speed and go for the trick wake-to-wake. Use a normal heelside wake-to-wake cut. It’s very common for people to throw this trick early, or before they are off the wake, so concentrate on edging all the way to the top of the wake before throwing the backroll.

In The Air

Keep your head looking toward the boat, and throw your head and rear shoulder toward the tail of your board while pushing your hips toward the tip of your board. Keep the handle low and close to your hips throughout the rotation. Most people have a tendency to bring the handle up toward their head, which slows the rotation down. Halfway through the rotation, pull the handle closer to your hips. This will do two things, speed up the rotation to help you land on your board, and give you correct body position when landing, making it easier to give line tension back to the boat.

Trouble Shooting

These are the areas most people have difficulties when learning backrolls.

I’m under rotating this trick. There are generally two mistakes that will cause this:

Throwing the trick too early.
Practice some more slow speed one wake attempts where you begin to make the complete flip rotation and land in the middle of the wake.

Bringing the handle up towards your face.
Push the handle toward your hips after you initiate the flip.

The handle pulls out of my hand when I land.
 This is caused a lot of times by the bad habit of letting go with your rear hand in the air. Hold on with both hands and pull the handle in halfway through the flip. You can also have your driver cut back on the throttle the first few times you land this trick.


Wakeboard Posture

Posture is everything when it comes to effectively edging into the wake.


Hips: The position of your hips is the key factor for creating leverage when edging toward the wake. Keep your hips up and in front of your shoulders. Bad habit: Hips drift back behind the shoulders, and the board softly edges at the wake by the fins holding the direction, instead of the entire Heelside edge.
Shoulders: Keep your shoulders back and behind your hips for leverage against the pull of the boat.
Knees: Bend your knees as you start edging toward the wake. As you edge up the wake, straighten your knees up and push off the top of the wake.Bad habit: Knees stay bent while edging through the wake and absorb the pop on take off. On landing the knees stay stiff and don’t absorb the shock of landing.
Elbows: Should be bent at 90 degrees with the handle low and close to your hips as you begin edging toward the wake. Bad habit: Elbows straight, which leads to forward falls on landing.
Hands: Keep your hands close together when gripping the handle on Heelside and Toeside. This provides a more responsive pull when doing handle pass tricks. When you grip by the handle ends, the handle will slacken on handle passes which hinders consistency. Also, grip the handle with both palms down.


Hips: Hips should be up and in front of shoulders when edging toward the wake. Bad habit: Hips are low and butt is sticking out. While this posture will in fact create good leverage edging toward the wake, it will always lead to forward falls on landing.
Shoulders: Should be up and directly over your knees. Bad Habit:Shoulders and chest drop down into a hunched over position when edging toward the wake.
Knees: Slightly bent and rigid while edging toward the wake. As you edge up the wake straighten your knees to push of the top of the wake.
Elbows: Bring your elbows in close to your body for the approach to the wake. I always teach students to hold on with both hands the entire way through the air on the toeside jump. It feels awkward at first, but this technique will force you to keep the handle close to your hips and make clearing the wake much easier.

How to Get Sponsored

So you want to get sponsored for wakeboarding? You want to get free boards, boats, and be able to do the sport you love everyday? Getting sponsored isn’t too complicated; it just takes a lot of drive, determination, salesmanship, and time on the water. Here are some ways to make it happen.

Ride Smart

The first thing your going to have to do, is ride a lot, and push yourself to learn each and every time you ride. One set a day isn’t going to cut it, you’re gonna have to ride 2-3 sets a day to break into the pro level. Competitiveness always serves as a catalyst for progression; find other good riders in your area so you can push each other. Most importantly, while it’s good to be satisfied when you learn a new trick, don’t grow complacent. You’ll have to consistently drive yourself to learn new tricks, it also helps a lot if you find a coach who can help you break through plateaus in your riding.


Ride in as many tournaments as you can, and always keep a humble and positive attitude, even when you don’t ride well. Be polite; thank the event organizers for putting on the tournament, simple things like that will help you stand out in their mind.

Keep it Real

Be careful that you don’t get too caught up in the hype, I’ve seen a lot of wakeboarders who seem to care more about the business of getting a sponsor, than the actual purpose of wakeboarding. While the goal of getting sponsored is a good thing, don’t ever let that goal get in the way of riding for your own enjoyment.


Get in tight with a local pro shop. They have relationships with company reps and have the connections to get you hooked up. Help your local shop by bringing in customers to buy from them, and volunteer at their in house events and at boat shows. If they can see that you’re committed to their shop, they’ll be more than happy to make some phone calls to factory reps about getting you an entry level sponsorship.


If you don’t have a local marina to work with, make a video of your riding to send out to companies. Put your video on U Tube, and build a resume to send out, or post on sponsorhouse.com. Before you send your video out to a company check their website first for information on applying for sponsorship. Research which companies appear to be a good candidate to sponsor you, in most cases it’s good to look at smaller companies for entry level sponsorship.


Remember that this is ultimately a business relationship. While you have to be an excellent rider to get your foot in the door, in most cases your sponsor will ultimately care more about the ways you will drive increased sales to their business, over what tricks you can throw down. You have to be a good salesperson to keep this relationship alive, so keep in close touch with your sponsors on what you’ve been up to, ways your helping improve their sales, how your marketing their company, and ideas for new or improved product for next year. Remember to be courteous, always send them a Thank You letter when they ship you product.

breaking through plateau

Breaking Through a Plateau

Unfortunately progression doesn’t always come easy in wakeboarding. Like most sports, the learning curve is really fast at first, and starts flattening out over time. If your skill level is stuck on a plateau, there are some simple drills and habits that will help you break through and progress year after year.

Avoid the bad habit of doing every trick in your same old routine before trying anything new. While there is a balance between Consistency vs. Learning, I’ve seen so many riders who are reluctant to try a new trick until they first go out and land every other trick they already have in their bag. By the time they do all this, they are typically getting tired out and don’t have much energy to work on something new.

Set your goals high, but don’t overlook the building block tricks in wakeboarding. For instance, most riders want to learn a Backroll, but skip learning 180’s, toeside airs, or backside spins.

Think of 5 tricks you would like to learn, and start working toward that goal each set. Take baby steps toward landing your goal trick, for example, if you want to learn a wake to wake Heel Side 180, make sure that you practice Ollie 180’s, Butter Slide 180’s, and 1 Wake 180’s first.

Ride more. For me, taking one set when I wakeboard will maintain my level of riding, but taking two sets each time I go will get me to progress. While some wakeboarders are blessed with a natural talent, the rider who is persistent will excel in the long run.

Don’t over-try one trick. While it’s good to buckle down on trying something new, don’t just work on that same trick your entire set. Just try it 5 times each time you ride, and move on. I’ve seen a lot of riders, especially on learning their first invert, start to get close to landing and try the trick over twenty times each and every time they go out. Fatigue always sets in preventing them from landing their goal trick, and their riding starts to suffer in other areas from being too focused on one thing.

Ride with a coach, or at least someone that is better than you. A good coach will quickly be able to see what drills you need to work on, and help you break habits that are standing in the way of learning. And just riding or watching people that are better than you will get you motivated to go out and try the tricks they are doing.

Ride in a Tournament. When you’re entered in a tournament, you’ll typically ride more in preparation for the event and build consistency. After the event, you’ll be excited to try new moves that others in your division were doing. Check out www.midwestwakeboarder.com for chat boards on getting together with other riders in your area, and info on local tournaments this summer.

slob front front fakie

Heelside Front Flip & Front-to-Fakie

A lot of riders overlook learning Front flips, but they’re not as awkward as you think, and they’re sure to get a head nod from people that are in the know.

Throwing the Front Flip:
The rotation should be similar to a cartwheel, end over end. I’m doing this on the trampoline, and I ride right foot forward.

1. At the top of the wake, throw your head and lead shoulder toward the tip of the board.
2. Keep the handle low, and near your front hip.
3. If your nervous about trying your first one, have your driver slow the boat down by One to Two MPH.
4. Keep your elbows up when you land to avoid the dreaded elbow to thigh Charlie horse.
5. You can see the water as you come out of this trick, which always makes landings easier.

Throwing the Front-to-Fakie:
When you are confident with doing Heelside Fronts, it’s time to take it to Fakie. Take the same approach, but let go with your leading hand when you initiate this trick off the wake. Also, at the top of the wake, push your rear shoulder toward the boat to put the 180 spin into it.

Trouble Shooting

Doing a Frantrum, a Tantrum Front-Flip Mix?
This is generally caused by the way you initiate the trick off the wake. Concentrate on keeping your trailing shoulder square and pushed forward toward the boat.
Also, when people do a Tantrum they typically will bring the handle up as they let go with their trailing hand. So when they go for a Front Flip they have the same natural tendency, which turns it into an ugly Frantrum. Keep the handle low, near your front hip, and hold on with both hands all the way through the trick.

Butt Checking on the Front-to-Fakie
This is caused from not rotating the 180 enough. Push the handle behind your front hip as you come down to help with the 180 rotation. Avoid the tendency to throw the trick early off the wake, try to take it straight up.

Toeside Backroll & TS Roll-to-Revert

The Toeside Back roll, and TS Roll to Revert are two more tricks that are very similar to each other, if you learn the TS Back Roll, it will be very easy to take it to revert. The TS Back roll is no different than a perfect back flip that you would do on a trampoline, and on the TS Roll to Revert, you simply hold on with both hands through the flip and the 180 part of the trick rotates with little effort.


Before attempting these tricks, make sure that you’re comfortable with Toeside wake to wake jumps, and TS 180’s, and practice landing some basic Toeside airs in the flats. Also, if you’ve ever landed a Heelside Tantrum, it will make learning these tricks a lot easier since, like a Tantrum, you’ll basically throw a back flip off the top of the wake.

Edging In

  1. The approach is the same on both; Go out wider than normal, and take a drifting approach to the wake.
  2. Try not to use too much of a strong progressive edge through the wake since it tends to make you throw these tricks early.
  3. The key to learning these inverts quickly all depends on keeping the right posture in your upper body. Focus on keeping your hips up and in front of your body, and your chest up as you edge up the wake, if your chest gets hunched over you’ll have trouble getting enough air to clear the wake and under rotate the flip.
  4. You have to stand taller on the approach of this trick compared to any other invert.

Throwing the Toeside Backroll

Initiate this trick the same way you would do a back flip on the trampoline. At the top of the wake throw your head back, and let your hips come up and over. Hold on with two hands off the wake. As you start to come out of the flip, let go with your back hand and keep the handle low and close to your body with your front hand. If you’ve landed this trick ten times or so, you’re ready to try taking it to revert.

Throwing the TS Roll-to-Revert

At the top of the wake, throw this trick exactly the same as the TS Back roll. As you start to come out of the trick, hold on with both hands this time and bring the handle across your body to your rear hip. Most people are surprised at how easy it is to get this trick to go to revert. Also, most riders will have a tendency to land this trick with the handle out and high, which makes landing pretty tough, concentrate on keeping that handle low and close. Some riders will also have trouble with landing hard and butt checking, it’s usually caused from not rotating the 180 part of the trick enough.

Whether throwing these tricks on a trampoline, or behind the boat, they both start the same way. I ride right foot forward, so that’s the way I’m doing them here on the trampoline.

is bigger wake better

Is a Bigger Wake Better?

A few months ago I rode the biggest wake of my life. It was a fully weighted down Nautique 230, with about 10 people in the boat along for the ride. I had a great time behind the boat, and stayed along to watch others take their turn. A few of the next riders were beginner to intermediate’s, and I noticed they had a pretty difficult time landing the tricks they would normally land on a smaller wake. This made me think about the misconception in wakeboarding that a bigger wake is always going to be better.

I’ve always thought that new riders who start out wakeboarding on a small wake have a huge advantage, because they are forced to learn how to edge and pop properly if they want to get any air at all. There are two bad habits that a big wake will typically create with novice riders; they will back off their edge as they hit the bottom of the wake, and absorb the pop with their knees.

A huge wake will also hinder the progression of new riders. I know this sounds a little cliché, but the bigger the wake the bigger the fall. After a few hard falls, fear starts to get in the way, and pushes riders out of the mindset of working on a trick until they land it. A un-weighted boat, or small wake, is not only better for learning the basics of edging and pop, but also for spins like front side and back side 180’s, and 360’s because it teaches you how to initiate the spin by pulling the handle toward your hips, and not hucking your upper body.

You may ride behind a fishing boat, or inboard/outboard, but don’t let that get you discouraged from progressing. Keep working on the basics of wakeboarding: progressive edging, switch riding, board grabs, toeside airs, and 180’s. Remember when wakeboarding was in its infancy? Pro riders were still landing mobes and Raley’s off 19 foot ski boats, with no extra ballast, and on the low pylon. Keep your rope length in mind too. You’ll want to ride a shorter length rope when you’re on a small wake, typically 55-60 feet so it’s easier to clear both wakes. When you ride a bigger wake, let the line out longer.

When you get to the skill level where you need to add weight to your boat, the general rule is to weight the front with half as much weight as the rear. For example, if you have 600 lbs in the rear of the boat, you’ll want to put 300 lbs in the front. To adjust the shape of the wake, more weight in the rear of the boat will make the wake steeper, while more weight in the front will make it rampy. Many riders commonly make the mistake of only weighting the rear of the boat. While this makes the wake big, it will also make it wash out and curl over at slower speeds.

At camp we start adding factory ballast, about 1000 lbs, when riders start working on basic inverts. We’ll add more weight with Fat Sacs when they get to the level of trying drifting tricks, inverts to blind, and rodeo flips. Until then, take that extra gas money you would have spent pushing a jacked up wake, and ride one more set on a smaller wake.

Learning the Air Raley

Whenever I suggest a student to try a Raley, the answer I typically get is “No way man!” It’s not as hard to learn as you might think; there are 3 steps that will make learning this trick much easier.

Step 1

Before you try a Raley, your cut at the wake must be perfect. This step consists of practicing hard cuts at the wake and landing in the flat water with total control, basically a big wake jump. The key to the Raley is a strong progressive cut. That is, your cut toward the wake should start very light and then build gradually, so that your hardest cut is through the wake.

Start out wide about 25-30 feet from the wake and cut in with a strong progressive cut, make sure to edge all the way through the top of the wake.

In the air, keep your head up and both hands on the handle. Practice this step a lot, at least 25 times, before moving onto step 2.

Step 2

Take the same strong cut at the wake and let the board drift back slightly behind you while you’re in the air. The key is get comfortable with gradually letting the board drift back a little bit at a time.

Make sure that you keep your head up and keep both hands on the handle so you will be able to pull the board back under your body. You’ll know you’re doing this right if you feel tension in your stomach muscles while you are in the air.

Step 3

This is the step where you throw the Raley back all the way.

At the camp, we’ve had success by making the rope very short, about 50 feet, and slowing the boat speed down about 13 MPH. The slower boat speed helps to take away the riders fear of trying the trick, while the shorter rope length make the wake steeper and gives an abrupt launch.

To avoid twisting in the air, make sure that you keep your eyes focused on the pylon of the boat.

As you edge up the wake bring your hips up toward the handle to help initiate the board to drift back. When you push the board back, keep your chest up and make sure your arms are fully extended. When you are fully laid out, you should feel a jerk or snap, pull the handle down to your knees as hard as you can. If you are butt checking on the landing, you’re pulling it down too early. After you land this trick once, it is very easy to get it consistent.

Trouble shooting

Twisting over in the air?
Keep your eyes focused on your boat’s pylon.

Doing a crooked or stargazed Raley?
Your front leg drifting back before your rear leg is off the wake causes this. Be patient. Make sure both feet are off the wake before you let the board drift back.

Doing a front flip crash out of the Raley?
As you get extended, keep your chest up, and don’t let go of the handle, pull it back to your knees.

Seems too scary to try?
Keep practicing step one, then slow the boat speed down; you’ll eventually get it.

Coaching Fundamentals

Would you like to gain skills in training others, as well as your self, in learning how to progress quickly in wakeboarding? The focus of this article is on the process of learning and teaching a new trick. Discussed are four coaching concepts that will make you a better wakeboard coach.

Simplify Each Trick.
Examine each new trick that you would like to learn, and then break it down into simpler movements. For example, to learn a Heel side 2 wake 180, practice 1 wake 180’s and ollie 180’s to gain balance. Or when trying something harder like a Raley, make sure that you are first consistent at cutting hard at the wake and landing with two hands on the handle in the flats. Practice the simple aspects of the trick systematically and it will greatly reduce the overall learning process.

Make Driving Adjustments.
As the driver, you can make every bit of difference in the rider’s ability to land a new trick.


  • In most cases a little slower boat speed will make it easier for the rider to try something new.
  • On tricks that require a handle pass, try letting off on the throttle in mid flight to put slack into the line for easy handle passes.
  • Drive a shallow arc if it looks like the rider could use more of a kick off the top of the wake. This technique does not remove as much line tension as the throttle chop; however it makes the wake steeper to provide a straight up kick, which makes some tricks easier to learn such as an off axis five.


Make the trick sound easy to overcome.
Most people just need the confidence to try something new. As the coach, you need to instill that confidence in them. Ninety percent of learning a new maneuver comes from a mental commitment. If you can take away a riders fear, their potential will be unlocked. As a related anecdote, whenever I try something new on the water, I tell myself this; Guys are doing back flips over 80 foot gaps on motorcycles. For me, that puts trying some type of flip several feet above the water into perspective.


Repetition builds muscle memory. If you have access to a trampoline, practice on the trampoline as much as possible the tricks you would like to learn wakeboarding.

When you’re out on the water, make it a point to train with repetition. I’ve always felt the best way to master a new trick is to try to do it 3 times in a row.

Trouble shooting
Having trouble getting yourself motivated to try a new trick?


  • Slow the boat speed down and try it on a soft mushy wake.
  • Think about some easier things that you can practice that will make the hard trick easy.
  • Try the trick on the trampoline at least 50 times before you take it to the water.
  • Ride with a professional coach or someone who is better than you, it can give you the mental edge to overcome your fear.


edging techniques

Edging Techniques

One of the keys to becoming an advanced wake boarder is the ability to create the proper edge to the wake. There are 3 basic styles of edging that you should practice, and be able to call upon for different types of tricks.

Basic Progressive Edge

This is the type of edging style you should try to learn first, as a base for the other two.

The Technique:
Cut out wide, about 20-25 feet from the wake so you will be edging in on your heel side. Start your cut toward the wake by slowly drifting in from the line tension. Then gradually increase your pull against the boat, so that your hardest cut is through the top of the wake. Your cut should model the swing a pendulum, slow on the outside, then speeds up all the way to the center. Apply the progressive edge to these types of tricks: Backroll, Roll to Revert, Raley, Front Flips, Toe side Front and back rolls.

Non-Progressive Edge

In this style of edging, the goal is to be able to clear the wake, with out creating too much line tension. This is very useful when trying to learn any type of trick that requires a handle pass, such as a 360, an invert to blind, or off axis spins.

The Technique:
This is similar to the previous method in that you start your cut out wide, but differs in the last half of your edge toward the wake. As you approach the wake don’t increase your pull, just try to ride over the wake without edging too hard through it. In most cases, you will want to land right on the downside of the wake.

Short Progressive Edge

This drill is useful for beginning riders trying to clear both wakes, as well as advanced wake boarders trying difficult moves, like a back mobe, that require extra vertical lift.

I try to teach this method to riders that are trying to clear both wakes, because it really forces them into the intimidating task of edging all the way through the top of the wake.

The Technique:
For beginners, the goal is to start as close to the wake as possible, while still being able to clear it. Start a progressive cut about 8′ out from the wake, and try to clear both wakes. If you are successful, start moving in 1′ closer on the following jumps. This drill will significantly raise your comfort level with edging though the top of the wake.

Practice these 3 techniques on both heel side and toeside jumps, and you will be able to learn new tricks faster and with fewer falls.

Trouble shooting

Face planting when you land?
When you get into the air, pull the handle into your hips. This way if you get off balance when you land your arms will be able to give some line tension back, and you won’t get pulled forward.

Getting distance in your jumps, but not any height?
This is caused from two things. One is; flattening your board out as you approach the wake, or two; absorbing the wake with your knees. Keep your knees bent, but rigid and keep your board on edge through the wake.

Falling forward on toeside jumps?
Make sure when edging in toeside that you keep your chest up and your hips in front of you.