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 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.

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.

Crow Mobe

A Crow Mobe is a great way to get started in the world of mobes. A mobe is any trick where a flip is combined with a 360 spin. It may sound really difficult, but like any wakeboard move, take it one step at a time and you’ll get it.


Before you attempt this, make sure you can land scarecrows every time you try them, it helps if you can land a scarecrow wake to wake and land them in the flats.

The Approach

Your edge toward the wake is the most critical part of this move. Set up close to the wake, 10 to 15 feet out, and take a progressive cut, edging moderately hard through the top of the wake. Keep more of your weight on your front foot as you hit the wake.

In The Air

For the first half of the trick, concentrate on keeping the handle low and hold on with both hands as long as possible. Half way through the flip, pull the handle in toward your front hip so you will have a little slack when making the handle pass. Delay the last 180 spin until right before you land. Concentrate on spinning the last 180 totally with your lower body, and let your shoulders follow.

The Landing

As you land, there is a natural tendency is to slip back onto your heels, so push your chest forward as soon as your board hits the water. For learning purposes, try to land this trick wake to wake. It’s quite a bit harder to stick this move if you are landing in the flats. Some people land this trick wrapped, however, I think it’s more consistent to pass the handle immediately as you land.

These are the areas that most people have difficulties when trying Crow Mobes.

I’m can’t figure out how to throw this trick.

The key to the Crow Mobe is waiting until the last second to rotate the second 180. Approach the wake just like you are going to do a scarecrow, and if you have time as you drop out of the crow, rotate the second 180 with your legs.

I don’t have enough air to rotate the last 180.

Have your boat driver drive a slight arc in the same direction you are cutting. You want the wake to be curling over a little bit as you edge through it, giving you a more abrupt kick off the wake and more air.

I land on my board, but miss the handle every time.

This is another area where your driver can help out a little. Have the driver ease back on the throttle as you are about to land, which will create slack and make the handle pass easier. Also, make sure you pull the handle harder to your hip to create the needed slack.

I’m landing but slipping back onto my butt.

This happens a lot on boards that are designed to have a loose feel. You can either put slightly larger fins on your board, or, throw your upper body harder as you initiate the flip off the wake.

Trampoline Training

Trampoline training is the best cross training technique to help you progress faster in wakeboarding, and a great way to get a head start on the season. Any Pro wake boarder will testify that practicing on a trampoline will give you the aerial awareness, and muscle memory needed for learning new inverts and spins. Pro rider Tim Keepers says, “You should try a new trick one hundred times on the trampoline before you try it behind the boat.” This approach to training will greatly reduce the learning and crashing time spent on each new trick.

There are a few safety points that you should keep in mind when you’re jumping:


  • Don’t have someone double bounce you, it makes you susceptible to falling off the trampoline, and can hurt your knees if you’re not ready for the double bounce.
  • Don’t strap a wakeboard to your feet and jump on the trampoline. A lot of people want to try this to get the feel of having a board on their feet when jumping. It really doesn’t help, and can tear up your trampoline and throw you off the mat if you land off-balance. However, there is a trampoline board called the Guru that will be on the market this summer and is the next best thing to being on the water.
  • Only take 3 or 4 bounces when setting up for a trick. For most flips and spins, you only need a medium height bounce. Many people will set up each trick with 10 huge bounces, but it wears them out quickly and they really don’t need that much air for the trick anyway.
  • Have a couple of spotters on the ground to help you if you get into trouble.


Here’s how to bounce the right way:


  • Jump off of flat feet with your weight centered. To avoid wandering in the air, try this exercise, take large bounces and try to land in the exact same spot every time.
  • Tie a wakeboard handle off to a tree or solid object to help you get the feel of handle passes, and correct handle position when flipping.
  • When you are doing spins, keep your eyes level. Also, just like when you are spinning off the wake, generate the spin from pulling the handle to your rear hip; try not to huck your shoulders to create the spin.
  • When flipping, think about leading the rotation with your head, keeping the handle low and by your waist. Fight the tendency of bringing the handle up to your chest; this movement greatly slows your rotation down when you are doing flips behind the boat.
  • When attempting a flip with a spin, initiate the flip part of the move first, and spin as you come down. If you are having difficulty trying a new type of flip, attempt it with very little air, or try it from a squatted position. This will help take some of the fear out of falling and make it easier to try.


Maintaining Longevity in Wakeboarding

I think everyone that has been riding for a few years will agree that wakeboarding can be hard on your joints, particularly your knees and ankles. When you look at Pro and Amateur riders who have had a long career in the sport, there are certain points to learn from their successes to protect and strengthen your own joints.

Stretch before you ride.

Although most people don’t do this, it’s the easiest way to avoid possible injury. Spend at least two minutes stretching; make sure to stretch your Hamstrings, Quads, Ankles, Shoulders, and Neck in your routine.

Protecting Knees

Many knee injuries are caused from having an improper stance or riding position on the board. I see a lot of wake boarders who ride with their front let straight, and their rear leg bent while they are riding around, and cutting into the wake. As they get into the air, they still have their front leg locked and tend to land that way, which increases the chances for knee injury. Try to get in the habit of riding with both knees bent all of the time. Besides protecting your knees, it will make the board more responsive by not riding tail heavy.

Protecting Ankles

Be aware of buying a board that is overly wide, as they tend to hyperextend your ankle on toe heavy or heel heavy landings. The wider the board is, the more leverage the outside edge has to hyperextend your ankle. I’ve personally had my ankle over extended a lot of times from wakeboarding. I now try to focus on keeping my ankles tense and locked into place as I leave the wake to try to avoid these types of injuries.

Absorb the Landings.

A lot of riders don’t absorb the impact of landing properly, and will only slightly bend their knees upon landing. Others will keep their knees rigid, absorbing the shock with their lower back by breaking at the waist. Be sure to properly absorb the landing by going through a full range of motion with your knees, until your butt nearly touches the water, to preserve your ACL and knee cartilage, especially on big jumps. Inward movement of the knee on landings should also be avoided. Always try to land softly, think of the phrases “light as a feather”, “straight as an arrow” to encourage proper body position.


A few years ago, it was fashionable in the pro wakeboard circles to have a stance width that was as wide as possible. After a while, these riders were having knee and hip problems. Your stance on the board is really something that is dependant on how your own knees work, and should be set up accordingly. The best way to do this is to have your board placed on the ground in front of you, and practice doing floor jumps directly behind it. Absorb some of the landings with your feet at shoulder width, and some with your feet wider than shoulder width apart. Position the width of the bindings on your board as a result of what feels most natural to you. The angle of the bindings should be set using the same method, most people find it comfortable to ride with both feet pointing outward, or duck footed, about 10 to 15 degrees.

Wake size

Avoid riding a huge wake all of the time, since it takes a toll on your body. Give your joints a rest from time to time by riding a smaller wake. It’s also a good opportunity to learn things like backside 180’s and spins, where a large wake isn’t needed and can actually be a hindrance.

Off Season

In the off season, concentrate on exercises that build muscle around your knee and ankle to help support them. Physical therapists recommend weight room activities that build a balance of strength between the Hamstrings and Quads. Training activities like Leg Extensions, Leg curls, and jumping exercises have been shown to prevent undue stress on the ACL and the knee as a whole. Balance exercises such as the Indo board, build ankle strength, as well as toe and heel lifts, and outward and inward ankle rolls. Also, readily available joint strengthening vitamin supplements such as Glucosamine Chondroitin are recommended by sports medicine therapists to promote joint health and serve as a building block for cartilage and connective tissue.

Wakeboard Driving 101

I think anyone who has ever wakeboarded has at some point been the victim of bad driving. Here are ten tips and reminders on some of the finer points of being behind the wheel.

  1. Hold the throttle stick with your forefingers and thumb and keep your right elbow gently rested on the drivers pad.
    For those of you with out Perfect Pass, you should be able to hold the boat speed with in ½ MPH of the target speed.
  2. Don’t clinch the throttle stick in the palm of your hand.
    Keeping a tight closed fist grip on the stick doesn’t allow good control to react to speed changes.
  3. Your eyes should constantly be checking three things; your rider, the boat speed, and what’s ahead of you.
    As a side note, I don’t think it’s good to have the radio blaring while driving, it generally hinders concentration toward your rider.
  4. When driving for someone that has never wake boarded before, tie the rope really short off the tower, about 30-40 feet.
    At that length, there is so much vertical pull from the rope that it almost pulls the wake boarder straight up out of the water. Keep the speed below 15 MPH until they can ride for a minute or so. Once they can ride with the board pointed straight toward the boat, and look comfortable, go ahead and let the rope out to 60 feet.
  5. Ease the rider out of the water with very little throttle.
    Wakeboard’s have so much surface area, that it takes very little throttle to get out of the water.
  6. Concentrate on driving straight lines.
    It’s easy to get in the habit of following the shallow curves of the shoreline, but driving even a slight curve will cause one side of the wake to curl over and make it harder for your rider to have consistency on landing difficult moves.
  7. Move passengers from one side of the boat to the other to make the wakes even.
    If one side of the wake is constantly curling over, more weight needs to be moved to that side of the boat to give both sides of the wake the same feel.
  8. In heavy traffic, pull over to the side of the lake or river and drop your skier.
    I think you have to be proactive when someone is tailgating your skier, waving your arms and yelling usually doesn’t get the attention of your average weekend Wally. Also, use the boat to block a fallen rider in the water.
  9. Idle back to the downed rider, it’s just as fast and doesn’t create big rollers from a power turn.
  10. Learn to throttle chop your rider.
    Whenever your wake boarder looks out of control in the air, pull back on the stick to put slack in the line. This technique will almost always save a hard fall, and is also very useful for teaching handle pass tricks.