The classic behind-your-boat sport remains popular among water-sports enthusiasts, and there are more ways than ever to push your limits. Once you’ve mastered standing up and carving turns, options include slalom skiing and airborne tricks, like twists and flips.
If you’re feeling particularly daring, you can try waterski jumping: launching yourself off a specially designed ramp to see how far you can go. The top water-ski jumpers fly for more than 200 horizontal feet.
WaterSkiMag.com offers tips on sharpening your skills. To perfect wake crossings, for example, generate as much speed as you can after each turn and be quick with your feet while keeping your upper body still.
Surfers invented wakeboarding in the 1980s, when they started grabbing rides behind motorboats, according to HowStuffWorks.com. Today’s wakeboarders strap both feet in, and they choose the features of their board -- including shape, curvature, fin size and edge sharpness -- based on whether they want to slalom, do tricks or just cruise.
Wakeboards are designed for maneuverability, allowing for rolls, flips and other stunts. In competitions like the elite pro King of Wake series, boarders are judged on their aerial and rail-based tricks. Go to the Transworld Wakeboarding site to view the run that recently won the Nautique WWA Wakeboard Nationals in West Chester, Ohio.
Wake surfers ride rope-less right behind a boat cruising at a relatively slow speed of 10 or 15 miles per hour, explains Jordan Maxymek of Waterskis.com. Wake surfboards are relatively small and the riders feet are not strapped in. To get going, wake surfers use a towrope, but once they're up and cruising, they drop the rope and ride with arms free.
Want to see some wake surfers in action? Watch this 26-minute documentary on the history of the sport with plenty of surfing footage at SurferToday.com.
Take a smaller version of a wakesurf board, add the rope back in and you’re left with a skateboard-like sport on water. Wakeskaters use grip tape for traction and ride the wake of a boat cruising at about 20 miles per hour. Part of the appeal is in performing skater tricks like ollies and heelside backside 180s. Check out WakeSkating.com for tips on stunts, ranging from beginner to advanced. And visit thewakeskatemag.com for plenty of pictures and gnarly video footage.
Sit on a platform raised above the water for a flight-like experience on a sit-down hydrofoil. The rider sits "above the waves which makes it a great water sport in rougher water,” explains the United States Hydrofoil Association, which also offers links to gear, clubs and tournaments. “Another benefit is the ease of riding. There is far less strength needed to ride on a hydrofoil than a waterski or a wakeboard."
Sky skis work like an airplane wing to provide lift and allow the rider to hover above the surface, explains SkiSki.com. To steer, the rider moves his or her knees back and forth.
Kneeboarding has been around for about 35 years, according to USAWaterSki.org, and the sport has come a long way since then. While kneeling instead of standing, strapped-in kneeboarders can slalom, jump wakes and do tricks.
Pulled behind a boat at a slow speed of just 10 miles per hour, even kids can ride a kneeboard. Beginners ride plastic boards, sometimes with retractable fins, that are stable and easy to balance on. At speeds up to 24 mph, advanced riders on boards with sharp edges are able to get big air.
Tubing is probably the most relaxing of all the behind-your-boat sports. Sit or lay on an inflatable structure alone or with a friend or two, hold on to the boat’s towrope, and enjoy the ride. Towable tubes come in a massive array of shapes and sizes that riders sit, kneel, stand or lay down on. There is even a wearable tube called the SUMO .