Kneeboarding is a water sport where the rider is towed at planing speed behind a motorboat on a hydrodynamically-shaped board. Unlike waterskiing and wakeboarding, kneeboarders enjoy a much lower centre of gravity, making balancing more effortless and the falls often less painful. In this article, we'll briefly examine kneeboarding, including its history, necessary equipment and some tips and tricks that can be performed in the discipline.
A very brief history of kneeboarding
The earliest records of kneeboarding date back to 1965 in the U.S. state of California. Since towed water sports were gaining popularity, many of the state's avid surfers tried using homemade boards to pull themselves behind motorboats. Because of its lower centre of gravity, kneeling soon became a popular way to ride on these boards, and pretty soon, specially-designed kneeboards were popping up all over the place, including Danny Churchill's commercially successful "Hydroslide".
By the 1980s, the first organised kneeboard body was formed — the International Kneeboard Association — which soon began running competitive events in the categories of tricks, slalom and wake crossing. Eventually, a fourth category, known as the "flip-out", was added, where a kneeboarder would attempt to do as many flips as possible in 20 seconds.
Early kneeboards were far heavier than those used today, resembling large teardrops with flat bottoms. These days, the base is contoured for improved performance, and other improvements, such as sturdier straps and more knee-friendly pads, are utilised. Most of the top water ski producers worldwide also manufacture kneeboards these days, a testament to the sport's popularity.
Types of kneeboards
There are two types of kneeboards to choose from. Beginners should go with rotomolded keyboards with soft, wide edges that allow for better control and smoother turning. Rotomolded kneeboards are generally thicker than the more advanced competition boards and possess extra buoyancy for flotation when the rider wrecks.
A compression-moulded board is a way to go for the more advanced kneeboarder. These are thinner, lighter and designed with sharper edges that allow riders to turn quickly and perform tricks easily. Competition boards also heavily rely on the board's rocker — the curve at the kneeboard's bottom. High rockers allow for easier turns, while low rockers provide incredible speeds.
Knee boarding tricks
Various beginner tricks can be performed on a kneeboard. Here is a list of a few you can try while you're working on your kneeboarding skills:
- Side slides: Rotate the board sideways without turning on an edge so that the board slides.
- Jumping the wake: Launching oneself off the wake while on your kneeboard
- The ole: Swinging the handle of the rope above your head like a cowboy
- Surface 360: Starting off with a side slide, you keep going around until you've performed a spin without leaving the water. You must pass the rope behind your back to complete the 360.
Once you've mastered some of those easier tricks, you can then attempt some that are a little higher in difficulty, including:
- Wake front-to-back
- Wake 360 front-to-front (wrapped)
- Air ollie
- Back Roll
- Switch 3
- Front flip
Happy Kneeboarding from Rapid Surf & Ski