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With new cable ski facilities opening up around the world, the activities for out of season (or bad wind days) are opening up for kiteboarders, but for many, the question arises – How valuable is wakeboarding on cable ski to your kiteboarding?
There are a couple of manners in which to look at cable ski, so lets start with various skill levels and look at the potential benefits to be had:
This is probably the area of greatest benefit in terms of kiteboarding. For many newbies, including some women and those men who have not been exposed to water sports using boards (Lets be honest, there are not half as many female surfers as us guys would like to see), just balancing on the water can be a new experience. Ask any instructor about the ease of taking an existing wakeboarder and putting him into kiteboarding, and he’ll tell you the learning curve is half as long, because they only have to learn the kite skills. The board is natural to them, and edging hard is a requirement for wakeboarding, where most aerial tricks require hard edging to build speed. A non-board rider on the other hand, has to come to grips with two techniques at the same time, and this just adds confusion. A newby/beginner can start wakeboarding on a cable facility, and learn the basics of riding, without having to worry about a kite falling out of the sky, being dragged along in the water, having to walk up wind, gusts lofting him/her, or the potential of being flattened by a large wave before one knows the basic techniques of jibing.
The ideal techniques to practice in the case of beginners is initial launching/getting up, board balance, edging technique, 180 degree power slides, popping the board for basic jumps, and pop 180 jumps which will aid in advance jibing manoeuvres later.
How much will this actually help? Well, consider that in the first hour of kiteboarding attempts (when the newby has just mastered the kite technique) he will spend very little time on the board, in-between crashing the kite, trying to relaunch it, walking back upwind etc. It also reduces the workload on an instructor who has to keep a constant eye out for other riders with kites, potential obstacles and relaunching the kite every time he may crash it on sand. Also consider that most wakeboarders will be able to stay upwind far easier than beginners with no board skills.
Intermediate and Advanced:
This is an area still in question for a lot of riders depending on technique and style. For those riders whose style follows the wakeboarders such as Lou Wainman, the cableski facilities can be invaluable considering the dangers of handle passes behind a kite and the potential to lose the kite or cause injury to an innocent bystander. However, bear in mind how many of the current world professional’s stem from a wakeboarding background and one begins to justify the wakeboard as much as having windsurfed is of benefit.
For those looking at the alternative styles using footstraps, wakeboarding still offers some opportunities for practice on no-whip tricks, although the technique required for wakeboarding on a cable facility is far more difficult to master, and the falls are definitely harder. When cable-wakeboarding, bindings are deadly, as any leading edge will result in your board stopping dead and you with it…with that comes the nasty occurrence of a 50km/h belly/face flop and the resultant stinging sensation. You have been warned. For added protection, an impact vest (kiteboarding or wakeboarding) is advised and when using sliders (similar to rail-sliding on a skateboard, except it’s a large rail found in the water) helmets are compulsory.
The learning curve:
Many people expect wakeboarding to follow a very basic learning curve, however its not a simple “see and do” process. Initially, simply mastering basic tricks like 360’s, backside powerslides, can take a little while and the process of mastering a Railee, the first basic inverted aerial can take anything from 3 months to a year. (With painful consequences and many a quitter). It is not uncommon to see the most serious of injuries occur during this phase. The progression from the Railee onwards is far quicker, however with backrolls following shortly afterwards. (Some prefer to start with the backrolls, however this is personal preference) From there, the aerials really start to open up, and as your technique improves, so does the height and the scope for additions to your trick bag like KGB’s, S-Bends, Double Backrolls etc.
Kiteboards can be used at Cable Ski facilities, but to really improve your trick capabilities, a wakeboard will be required for inverts at a later stage. Bindings are a requirement for inverts although some people have been known to use footstraps.
Expect to pay anything from R3000 up for a wakeboard, and R4000 up if it’s a decent one. Bindings are also expensive, and you will not pay anything less than R2500-R3000 for a decent set with many ranging higher than R3000.
Board sizes are dependant on weight and skill. It’s normally best to evaluate the recommended weight and skill level charts supplied by wakeboard manufacturers. There are various models specifically made for women as well.
Top brands to look at include Hyperlite and Liquid Force.
So…everything about the pros has been mentioned, but what about the cons?
Well, there are a couple of cons when it comes to cable wakeboarding so I’ll run through them in short:
- Equipment Costs – To really have fun in cable, or progress past the initial stages, you will require a board and this set-up is not cheap. Although a kiteboard can be used, your trick list becomes limited and you are bound to get bored sooner or later.
- Skiing Costs – There are the costs associated with paying for your hour of cable ski, which can get expensive if you go often. If you compare this to the cost of ongoing kiteboarding lessons for a beginner, you can easily justify the cost as a beginner can go there unattended after he has grasped the basic board skills, while lessons require a permanent instructor on hand. This does NOT mean you can forego an instructor completely however, you still need lessons flying the kite and putting the two together so never recommend this as an alternative.
- Winter – Inland venues are colder than the sea and most wakeboarding venues close during winter when only dry suits can be used. This changes per venue.
- Water conditions – The conditions required for good wakeboard are windless (smooth glasslike water) and for good kiteboarding wind (choppy water). Often those who learn on wakeboards battle a little with edging through chop.
- Lack of waves – Move someone from flat water to waves and they are bound to battle a little, irrespective of whether its cable or lagoon on a kite. This is simply part of the learning curve, but it should be mentioned than 20 hours behind a wakeboard and strong edging skills will not necessarily prepare you to attack an 8-foot monster charging in at you in the sea. Reading waves is not part and parcel of wakeboarding and this comes from experience.
- Due to the nature of falls in wakeboarding, injuries are not uncommon specifically knee or ankle injuries. Although jumps are not as high as kiteboarding, you come down hard and fast.