As the water and air temps drop in the fall, most riders and water skiers finish their time on the water with a final set on the water and simply go on hiatus until the spring. There’s much good in taking time off from riding. You can recoup, relax, and give your body and mind a break from the rigors of riding behind a boat.
Some riders think there’s not much you can do during off season training besides some handle-passing drills on land and some strength training. But there’s plenty more that can be done to enhance your strength, balance, and your understanding of the tricks you will work on and master in the upcoming season. I use a long list of cross-training exercises.
There’s always plenty of time to stretch. It’s a great way to start or end the day. I don’t just stretch only during the riding season. I constantly work on my stretches even when I take breaks from riding. The goal is to increase range of movement. Riding with muscles that are relaxed and feature a greater range of movement lets you find your balance point, especially when doing spin tricks and inverts. When you have a greater range of movement, you can save a trick if you lose your ideal position.
It’s impossible to overemphasize the importance of maintaining your balance over the bindings when riding. Not only do you have to achieve good balance — you should continuously be aware of the balance points on your feet. Knowing where you weight is centered should become second nature. The sooner you understand balance over the bindings, the quicker and more consistently the tricks will come.
A good way of increasing your awareness of balance and how to achieve it is by standing on an Indo Board Balance Trainer. The board lies over a moving cylindrical base that requires your careful attention to stand on it to maintain balance. Otherwise, you fall off! As the base moves, the rider can feel weight and pressure move to the various parts of the foot. This knowledge improves a rider’s balance and teaches riders where the weight and pressure are spread over specific areas of the foot.
Getting Air & Getting Inverted
Today’s top riders use a trampoline to progressively learn to get more air time, improve handle-passing skills, and do inverts starting with basics like back rolls.
Check out the gymnastic scene in your area for a trampoline program. I train with Ryan Jones at The Tramp Place in Orlando, Florida, who is known for training top riders. Ryan’s trampoline program is geared specifically for riders and water skiers.
The trampoline is excellent to get stronger legs and improve vertical lift needed for rotations behind the boat. Riders often begin turning the board on the wake, but the trampoline helps you learn how to get air first and then, at the peak, to start the rotation. (I call this the Now Moment.)
I do handle-passing drills on the trampoline and include a variety of spins. This allows me to easily work on getting my free hand around my body to re-grab the handle. First I do it on my feet, but then I use a board specifically made for learning on a trampoline. It’s called a tramp board and is much smaller, lighter, and much more flexible than a wakeboard.
Yes, you might go right on the water next season and try an invert like a back roll, but you can learn so much and develop and understanding for the trick on the trampoline with a coach. You can learn to be visual throughout the trick. Most importantly, you need to spot your landing. My coach teaches the invert by standing on the edge of the trampoline; from this position, he holds my arms. Then I jump and do invert quite similar to the back roll as he continues to hold my arms as I spin around. This assistance from a coach allows a rider to focus on technique.
There’s plenty more to add to your off-season training regimen: running sessions, lifting light weights to increase strength and cardio, and a focus on nutrition so that you can hit the water next spring at your ideal weight.
I train in Orlando, where I can train year round on the water. However, I do take breaks and work on these on-land exercises throughout the year. In fact, I incorporate them into my day even when I’m riding because they are so excellent.
So if your goal is to get better next year and do so quickly, make the best use of your off-season time. Yes, it’s good to give your body a break in the winter. But instead of starting next season needing a month or so to get into good form, use these training tools: you will be in tip-top shape on day one, ready to add a spin or do an invert.
About the Author…
Raimi Merritt wins her 10th World Cup with her recent win in Linyi City, China. Raimi is also 2 times IWWF Open Women Wakeboard World Champion and a Masters Champion. Raimi is sponsored by Mynt, Nautique, Hyperlite, Rollei Actioncam America, Breathe Boardwear, Proof Eyewear, OrigAudio, Wakami, Peripheral LS and Fly High. Visit www.raimimerritt.com for the latest news.
Raimi also offers personalized coaching in Orlando, Florida. Efirstname.lastname@example.org to schedule a lesson.