Wet and Wild

With snowboarders ruling last winters Olympics and the X Games stealing more TV airtime, extreme sports are hotter than ever, and wakeboarding has been riding this wave of popularity.

For good reason: This lovechild of surfing and water skiing appeals to adrenaline junkies who crave speed and love tricks. As in water skiing, you're towed via a rope behind a boat, but instead of using two skis, you're carving through the water on one board standing sideways as you would on a snowboard.

Wakeboarding gives you the freedom to maneuver in the form of jumps, spins, flips and more. And this board sport will do wonders for your body, strengthening arms, legs, abs and back muscles.

Before you jump in the water, immerse yourself in the following tips:

Dont stand up too early. If you do, your board won't plane out properly, meaning the water will catch the edge of it and catapult you into a splashing face plant. You'll start out floating on your back, knees bent to your chest and holding the rope so that your elbows are wrapped tightly around your knees. At this point most of your body and the board are underwater.

As the boat accelerates, pulling you out of the water, keep your weight over your heels. Don't stand up until the board and all parts of your body are out of the water. As long as you keep your weight shifted back over your heels and your body leaning away from the boat, you'll be up in no time.

Keep your chest up. As you start cruising around the water, stand upright as if a string were attached to your chest and pulling you toward the sky. Holding your chest up, instead of hunching over your toes, helps you maintain better control of the wakeboard. Also, keep both knees bent at about 45 degrees and your weight distributed evenly across both legs.

Lean away from the boat. Doing so will allow you to edge or ride back and forth across the water. The easiest way for most people to edge is heelside, in which you shift your weight backward over your heels and head in that direction. Shifting your weight toeside sends you the other way. Either way you edge, don't bend at the waist. Instead, maintain a tight rope by leaning away from the boat. Also, try not to tug at the rope, but keep your elbows in at your stomach for the best control.

Watch your edges. It's easy to crash when the water catches the edge of the board. To prevent this, make sure you're always riding heelside or toeside to keep the edge of the wakeboard cutting through the water instead of submerged in it.

Push off the wake. When you're ready to start jumping, edge toward the wake, keep your legs locked in a bent position on your approach, and push off at the very top of the wake as if you were jumping on a trampoline. Don't push off too early or you'll absorb the wake and won't get any air, or height, from it.

Resist the pull. As you launch into the air, you'll feel a strong pull from the boat. Be ready for that extra tug by keeping your elbows locked in at your stomach and maintaining your stance by resisting--not pulling--the line.

Absorb your landings. When you land from a jump, bend your knees, keep your chest up and maintain good line tension on the rope. Bending your knees will help absorb the impact of the landing so you don't bounce, but rather ride away smoothly. Land stiff-legged and you'll hit the water in a jarring smack and risk injuring your knees.

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