| Written by Jackson Clifford |



 My wakeboarding has always been about the daily progression and the desire to improve.  When you start wakeboarding, progressing can be very difficult with constant falls and the feeling that you are not getting anywhere.  I was first introduced to water sports on a pair of trainer skis when I was 8 years old.  That progressed from two skis to a single slalom.  While not necessary to learn wakeboarding, skiing gave me a great foundation for being comfortable on the water.  Edging, turning, line tension are all things I first learned on a set of skis. 
So, when I started to wakeboard the first step after getting up and riding was to begin riding “switch”.  Riding with your opposite foot forward.  This was fundamental to advancing my wakeboarding.  After that, I started working on the wake-to-wake jump, something a slalom ski is not designed to do. 

Before starting my first jump, I worked on “ollies”, simply popping the board straight up in the air in the air and landing with no wakeThe first jumps were over one wake, slowly building up to a wake-to-wake jumpLanding your first wake to wake jump is one of those things that can seem so difficultOne way to reduce the hard falls and frustration is to slow the boat down and shorten the rope lengthThis makes the wake narrower and therefore easier to get across and slowing the boat reduces the impact of the fallsMy first wake to wake jump was a monumental step in my progressionIt opened a whole new realm of possibilities including flips, spins, and toe side jumps. 


When working on my jumps, I try to focus on what is called the “progressive edge”.  Cutting into the wake and slowly building speed until you reach the top of the wake, at which point you have reached your maximum speedIf you edge in too hard, too early, you tend to decelerate at the top of the wake and lose all your momentum and “pop.  Another tip that has helped me progress is focusing on keeping the rope at my hipAnytime I raise the rope up toward my head, my center of gravity shifts, and the jump falls apartOnce I figured out wake to wake jumps, it became more and more natural

The next progression I made was to try jumping wake to wake on my toes instead of my heelsToe side jumps can be intimidating and very uncomfortable, but I took my time and as always slowed the boat down and shortened the rope The next step was to jump on in my switch stance.  Once I got comfortable jumping wake to wake in different stances, it was time to try some tricks. 


My first trick was a switch stance 180I jumped the wake “switch stance” and rotated my board 180 to land on my strong footJust like learning wake to wake jumps I started by shortening the rope and slowing the boatStarting with one wake and progressing to full wake to wake jump.  Then to a 360-degree spin passing the rope behind my backThis took quite a while for me to learn, probably longer than it took to jump wake to wake. 

A great tool that helped me with this and really every other trick I have learned since was a trampoline.  I tied a ski rope to a tree in front of my trampoline and used to practice passing the rope behind my back. The trampoline is a great way to practice almost every spin and flip on a wakeboardIt translates directly over to the water.  Some specific things the trampoline helps me with are aerial awareness, spotting my landing, and simply gaining confidence in a relatively safe environment.  More work on the trampoline almost always translates to faster progression and fewer falls on the water.


All the trampoline work led to my first attempt at a flip, the heel side back rollThe day I attempted it for the first time, I really wasn’t even thinking about attempting itWe were finishing up for the morning and my dad suggested I give it a shot, so as with any new trick, he slowed the boat down as slow as he could and still have a clean wake to jumpI only did a one wake flip, no need to try and go full wake to wake on my first attempt

To my amazement, I got all the way around on the flip and landed on my board with it slipping out from under meI tried two more times, and I landed it, still a video I love to watch to this day.  Back roll felt more natural to me than a tantrum, but that is different for every person, many people like to try the tantrum first. 


At this point the progression started to speed up tremendously for meOnce I landed tricks heel side, I would then try the same, or similar trick toe side or switch stanceWhile it is difficult and uncomfortable, I really try to push for balance between heel side and toe side/switch tricksIt was at this point I started to get some professional coachingIt really is surprising what a coach could see that I had overlooked when trying new tricks.  A good coaching session can accomplish in a day what would take weeks to learn on my own.   

No matter how difficult the trick is, my focus tends to always be on the same basic things, progressive edge, switch riding, keep the handle down, and practice on the trampoline first.  There is not much I enjoy more than learning a new trick and then trying to perfect itOnce you land it, the real work begins, consistently landing itThe only solution to that is practiceSo good luck with your progression and remember the most important thing, HAVE FUN WITH IT!

December 22, 2023 — Levi Dills

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