For this project I approached three of the top wake surf athletes who have some of the biggest airs in the industry, including Keenan Flegel, Chris Kinsey, Chris Wolter and shaper Todd Johnson.
Each of these athletes had similar things to say about getting airs. Here is the top 3:
Having the right equipment can go a long way. It’s definitely half the battle. One thing to keep in mind is that boards with more buoyancy, specifically in the tail of the board, will have more pop. According to Todd you need three things: “speed, pop and release. Speed comes from the outline of your board, release from your fins and pop from your tail.” Boards with a more buoyant tail and flatter rocker can have some advantage. Besides your board, the boat and the wave itself are just as important. Does the wave have lip or is it flat? Is there enough length on the wave to generate speed? Conclusion: surf style boards (light and buoyant) will give one more air along with professional towboats with a long, powerful and lippy wave.
There are two ways to generate speed, either by pumping or driving the board down the line off the top of the wave. Speed is the very first step in flight. According to Keenan you need to “pick a spot at the top of the wave with a clean rampy lip, then fall to the back of the wave and pump towards the boat as fast as you can manage.” You can do this by pumping (pushing down on your front foot), or by using the wave itself to generate speed starting from the top of the wave.
Equipment plus speed plus a skateboard type of ollie equals boost! After you gain speed the next step is to launch off of the lip or takeoff spot. Chris Wolter says that “after you look for your take off spot, start to ollie and throw your arms up, suck your legs up as high as you can and spot your landing.” Keenan talks about the importance too of stomping the lip with your back foot as you take off. For Chris Kinsey, the secret is tucking your front knee into your chest and then your back leg up to your chest as well.
In this video I took a collaboration of some of the most influencing wake surfing videos from over the years.
The first is a scene from one of the first wake surfing videos to date from 2008 called LCRS, Lower Colorado River Sessions, filmed on Lake Austin with the Chase Hazen and the Shredstixx crew on my buddy Scott’s 2008 Centurion. This was the same exact boat used in the viral surf video the Texas Wakesurfing Championships and hands down the biggest wave I have surfed to date. As far as athlete influence, videos, new tricks and airs, Chase has led the way for nearly a decade. Check out the way he uses the entire wave to his advantage, starting way back and introducing everyone how to pump a surfboard properly and then one of the biggest boosts in the industry. Another thing to point out is the use of his back hand here for speed and then launch.
Then you have James Walker surfing on his old Walker Project custom with a little different approach for speed and just as big of an air. In James’s videos he pumps down from the top of the wave to gain speed; similar to a skateboard ramp, speed is generated on the way down.
Similarly, Drew Danielo was there from day one. His board style, however, is skim. In 2007, Drew took first place at the World Championships on Lake Yosemite near Merced, Chase second and James third. Today, Drew is in a complete different division and the sport of wake surfing is divided into skim and surf divisions. For skim the air is a little different, since the boards are shorter, speed is tougher to gain. Notice in Drew’s videos how much his airs looks like a skateboarding ollie. Today Drew is a 6X World Champ.
Next up you have Chris Wolter and some footage taken from the Big Boat Invitational. Check out the picture at the top of the page- this is Chris boosting huge behind a 40 foot yacht at DFW Surf on Lake Lewisville in Texas. As far as behind the boat goes this is the biggest air I have ever seen in picture or on video. Chris rides a true surf style board thanks to his shaper Todd Johnson of Mendonesia Surf and having a big buoyant tail makes the boost humongous. Chris is a big advocate of throwing your hands up in the air Karate Kid style to add height to his boost.
Then for the ladies we have Centurion team riders Ashley Kidd and Raleigh Hager who have been dominating the competitive wake surf scene over the past four years and boosting airs above and beyond. They both ride similar surf style boards, super light with a buoyant tail and flat rocker. Watch how much these girls tuck their knees into their chest.
More than anything, in order to get airs, you have to practice. I threw a clip in at the very end of a guy that most have never heard of, Landon Reichle. This Texas boy and Shredstixx team rider has some of the biggest airs and wide turns I have ever seen. The feeling of truly surfing behind a boat revealed through his riding style and videos thanks to Slayshtank. Notice his pump approach here before his boost; he uses the flats and pumps forward to gain speed similar to a skim style air.
by: Tyler Marshall