How to Pull a Wakesurf rider

Pro-tips on how to pick up and turn around for a wakesurf rider.

Hey Lake Gang,

At Limitless we get requests all the time from boat drivers asking what they can do to step up their driving game for new riders.

Being a boat driver and pulling a rider is super important to keep everyone safe while having a good time. You want to make sure that you are practicing safe driving habits that will help to avoid accidents in the long run.

Here is a few pointers we have gathered through the years that make the difference in a new rider's first experience on the wakesurf and wakeboard.

Getting up

When pulling a first time rider out of the water you have got to keep your eye on them at all times. You want to watch and ensure that they are in the right body position to stand up on the board before you ever give the boat the throttle to move.

When the rider is out there floating, start by sliding the boat into an out of gear repeatedly to tighten the ski line slowly. You want the line to get taught but not be dragging your rider through the water in gear (Drive).

When the line is tight, confirm your rider is ready by a shout or hand sign. Then put the boat into forward gear and barely add gas while watching the rider.

If the rider looks like a submarine or they are trying to leg press against the water, cut the throttle. This will save the rope being yanked out of their hands painfully.

A surfer can transition from board in the water to on top of the water with only 1300 rpm or so. So wait until you see the board pivot underneath the rider before using any more throttle.

Once they are standing above the board, you can accelerate harder. The reason for this is that the rider is already on the surface and can avoid a sharp yank from the rope if the board was still in the water.

Let the boat continue to accelerate smoothly until the perfect pass engages! About 10.4-11.0 mph.

Most boats can get up to surfing speed by about 3000-3700 rpm. So no need for a hard and heavy throttle punch.

Circling Back

When your rider falls, immediately bring the throttle back to drive position. Not neutral. This will let the boat settle more quickly without and dramatic dip of the nose than if you cut throttle altogether. Then pull into neutral.

For a few seconds, wait and let all those big waves from your boat pass by before you turn right or left. You will avoid nosing into the waves and turning your boat into a bath tub.

If you back off the throttle as soon as your surfer falls, you should be only about 100 feet away from them. Watch them as they retrieve the wakesurf board, and cruise back to them keeping the boat in drive. No big throttle needed.

As you approach your rider in the water, make a wide arc around them and cut closer next to them as you complete the 180 degree turn. This will drag the rope right to them the fastest way.

From fall to retrieval, the whole process should take about 30 seconds. This is method is both quicker and safer than the power turn.

Turning the Rider

As you are pulling a rider you are casting out waves behind the boat that are actually traveling perpendicularly (away) from the boat. This leaves the straight path behind the boat as the smoothest water.

When you are ready to turn your wakeboarder around to head back the other way, there is a technique to get back into this smooth water quickly and without casting waves back down behind you.

Avoid making a hard turn to the right or left and arcing back around. This will send waves from the turn across the whole area and leave your water choppy and carved up.

Instead, the goal is to move the boat in a button-hook pattern, known in Maritime terms as a Williamson Turn. This turn minimizes loose waves and gets you quickly heading back down the same line of smooth water you just came from.

Done correctly, this turn takes about 10-15 seconds because it is a tight turning radius that allows the boat to maintain its speed.

So how is it done?

When you are ready to turn, make a smooth 45 degree turn to the right or left. Head that direction for a 2-3 seconds and then make a smooth 90 degree turn back the other direction.

Continue the circle and you will cross straight over your previous waves. After that just correct back to the right slightly and head straight back down your line.

This maneuver can be done turning right or left with the turning direction mirrored.

Practicing moves like these will step up your game and give your riders a better experience!