What once was the taboo subject of wakeboarding – bonking, grinding and sliding – is now so mainstream that it’s on the pro tour. That doesn’t make it any less fun, or less dangerous for that matter, it just says out loud that it’s a real part of wakeboarding.
P.J. Marks of the Wakeboard Camp probably sums up the bonk-and-slide phenomenon best by saying, “At least it’s something different. While a wake is always right there with you, you are actually moving by a bonk or slider – which is what makes it interesting.”
Before you start trying to slide things, you’ve got to learn how to bonk. Bonking is merely the act of ollying up onto some object, tapping it and then riding away.
Bill McCaffray, one of the early advocates of bonking and sliding, or as he puts it, “just using the natural terrain of the lake,” recommends learning to bonk with a little orange floaty buoy – something round and soft – because it is safe. McCaffray says the most important thing is to learn how and when to ollie.
“You want to have your timing so you can ollie and tap the buoy as you go by. If you can’t do that, you won’t be successful on a slider.”
McCaffray thinks riders should put more variety into their sessions by bonking buoys. “It’s an element of technical riding. More than anything, it’s use of terrain. We have buoys, so when we ride, you can jump the wake and tap them or pull out and ollie them. I don’t think ollying little buoys is unsafe. Metal channel markers are pretty dangerous, though.”
There really are two ways to bonk a buoy. The easier way is to do it ollie-style, where you ride up to the buoy outside the wake and just hop up, tap it and ride away; the harder style is where you cut at the wake, get your air and bonk the object as you fly past it. This second style will take you awhile to learn because it’s hard to time the hit and you can’t adjust your direction once you are in the air.
To do the first type, Marks explains that first, you obviously have to know how to ollie – which is just a bunny hop. Cut out heelside, and drift for a second to make sure your board is flat. You want your board flat because any time you are edging you are turning, which throws your axis off once you get in the air. Compress down slightly then pop up, keep your handle down low and in to your body, and that’s it. Timing when to jump is the key. Once in the air, try to bonk the object with the nose of your board. If you want to bring it to fakie, just pull the rope into your back hip with your back hand.
The second and more stylish way to bonk something is to have your driver approach the bonk object so it is on the opposite side of the wake from you. Take a good, hard toeside cut at the wake, leaving yourself about 15 or 20 feet of travel room to the buoy. In mid-air, throw it to fakie and aim to hit the top of the buoy with the nose of your board, then land to fakie. Since you will be hitting the buoy with the nose of your board after you pass by it, this style is much safer than cutting at it and aiming to hit the buoy square with the center of your board.
We don’t necessarily endorse sliding docks, pontoon boats and other hard objects because you can mess yourself up pretty bad on them. Only the pros are solid enough to make things like that look easy. But a well-built slider isn’t that dangerous. If you have it anchored on the water where you can fall into the water instead of a dock or a boat railing, you can still fall without really getting hurt.
Pro rider Gregg Necrason says the best way to hit the slideer is to come straight at the beginning of the slider rather than to approach it from the side. When you get about 4 feet from it, ollie up into the air with the rope in your back hand. This way you can have both your arms out for balance. If you keep the rope in your front hand, you have to cross it over in front of your body to get the board 90 degrees on the slider. Make sure you are approaching the slide slightly from your heelside because as you go up, you turn the board 90 degrees in the air to slide the rail between your feet. If you approach from toeside you’ll have to get the tail of your board over the slider, which is much harder than approaching from heelside and getting the nose of the board over the slider.
As you are sliding the rail, try to keep the slider right between your feet. Keep your head up and stay low during the slide. Don’t try to change directions while you’re sliding – go with the flow and concentrate on being balanced. As you are nearing the end of the slide, don’t try to push off it. When you push you’ll slip and crash. Be mellow with it and ride it to the end.
Sliding backside is a lot harder than a frontside slide because as McCaffray points out, most people have a tendency to lean against the rope and get up on their toes somewhat. On a lot of sliders, this will cause you to fall on your face. For a backside slide, ollie up from a toeside approach and bring the rope toward the small of your back. Once on the slider, keep your board level and let the rope out somewhat for balance.
The easiest way to exit is to fakie. This is because you will probably be doing a frontside slide with the rope in your back hand. From this position, it is easiest to just pull the rope into your back hip and ride out backward. To spin a 360 on the exit, follow the same step as above but throw in a handle pass.
These are hard because you have to switch the rope back to your front hand as you exit. Make sure you can do a normal wake-to-wake jump with a blindside landing first before doing these.