Style is one of the most subjective and debated topics in any board sport, but for the most part it comes down to control. When I watch other riders, I prefer someone who looks in control, has a constant flow on the water and in the air, lands smoothly and appears to enjoy what he is doing rather than simply going through a checklist of tricks. Rather than embark on a lengthy discussion of what I think determines good style, I’ll instead give you some ingredients to cook up your own goodness in this wakeboard how to. — Shaun Murray
Grabbing the board is the first way most riders demonstrate control. A grab shows you’re in such control of a trick that you can take one hand off the handle. It also just looks good. One of the most common mistakes with grabs is letting go of the handle too soon to get the grab, which results in a low-flying, short-of-the-second-wake jump. Both power and control are generated by holding the handle in the same position as you go up the wake, so you should keep both hands on the handle at least through the top of the wake and, ideally, close to the peak of your wake jump. Once you have every bit of pop, reach down for the grab while pulling the board up with your legs — never bend over to the grab. Do your first grabs with your back hand so you don’t get pulled into a 90-degree spin.
Ben Greenwood on grabs
“Flexibility is key. Increase your range of motion and you’ll increase your ability to grab deep and poke moves out.”
“Keep away from the no-no zones; nose, tail, melon, stale, indy and mute are where I try to stay. I left my crossed-up nuke grabs in the early 2000s with my Palm Pilot.”
“To make a good grab better, go bigger, hold it longer, spin slower and poke it out.”
“Reaching for grabs can look and feel out of control. Instead, I think about pulling my board to me by sucking my heels to my butt rather than just bending my knees.”
“Grabbing your board is the ultimate sign of control. When I learned my first wake-to-wake 7, I thought, ‘How can I grab this?’ not ‘Time to take it 9.’”
Once you have a solid grab on a trick, your next step to better style is poking it out. First grab the board then straighten out one leg while bending the other, poking out the tip or tail. I think pokes look best when you go through these steps in order:
1. Pull up the board with your legs for the grab.
2. Grab the board.
3. Extend one leg while bending the other to get your poke on.
4. Pull both legs back up.
5. Let go of the grab.
6. Land in victory.
That seems like a lot to happen in the air, but when done properly, it all happens in the same amount of time as a normal grabbed wake-to-wake air. Change the order and you could end up looking out of control. For example, if you let go of the grab right after poking without bringing up your legs first, it will look like you’re poking the grab out of your hand.
Collin Harrington on pokes
“Poking your board is self-expression. It shows you have complete control of a trick and you’re able to make it look how you want it to.”
“The key to poking is simply grabbing first then giving it that little extra push.”
“Remember this: When in doubt, poke it out. Every trick looks better poked out.”
“Experiment. Some pokes flow better with certain spins and flips. I like to do two or three different poked grabs on every trick I do.”
The first step to tweaking your board is learning a shifty. A shifty occurs when the board is turned in an unnatural direction in the air and it just looks cool. The first shifty I teach people is on a heelside straight air, turning the board’s tail toward the boat while bringing the tip away from the boat. Line tension is key on this trick and is created by edging all the way up the wake. Wait until you’re close to the peak of the air, then “shift” your feet while keeping the handle low. I typically let go with my back hand and turn my upper body in the opposite direction to make the shifty turn even farther away from my shoulders. When you have shifties down, combine them with a grab to tweak your tricks. Just like with grabs, pokes and shifties, the biggest key to getting your tweak on is edging all the way up the wake to create the line tension you’ll need to turn and twist in unnatural directions midflight.
Josh Twelker on tweaks
“Once I get comfortable with a trick, I start grabbing and poking until it starts to fit my vision for it. I keep working on it until I’m happy with how it looks and feels.”
“Be unique. Do things differently than other riders, then work on it over and over until it looks good.”
“Tweaking my grabs is how I personalize my tricks and make them my own. It allows every rider to make his riding unique.”