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Physics of Wakeboarding/Waterskiing

  1. Nov 10, 2007 #1
    I know that there has already been a thread on the physics of waterskiing, but I don't think most people know what wakeboarding is. I am doing a research project on the physics of wakeboarding and am having some trouble grasping some of the key concepts.

    For those of you who don't know, wakeboarding is just like waterskiiing, but with a board rather than two skis. You hold the rope just like in waterskiing, but your body is facing perpendicular to the direction the boat is moving.

    I am under the impression that buoyancy has very little to do with both standing up on the board and with remaining on top of the water. A wakeboard is a curved board on both sides so the main principles I believe are acting on the board are the horizontal force of the water being translated into vertical force by the angle of the board and tension/force of the rope acting on the boarder.

    The main problem I am having is how a wakeboarder actually pops off the wake. In all the training videos/websites etc., they tell you to progressively edge towards the wake to keep the tension in the rope very, very tight. About 2-3 feet before you hit the wake, slowly start to stand up and the tension in the rope combined with the motion upwards will create a pop off the wake. I do not understand how this happens. Any help would be greatly appreciated.
  2. jcsd
  3. Nov 17, 2007 #2
    Anybody have any ideas?
  4. Nov 17, 2007 #3


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    If I die before I wake...then I'll wake with funky-coloured hair!

    The main thing that gets you airborne is the slope of the water as you approach the wake from the boat. The tips in the training vid are for making sure you maximize your vert, but you would get pretty good air without them. The contribution of leaning to keep tension on the rope is that it gaves you more speed, but it also helps by a mechanism somewhat like a mousetrap. As you lean back and toward center, to make your board cut into the water and give you really blazing latteral speed, you are also lowering your center of gravity. If you keep your body straigt while leaning back to lower your center of gravity, and meanwhile the rope is tryiong to pull you forward, then when you allow the rope to pull you forward, it is also pulling your center of gravity upward.

    You could try attaching a rubber band to one end of a small stick (like a matchstick), and place the other end of the stick into a notch on a tabletop or other surface, so the stick stands vertically. Pull the stick toward you, so it leans back and stretches the rubberband. When you release the stick, it will be drawn forward, but it will also be launched upward.
  5. Nov 18, 2007 #4
    Thank you, that makes a lot of sense with the rubber band example.
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