USA Water Ski & Wake Sports

Kneeboarding: Can You Make The Cut?

Kneeboarder cutting


Note: This article first appeared in the Winter 2022 issue of The Water Skier magazine, the official publication of USA Water Ski & Wake Sports. If you are not a member of USA Water Ski & Wake Sports and you are interested in receiving the quarterly magazine, join now.


Written by Tom Kohl

Photography by Ted Bevelacqua

One of the most essential elements of any big air trick on a kneeboard is the cut. A controlled, calculated cut versus an “I think I can, I am just going to send it” cut can make the difference between a successful wake crossing or a face full of water. Learning when and how to cut toward the wake is a key step in progressing your riding.

Why is the cut so important? Line tension! Having control of your cut leads to keeping you in control when jumping the wake. That control comes from keeping tension on your rope from take-off to landing. A tight rope while jumping the wake comes from a good cut. A tight rope will function as your point of rotation for any invert. It gives you something to pull against when spinning, and it allows you to adjust your body position when you are in the air. Having proper form and technique as you approach the wake for a jump will put you on the right trajectory to keep the rope tight and keep you in control of your wake jump. Once you have that locked in, it is time to start learning more advanced wake tricks.

How do we do it? Where do we start? Start with a strong progressive cut out (away from the boat). Keep your shoulders back, chest up and open and eyes forward. Keep your rope low with your elbows at your hips. Cut out the desired distance you feel you will need to clear the wake.

Coasting: At the apex of your cut you will have accelerated to a speed that is slightly faster than that of the boat. This creates slack in the rope. Before you start your cut back you will need to slow back down to take out that slack. To do this, flatten out from your cut and coast for a second or two. The coasting time will vary depending on how aggressive your cut out was. The more aggressive, the longer the pause. I usually coast until I feel myself start to drift back toward the wake.

The Cut In: As you start to initiate your cut in, the most important thing to remember is body position! Just like on the cut out, keep your shoulders back, chest up and open. This time turn your head and look at the wake. As you lean in to initiate your cut, progressively pull harder on the rope as you cut. Meaning start with a light cut and cut harder and you get closer to the wake. Keep your arms slightly bent, elbows right at your hips, arch your back and resist bending forward.

The Approach: As you come up to the wake, right before the trough, let off your cut and start to flatten out. Keep your back straight, elbows at your hips, head up, chest up and open. As you start to go up the wake, give the handle a firm pull in toward your hips. It does not have to be a full, all the way to your waist type of pull, just short but firm motion toward your hips. Notice in the two photos the slight movement of my hands. Hold this position as you launch into the air.

Flight: When you are in the air, hold your position! Keep your back straight, elbows at your hips, head up, chest up and open. Use your eyes to spot your landing. Try not to tilt your head down to look. This can cause you to start to nosedive. Letting your arms out will cause you to start to nosedive. Pulling your arms back and up toward your chest will cause you to tip backward.

The Landing: As you come in for the landing, keep the same body position as mentioned earlier, brace for impact and hold on. If all goes well you should land smoothly on the other side of the wake, with as much rope tension as you started with. Always keep the rope tight to your waist to prevent bouncing into a nosedive. If you come up short or land out past the opposite wake, you will get a big bounce. Keep that rope into your waist until you are in control.

Review: Poor body position is the single most common issue with kneeboarding. If you can “keep your shoulders back, chest up and open and eyes forward…keep your rope low with your elbows at your hips” you are already halfway there! Learning how to create speed and power from your cut may take time. Start small and work your way up. Have fun with it! When you get to the point where you can clear the wake every time and have a tight rope, you are ready to start considering wake spins and inverts.

If you have more questions, feel free to reach out to Tom via social media - Instagram tks_h2o and Facebook @Tom Kohl!