USA Water Ski & Wake Sports

Kneeboarding: The Basic 10 Skills

Note: This article first appeared in the Summer 2021 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 Jessica Hanson


Kneeboarding trickThe article I wrote for the last issue was about how to get your kids into towed water sports using kneeboarding. I hope that by now your kids are all over that kneeboard! So, what is next? “The Basic 10!”


Throughout the history of kneeboarding, coaches, parents and athletes alike have dubbed the surface tricks in this article “The Basic 10.” Learning these tricks will help develop proper technique for advancement in kneeboarding and other towed water sports. The basic skills used in the Basic 10 translate to skills and building blocks used in more advanced tricks, as well as a sense of accomplishment, for young and old. We can all admit, it feels great to learn something new. So come with me and let's learn the Basic 10!


Before you get started on the water, a great way to practice is on land. Tie a rope to a tree or post. While standing, flow through each of the moves. After standing and working through the tricks, try doing the moves on land but on your kneeboard. It will help if you are on a hard surface such as a dock. 


The Basic 10 is an array of spins, starting with a 90-degree spin, all the way up to a few variations of a 360-degree spin. All of the spins build off one another, so as you learn the first trick, remember what you learned and incorporate it in the next.


The first trick on the list is called the Side Slide. This is a simple 90-degree rotation from forward facing to the 3 o’clock or 9 o’clock position. With both hands on the rope in a palm-down grip, the kneeboarder should pull the handle to the right hip to turn left or the left hip to rotate right. Keep the head and shoulders facing the way of the rotation. To return to the forward-facing position extend your arms and rotate them back to the center. After you have rotated either left or right, go for the reverse and try it the opposite way. 


The Front to Back 180 is the natural progression of the previous trick, and it works in the same way. For this one, use the same grip on the rope again. Remember to always keep your back straight. Instead of pulling the rope to just your hip, pull it all the way to the small of your back and hold it there. Try to spin all the way to the 6 o’clock position. Turn your head in the direction of your spin until you are facing backward. When you get to that position look straight ahead and keep your eyes on the horizon. When you want to face forward again, simply pull the handle back to the forward position.  When you can comfortably spin backward one way, go for the reverse. This trick also comes with a bonus! The spin from backward to frontward is also a trick. It is called the Back to Front 180. So really, by doing both a left and right 180 you are actually doing four tricks! So far you have learned a total of six new tricks!


After we can spin 180 degrees in both directions it is time to connect the tricks with a full 360-degree spin. The Back 360. This is one of my favorites! Now that you know how to do it, start with the Front to Back 180 first. Once you are backward, move the handle in one smooth motion from the small of your back to directly in front of you and around to the small of your back on the opposite side. This should get you right back to where you started. Again, try this in the reverse, and you just accomplished tricks seven and eight!


The last spin of the Basic 10 is the Front 360. This is initiated in the same way as the Front to Back 180. Pull the rope to the small of your back. As you spin around to the 6 o’clock position, let go with your front arm and reach around your body and grab the rope behind your back. Once both hands are secure on the rope, let go with the other hand and you will spin right around to forward. Learn this trick in both directions and you will have the final two tricks for the Basic 10. 


The Basic 10 can be learned in a short amount of time, but the value that comes with it will last for a lifetime. The sense of accomplishment that a new kneeboarder will gain will build confidence and inspire growth. The spins and motions associated with these maneuvers can translate to not only more advanced kneeboarding, but other aspects of towed water sports as well. If you are looking for more instruction on this topic, search “The 10 Beginner Kneeboard Tricks” with John Haile on He has put together a great instructional video that goes over the same tricks.


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