USA Water Ski & Wake Sports

Kneeboarding - The Secrets of the Layout

Note: This article first appeared in the Spring 2020 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


Secrets of the LayoutThe layout is arguably one of the most iconic kneeboard tricks in the book. This stretched out superman-type maneuver is one of the most visually impressive tricks. However, kneeboarders secretly know, the layout is one of the easiest tricks to learn and one of the easiest tricks to land. While this trick will score big points with your friends at the lake, the American Kneeboard Association gives this trick a fairly low point value because it is so easy to learn. Follow along as we help you conquer your fears and start stretching it out for all the glory on the lake in this step-by-step tutorial. 




The layout has two big factors that come into play when starting to attempt this trick. Your mindset and your cut. Both go hand-in-hand when it comes to execution. It may seem scary to imagine inverting your body face-down toward the water, opening your chest and torso, soaring across the wake and then somehow pulling your legs back for a smooth landing. Some say this is impossible! However, this is no magic trick, it is physics! With the right cut and full commitment, your body will act as a pendulum - whipping your legs out to the apex of the arc and snapping them back at the instant of maximum tension. Unlike the Flat Earth Theory, you can trust this science, it has been proven!  

The Cut


If you can trust the science and believe me when I say, “let physics do the trick for you,” then it is time to talk about your cut. Your cut has everything to do with this trick - it is what will create the centrifugal force that will whip your body out, up and back in. The layout requires a very aggressive cut toward the wake. A common misconception is that you need to make a big, fast cut toward the wake from way, way far out. That is not the case at all! Start small - a short, powerful cut will keep you in control and make the approach less intimidating. You need to create as much line load or rope tension as possible as you approach the top of the wake. To do this, start your cut from about half to three quarters the distance out, compared to a regular wake jump cut. I like to use the spray coming off the boat as a visual guide. I try to line myself up with the outside edge of the spray. With a palms-down grip on the rope and a slight bend in your elbows, look right down the rope and make visual contact with the tower tow-point. Make a strong cut into the wake, lean hard against the cut, keep your back straight and pull from your shoulders. Don’t let up for anything! Imagine yourself pointing away from the boat as you reach the top of the wake.

The Launch


As you come up the top of the wake remember to continue to cut hard, look directly up the rope to the tower tow-point, and keep your eyes there through the duration of the trick. Keep your elbows slightly bent and lean forward gently. The slight shift in your center of gravity from leaning forward should be all you need to start the motion of your body rotating into the layout position. Start with just a small layout, as you become more comfortable with the trick, lean forward more, relax and stretch out your legs and arms. 

The Apex and Descent


At the apex of the trick, when you are in your most extended position, you will feel a strong pull on the rope - hold on tight! This is your cue to pull the rope in to your waist. Spot your landing and keep your rope tight to your waist to brace for impact.

The Landing


There are three ways the landing could go. You may come up short and land on the top of the wake. If this happens, remember to hold on tight and keep the rope tight to your waist. Hold on through the bounce. Or, you may overshoot the wake and land in the flats. In this case, the rules are the same. Keep the rope into your waist and hold on for the bounce. Finally, the smoothest way to land the trick is to land perfectly down the face of the wake. In this case, you may get a little slack in your rope as you come down the wake. Again, keep the rope tight to your waist. This time you won’t have to brace for the bounce!  Have I said, “keep your rope into your waist” enough?

What am I doing wrong and what is next?


* I am coming up short! 
* If you are coming up short, widen out your cut a little more or try to hold your cut longer, maybe even bump your boat speed a mile or two.

* I am twisting in the air!
* If you are twisting or rolling in the air, you may be forcing the trick. Let your cut stretch you out, and remember to keep your eyes on your tow-point. 

What’s next?


If you are feeling comfortable with the layout, keep stretching it out, or making it bigger. Add a grab or try landing it backward!

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