USA Water Ski & Wake Sports

Kneeboarding - The Wake Front And Wake Back 180

Note: This article first appeared in the Summer 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 Hunter Schleper


Kneeboard InstructionThe Wake 180 is a great beginner wake jump trick. It can be learned in a very non-intimidating way and can be added to other tricks to bring your riding to the next level. There are two versions: the front to back and the back to front 180. The idea of landing backward or hitting the wake backward may seem scary, but if you can do a surface 180 and you can jump the wake, you are ready to start doing wake 180s.

Technical Terms
Before we begin, we need to make sure we have our terms correct. The American Kneeboard Association (AKA) identifies the two tricks by the riders landing position. The front to back 180 is called the Wake Back and the back to front 180 is the Wake Front.

The Foundation
The basis of this trick is the surface 180. Practicing this trick on land and on the water is a great way to build muscle memory. Even if this trick is a no brainer for you, it is always good to refresh. Starting in the forward position, look over the shoulder of the side you are spinning to and pull the rope to your opposite hip. When you get backward, hold the position for a few seconds and spin back. Then try the opposite direction.

Jumping the wake is the second part of the trick. You do not have to go huge to start. Just a small jump is OK. If you can get a little bit of air and land in control consistently, you are good to go. If you can clear both wakes, even better!

The Wake Back
For the Wake Back, you will be hitting the wake forward and landing backward. You may feel like you will catch your tail and have a terrible crash, but this is rare because your center of gravity is closer to your knees than your back. If you ever do land tail heavy, the board usually just pops off and you land softly on your back. 

Ok, let's get into it! Start small. The first few tries you may not even get in the air! Make a gentle cut toward the wake. As you come up to the wake, give a firm pull in on the handle. At the top of the wake, look over your shoulder that is closest to the boat, and pull the handle of the rope to the opposite hip. Keep your chin up, neck straight and your eyes looking back at the wake you just came from. Hold the position through the landing. Once you land, let the rope tension pull you back forward. 

The Wake Front
The Wake Front is opposite of the Wake Back. This time you will be hitting the wake facing backward and rotating forward in the air, and landing in the forward-facing position. Again, one may have doubts about the success of hitting the wake backward. However, science is in our favor again! Remember that center of gravity thing, our natural tendency is to lean forward when we are turned backward. This puts less force on the tail of the board, causing it to push off the water.

To start this trick, you will have to use a little more space outside the wake than the Wake Back. Make a slightly more aggressive, but shorter cut than before. This will give you time to coast in and turn backward before you hit the wake. Remember, you can start small, so do not think you have to make a hard cut. At first, it should be gentle, just enough to get you over the wake and into the air. After you make your cut, turn backward by looking over the shoulder that is closest to the boat. At the same time, pull the rope to your opposite hip. This should be done as you cross into the trough of the wake. Once backward, again keep your chin up, neck straight and your eyes looking back from where you came from. After you have left the lip of the wake, move the handle to your other hip. This will automatically twist you forward. The last thing to remember is to keep your back straight and elbows into your hips. Then just hold on for the landing! 

The Next Level
Once you get the basic trick down, start going bigger. On the Wake Front, hold your cut longer and turn backward later. This will give you more line load and more air. On the Wake Back, make a harder cut toward the wake and wait longer to initiate your spin in the air. Add a grab to either trick or add either trick to the beginning or end of other tricks you may already have. This trick is easy to learn and fun by itself. It can be done with so much style and grace, plus it creates an entirely new chapter in the trick book. Have fun learning and get creative. 

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