Optimal Wakeboarding Stance
Wakeboarding is a physically demanding sport that requires a combination of mobility and stability. Unlike other board sports like surfing and skateboarding, a wakeboarders’ feet are fixed to the board in fairly stiff bindings. This reduces the contribution of ankle mobility and places more demands on higher joints such as the hips (ideally) or knees (goodbye ACL). Anatomically, everyone’s hips are built a little bit differently and as a result, everyone will have a slightly different stance that optimizes their hip mobility. A lack of hip movement can limit your ability to perform the various twisting and tucking motions required for wakeboarding and potentially make you more susceptible to injury. Riding with an inappropriate stance for your body could be setting yourself up for failure so here are two simple tests to determine the optimal stance for you!
Test #1: Foot Angle
This first test will help determine the correct angle to set your bindings, but first a bit of anatomy! The hip is made up of the thigh bone (femur) attaching to the pelvis. The hip is classified as a ball and socket joint, with the head of the femur acting as the ball and the bony groove of the pelvis (called the acetabulum) functioning as the socket. The femur itself is an inverted “L” shape with a short neck connecting the head and main shaft of the bone. The neck doesn’t sit completely flush with the body and is often angled either forwards or backwards. This is known as anteversion and retroversion respectively. This angle affects the rest of the lower limb and is a big factor in the direction our feet naturally want to point. Someone who is more retroverted will often walk with their toes pointing out and someone with excessive anteversion may walk with their toes pointing in.
To determine if you are anteverted or retroverted begin by lying on your stomach and bending one knee to 90°. Next, take the hand on the same side as the bent leg and feel the outside of your hip. You’re feeling for a hard, bony bump called the greater trochanter (as seen in green above). Once you’ve found it, and keeping your knee bent, slowly let your foot fall in towards the other leg, then reverse the movement and let it fall out towards the floor. As your leg rotates you’ll feel the greater trochanter move under your fingers. Try to determine the point where it feels the most prominent. This is the point where it will be pointing directly away from your body. Freeze here and see what position you shin and foot are in (it might be beneficial to get someone to take a picture at this point). If your foot is positioned outside your knee, you are more anteverted. If your foot is above your knee or closer to the midline of your body, you are more retroverted. To set up your board, retroverted people will likely have the best natural hip movement with their toes pointing at a greater angle toward the end of the board. Anteverted people will usually do better with a more neutral (straight) or slightly out-toed setting. It’s possible to have asymmetries between hips so make sure you test both. You may have to set your bindings slightly differently to get the most movement from both legs.
The second test will help determine your optimal stance width. Again, everyone’s anatomy is slightly different and both the ball and socket portions of the hip can have variations. This will have the most impact when bringing the knees up to the chest for a tuck position or when trying to drop down into a low squat. If the head or neck of the femur comes in contact with the bony rim of the acetabulum too early it’s called an impingement. This bone on bone contact will limit your hip movement and no amount of stretching or hip mobility drills will change it. The only solution is to find an angle where the femur can move more freely within the hip socket.
Start on your hands and knees with your feet placed flat against a wall. Begin with your feet shoulder width apart and at the appropriate angle determined from Test #1. Use your arms to push your butt back towards the wall. Return to the starting position and move both feet a few centimeters out to the side. Again, push your butt towards the wall. Keep gradually widening your stance as you continue. You are looking for the stance width that feels the most comfortable and allows you to get into the lowest position. Try to find a position that doesn’t get any “pinching” feeling at the front of your hips. Important** When performing this test, you need to make sure that your low back stays in a neutral or relatively flat position. If you’re excessively arching your back towards the ground or look like you’re tucking your tail between your legs these are both compensations coming from the lower back and not isolating true hip movement. Find a stance width where you can comfortably keep your back in a neutral position which will be the safest and strongest on the water.
Once you have found this position, have someone measure the width between your heel and set your bindings to the same distance on your board!
Give these two tests a try to determine what binding positions are right for you! Keep in mind that there can be some trade-off between stability and mobility. A narrow stance may give you the most mobility but might not feel as stable as a wider stance. Slight tweaks may need to be made to your “optimal stance” to make it more functional and practical for your riding style. Give it a go and happy shredding!
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