Hitting rails seems like a natural part of progression in wakeboarding, but it's not always easy to figure out how to approach them for the first time. Your body and board position, your edge and how you spot your landing can make all the difference in your ability to master obstacles. So for advice on where to begin, we asked Kris Salteski – rail rider/builder at The Projects wakeboarding and wakeskate camp and one of the designers of the most innovative obstacles out there, the Red Bull Wake Lab – to tell us how he approaches the art of hitting rails.
Step 1. Edging
Having a solid, consistent edge when you approach a rail will help you ride the entire length of it and not lose your balance and fall off early. A lot of people tend to over-edge and try to edge back to compensate, but this approach will pull you off balance (and off the rail) right away. So remember to hold a solid edge on your approach, and don't overdo it.
Step 2. Ride-up position
If you are hitting a rail that is a ride-up, it's really important to remember to keep your board completely flat. If you are still on edge when you ride up the rail, you will either slip out the front or the back. Many people make this mistake when hitting rails for the first time because it seems natural to stay on edge. Body position is also very important. A lot of people tend to stand tall and bring the handle up, which will put you out the back – not a position you want to be in. Ryan Doyle and Pat Panakos taught me to keep my body low and my handle in a good, solid, low position to keep my forward momentum.
Step 3. Board position
When I started to hit rails I would do a half 50/50 and half board slide so I could start to get the feeling of sliding and keeping the middle of my board in contact with the rail. I would recommend hitting a rail in the 50/50 position for the first time and continue to practice this way until you start to feel comfortable. Once you're ready for the next step, move on to a board slide. But always remember to keep a low, solid stance and the handle down.
Step 4. Landing
The big thing to remember is not to look down at your board. I always go by the saying “if you look down, you go down.” You should always keep your eyes ahead of you to see what's coming. When you come off the end of the rail, look ahead and spot your landing. If you keep your eyes where you want your board to land, you will naturally move in that direction. Always try to land with you board flat, not on edge, and your body low. Another good tip is to think about your legs as shocks. You need to absorb the impact from landing with your knees bent, so you can ride away clean.
Want more rail instruction? Visit theprojectspark.com.