words Chad Sharpe photo Aaron Katen
If you want to go big on a wakeboard, few things offer more air potential than kickers. I like these ramps so much that I had Ryan Davis from Step Up Productions build me one last year. Since then, I’ve used it to launch more than 100 feet over a barge full of my friends for my Firsthand episode on Fuel TV. In March, Billabong had it trucked to Fort Worth, Texas, so I could hit this step-up gap for my section in Out of the Pond. Follow these tips and you might find yourself going bigger than ever this summer.
Keep it tight Maintaining line tension is the biggest key to a successful kicker hit. The last thing you want to do is edge in really hard and flatten out as you get to the ramp because as you hit the kicker you’re going to speed up and, all of a sudden, you’ll have a flat line and you’ll be dropping out of the sky. Instead, approach the ramp in a pendulum motion, edging all the way through the kicker. If you look at the kicker at my house, you’ll see the lines from guys hitting it run diagonally across the ramp, from the bottom corner to the top corner.
Get a proper pull Exactly how your driver pulls you will depend on the size and type of your kicker, where you’re hitting it and how far you want to travel. Again, the biggest key is consistent line tension, so I usually have my driver travel a little bit away from the kicker rather than straight at it. That helps keep my line a little tighter.
Work your way up If you’ve never hit a ramp before, don’t cut in as hard as you can and boot out as hard as you can on your first attempt. If you’re not used to it and your body isn’t ready for it, you’re going to get hurt. Instead, start with some practice runs. Get comfortable with your edge in and work on keeping your line tight as you approach the ramp. If something feels wrong or you’re out of position, drop the handle, ride past the ramp and try it again.
Hit up a cable park Riding at cable parks is the easiest way to get into hitting kickers. Every park in the country has at least one ramp or kicker, and the cable eliminates some of the variables you have when hitting a kicker behind a boat. For starters, the cable pulls you at the same speed and on the same exact line every time, so it’s way easier to judge. Plus, the cable’s upward pull makes landings much softer, which opens up more tech tricks.
Happy ending Landing off the kicker is very similar to landing in the flats on a double-up or a big-wake jump. You’re going to have a lot of momentum coming down, so make sure to bend your knees to absorb the impact. If something goes wrong, get into crash mode and try to take the hit with your body instead of with your legs.