Is wakeboarding safer than water skiing?

The legs are most often injured during water skiing. Cuts are the most common wakeboarding injury.

Head and face injuries are the most common among wakeboarders. Wakeboarders are more likely to suffer a traumatic brain injury than water skiers.

To go back and forth “regularly” behind the boat, wakeboarding tends to be more pleasant for the body than slalom skiing.

Even making jump jumps on a wakeboard requires less effort than pulling a slalom from one side to the other. When you're wakeboarding, the boat generally pulls you at much slower speeds than water skiing, usually between 19 and 22 miles per hour versus 26 to 34 miles per hour for water skiing. Both sports require leg and chest strength, but since you have to balance both legs on the wakeboard (rather than a ski on each leg), wakeboarding requires more muscle strength. The distribution of the injured body part and the diagnoses of injuries related to tubing are similar to the distribution of injuries related to water skiing.

The age distribution of pipe-related injuries was similar to that of wakeboarding-related injuries, with a peak between late adolescence and early adulthood, followed by a decline with increasing age. All three involve hydroplaning behind a marine boat powered by an engine while tied to a tow cable that, for both water skiing and wakeboarding, is held by hand or, in the case of tubes, connected to a tube. This could predispose the tubers to injury to the head, neck, shoulders and upper limbs, since their forward momentum after falling from the inner tube could cause these regions of the body to come into contact with water sooner than other regions, such as the hips and lower limbs. If you have some experience with snowboarding, skateboarding or surfing, you'll find it much easier to stand up on a wakeboard.

Some people find it easier to get up to ski than to wakeboard because you don't have to go sideways after climbing into the water. The increase in hip and lower limb injuries related to wakeboarding and water skiing could be due to the fact that these sports require greater use of the hips and legs compared to tubing. However, the distinction between wakeboarding and water skiing (double) is very close to the differences between snowboarding and skiing. Wakeboarding is all about jumping the trail and doing tricks, while “standard water skiing” is about crossing as hard as possible at 33 miles per hour and spraying as much water as possible.

In addition, since there are more people who report participating in water skiing than in other related water sports (SGMA, 200), the rates have a differential bias between injuries related to wakeboarding, water skiing and tubing. Wakeboarding and water skiing have a lot in common, since both involve being towed by a boat and cutting side by side through the ship's wake. Like wakeboarding, you'll need to focus on your muscle strength if you want to stand for more than a few seconds. However, when spinning on a wakeboard, the challenge is to coordinate the position of the rope handle around the body.

Jeanie Spaun
Jeanie Spaun

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