How to Kneeboard: A Beginners Guide

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There are a variety of water sports that provide unique experiences and differing levels of challenge.  One of the most popular and fastest growing is tow sports. Most people when they think about tow sports picture someone water skiing; it also includes tubing, wakeboarding, knee boarding and other towable devices.  

Kneeboarding involves an individual kneeling on a board while holding on to a tow rope, attached to a boat, jet ski or other watercraft.  This water sport is a great transition from simply tubing behind a watercraft to more challenging activities like water skiing and wakeboarding

The challenge of kneeboarding for individuals new to the sport is getting up on the board.  Learning the proper techniques will allow you to spend more time riding your board and less time wiping out.  So, if your up for a new experience let's look at how to kneeboard.

Basic Tips and Techniques

Kneeboarding involves getting a feel for the board as you are being pulled behind a boat and managing the wake created by the watercraft. This makes maintaining your balance a critical element for your success, as well as a transferable skill set to other water sports like water skiing and wakeboarding.  

young girl kneeboarding

The basic techniques involve the following points:


The position of your body will be critical to your success. To get started, you’ll lie flat on your belly on top of the kneeboard and take the following steps:

  • Your lower legs and feet will be in the water.  
  • On the front portion of the board will be a hook, which is intended for you to place the handle of the tow rope.  
  • If your kneeboard does not have a hook: hold onto the handle of the towrope with your thumbs and press down on the handle while gripping the sides of your board.
  • When you’ve signaled the boat you are ready they will pull forward slowly, tightening the tension in the tow rope.  
  • Keep your weight back.
  • Hold the board tip up and pointed directly at the boat.
  • Hold on to the sides of the board.
  • Your elbows should be resting on the kneepads.
  • Balance your weight using your elbows to adjust yourself.

Starting Your Ride

After you have properly positioned yourself and given the boat the thumbs up that you are ready, they will begin to move forward slowly, creating tension in the tow rope. You should then take the following steps:

  • Signal boat driver to begin the acceleration.
  • As you are being towed, slowly bring your knees up to your elbows.
  • Keep the front of your board directed at the boat.
  • Weight remains back.
  • Once you have your knees in contact with your elbows, position yourself back on your heels.
  • Center your knees in the kneepads.
  • Make sure you arms and back are straight, this will maintain your weight on the back of the board and provide you with the ability to position yourself to maintain balance.
  • Maintain your vision looking forward, not down at your board.

Kneeboard on Plane

Once the boat has gotten to an appropriate speed for your size and skill level, your board has gotten on a plane and you have positioned yourself you can begin the process of strapping your knees.
  • First off, there is no rush or hurry to get strapped in; take your time and ensure you are maintaining your balance.  
  • Once you feel comfortable, secure the kneeboard strap over your thighs.
  • Take the tow rope out of the board’s hook and hold on to the handle.
  • The knuckles of your hands should be facing up.
  • Maintain your arms stretched out in front of you with a slight bend in the elbows.
  • Adjust the speed of the boat to a level you are comfortable, signaling with a thumbs up or down.

Riding and Directing Your Kneeboard

Once you are up on your board and have established a comfortable speed for your ride, take some time to get a feel for riding your kneeboard:

  • Initially, ride your board within the wake of the boat.  This will allow you to gain a level of comfort and develop some control of your board.
  • Using your upper body (head and shoulders) you can lean slightly in either direction you would like to turn.  Again, initially maintain your board within the wake of the boat.
  • To make deeper cuts and increase your speed position your weight on the backside of your board, in the direction you want to turn.  
kneeboarder jumping a

Tricks and Crossing the Wake

So you are comfortable riding in the wake of the boat and are ready to cross over the wake and try some tricks:

  • As you learn and develop skills and you are ready to start having some serious fun, remember wiping out is just part of the process.
  • To venture outside of the boat’s wake and start cutting across the wake, you will need to take deeper and wider cuts on the edges of your board.
  • As you begin going outside the wake and trying tricks the most important thing you need to be cognizant of is maintaining proper body position.  Failure to do so will ultimately end up in you wiping out.
  • To do tricks you will need to master building up your momentum and speed to be able to smoothly cross over from one side of the wake to the other.
  • You always need to keep your weight back and the front tip of your board up and pointed in the direction you are intending to head.  
  • Once you have gotten comfortable and feel you have the requisite skills, it's time for some tricks: side slides; 90 degree spins; 180 degree spins; reverse steering; etc.

Safety, Skill Development, and Enjoyment

The following tips and suggestions should be integrated for your safety, skill development and enjoyment:

  • Safety First! Always, always wear a personal floatation device (PFD).  You should always wear a properly fitted and a Coast Guard-approved device for all water sports.  Proper individual fit is extremely important. Select a PFD that fits snug, won’t ride up over your head and provides protection keeping your head above water should you take a serious spill.
  • Always check and maintain your equipment.  
  • Be patient and take your time pulling yourself up and getting into a kneeling position.  Let the boat do the work.
  • Approximate boat speeds for an individual kneeboarders weight are:
  • Always look out for other people, swimmers, or any other obstacles that may be in the area.  
  • If you can’t maneuver around obstacles or feel uncomfortable all you need to do is simply release the tow rope handle and your board will slow down and you will sink, so you can float on the board. 
  • Never look down or you are guaranteed to wipe out.  
  • Never board near pilings, docks, swimmers or other obstacles for yours and others safety.
  • Avoid shallow water, as obstacles under the water will not be visible.
  • As with any athletic skill development, it can be very frustrating at first.  You will fail, get frustrated and yes, wipe out. Hang in there, you’ll get it and then it’s just let the good times roll.  

Final Thoughts

Kneeboarding is a tow sport that is often viewed as the next step after tubing or for newbies to water sports.  As the sport has evolved it has quickly become a fast growing activity for the adventure seekers who keep coming up with new tricks and ways of making the sport challenging.  

You want to get excited about kneeboarding all you have to do is watch experienced boarders and you’ll be hooked.  Give us some feedback on your kneeboarding experiences in the comments section.