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SheShreds Chronicles: The Transition - Wakeboard vs. Wakeskate

by Virginia Buechel on July 08, 2015

This week, SheShreds Ambassador Natalie Graham takes us through her journey and personal accomplishments of transitioning from a wakeboarder to a wakeskater. The transition, inadvertently caused by injuries, was something that she never saw coming but welcomed with open arms. Take the journey with Natalie below and see how trying something new can give you a brand new experience you never thought you could have!

SheShreds Ambassador Natalie Graham


The Moment of Impact

"8 weeks?!?" That was my initial response when the doctor said I couldn't wakeboard after jacking up my collarbone and shoulder.  At first, I thought I could simply sit on the boat without being tempted to do anything.  I didn't even pack my wakeboard when we went to the lake so that I wouldn't try to do anything that I shouldn't do!  

After about 3 days of going to the lake and not being truly on the water...I couldn't resist the temptation!  As a reminder, I didn't have my wakeboard so I wasn't tempted from that angle however, we did have a foam-top surf trainer that I was able to play with.  I kind of belly boarded it and eventually stood up on it using a hydro hook and riding behind the boat at length of about 65 feet.  I  knew that I needed to take it easy knowing that my shoulder and collarbone were still healing.  After my dinky surf-trainer set, I swam one armed to the boat and I uttered the words "send out that wakeskate!"  My friends in the boat were like "aren't you concerned?"  

Waiting Patiently During The Healing Process

To that I replied "the Dr. said no wakeboarding; he didn't say no wakeskating!"  I then promised that I would take it easy and be intelligent about what I was doing out on the water.  I used a larger life jacket which required me to keep my right arm tucked in and I had to get up on the skate using just my left hand.  I grabbed the rope underhanded just to make sure that I had enough force to get up.  Sure enough I got up - [probably because I knew that if I fell on that bum shoulder that it could be disastrous!]  I got up and rode on the skate not really doing anything: it was a really short set and when I was done I tapped my head and the driver came to a gentle gentle stop which allowed me to toddle into the water.  It was really exhilarating just to be on the water, even though it wasn't in my former capacity.  I remained compliant for a few more weeks making sure that I was giving my shoulder time to heal.

By the end of October there was another day where we were just on the water.  I was compliant with respect to my shoulder most of the day, but then towards the end of the day I said "I really just want to go on the water!"  I reminded everyone that I didn't have I any issues getting up on the skate many weeks before.  So, I asked to use it again.  I got up and rode for a little bit and my friend came cruising by.  We stopped and chatted and he commented that my form looked pretty good on the skate.  Because I was riding at a pretty slow speed (around 17 miles an hour), my friend challenged me to ride as long as I could before getting tired or falling.  Mind you, I'm just standing between the two wakes I'm not actually doing any tricks or anything, just standing there sideways: waving to the people in the boat,singing to myself, or whatever.  I held on for as long as I could and I finally had to let go.  (I'm not Stretch Armstrong for Pete's sake!)  

Getting Into Wakeskating

My friend then informed me that I rode for three and a half miles - just standing in the middle. After that weekend, I was finally given the "all clear" to wakeboard again.  I found that I still wanted to skate!  So, I was alternating wake and skate.   Right around holidays I had the opportunity to get three sets in on the same day and it was skate / wake / skate.  During the second skate set I recall looking down at the board and marveling that my two feet weren't attached to the board.  As I came into the boat the guys in my crew were commenting on how natural I seem to be on the wakeskate.  I commented that I, too, noticed that my passion on the water was taking a shift towards the skate vs the wakeboard [which I had come to know and love for the past 6 years!]  

From there, it seemed that the progression started to come pretty naturally.  I did try to do a trick that I wasn't quite prepared for and took the skate to my leg which was not fun!  I then  knew I needed to be wise about my progression.  I went online and searched for DVD sets to help get me follow the correct progression order of wakeskating and I came across the the DVD "Snap."  Of course, the movie took a couple weeks to get into my mailbox and we had to winterize for a few weeks, so it was a real bummer that I was watching wakeskate tricks and couldn't get on the water!  Once we were able to un-winterize, we were back on the water for only about 3 weeks before my next injury decided to creep up on me.   This injury was NOT related to any Watersports, just an unfortunate mishap that kept me off the water a little bit longer.  

Finally in March I was back on the water and ready to ride to the ride again. I was nervous since I had had two injuries (upper limb and lower limb) in such a short period of time.  It was then that I noticed that the skate was a little more gentle on my knees.  I started to ride more more on the skate and was pushing myself to keep progressing at the right progressive steps. At the Nautique Wake Open I made my competitive "wakeskate debut!"  Everyone seemed impressed with how quickly I had taken to the skate!  I commented that I had the DVD Snap, but I felt like I needed some more instruction.  Austin Polterock recommended that "The Book" which has a three-disk wakeskate version [which is funny because I already own "The Book" wakeboard version].  So between Snap and "The Book" I was able to work on my wakeskate progression even more.  

By May, the local competition scene was getting underway and two different wakeskate divisions were offered.  I was just barely in the advanced trick list, by a mere 5 measly tricks.  I conferred with my riding crew and asked:  should I eliminate those advanced tricks in my run and ride in the intermediate division or should I push myself and enter advanced...knowing that I will most likely take dead last!  Fellow wakeskater Brett Morari encouraged me to ride in the advanced division.  So, I entered to ride with the big boys!  During the contest my competitors -  who by the way had me beat by a long shot - cheered for virtually every single trick I did. It was really awesome!  

Since then I've entered a few more contests and have made a few observations:

  • Wakeskaters watch each other ride and root for each other!
  • Wakeskaters give and receive pointers on how to do more tricks or how to make tricks look more stylish...even before you are ready to compete against one another!
  • Wakeskaters understand how hard an air trick really is when your feet aren't attached to the board.  We even get excited for one-wake jumps!  
  • And we all love wakeskate crashes!  Especially when the body goes one direction and the skate goes the opposite direction!

The transition from wakeboard to wakeskate was a logical transition for me.   I'm not saying that I've given up wakeboarding, I've just realized that my shelf life as a wakeskater will have more longevity.  Besides, it's pretty awesome manipulating a 40 inch plank of wood with just your feet!!  And to wakeskate journey started as a way to fill time when I couldn't wakeboard.  This "loophole" somehow became a new direction, a new focus, and a new journey all its own.

Be sure to visit Natalie's Full Bio and use the promo code NATALIE for 10% off your SheShreds Order.

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