Home kneeboarding How to Kneeboard in 4 Basic Steps

How to Kneeboard in 4 Basic Steps

Kneeboarding is a fun and exciting water sport that anyone can learn. It is basically a type of surfing entailing kneeling on the surfboard and being pulled by a boat.

When learning to kneeboard, the most important thing is to balance yourself on the board while in motion. For a total beginner, this will be difficult. However, starting off lying on the board helps you learn the art of balancing when in motion. The shorter distance from the water surface allows for better stability for learners and experts alike.

Once you get a grip of it, this sport can be a great way to enter other water sports such as surfing and skiing. The same basics you’ll need to learn kneeboarding can be used with most other water sports. Following are the steps to learn it plus tips to stay safe.

1. Have the Right Kneeboarding Equipment Ready

Kneeboarding requires the right equipment and skills to pull off properly. This goes for beginners as well as experts in this sport. Having the right equipment is a major advantage when it comes to learning the proper form among other aspects.

The equipment you’ll need is the following:

A Tow Rope

The tow rope needs to be at least 60 feet and not more than 70 feet for the right tow. It also has to be the right type which is a no-stretch one. As a learner, stretching ropes may present an extra level of difficulty. As you become better at it, you’ll use the low-stretch then the multipurpose one. They should have handles between 13 and 15 inches in thickness and between 11 to 12 inches in width.

Further Reading: Best Tow Ropes for Kneeboarding


You have the choice of a recreational or competitive kneeboard. As a beginner, the recreational one is the best option as it’s cheaper and readily available. It’s also more stable making it easier to balance.

If you fall into the water, recreational kneeboards are the best as they’re thick and buoyant meaning they’ll easily help you stay afloat. Some even come with fins for ease of turning. A typical board will be about 60 to 70 inches in length.

Further Reading: The Best Kneeboards

Tow Boat

The towboat you pick on should manage speeds of at least 15 to 20 mph (28 to 32 km/h). As a beginner, you’ll likely go slower than this speed but will eventually catch up to the speed range above.

Certified Life Vest

The vest is won by everyone no matter their level of expertise on the water. This is because waves are unpredictable and you’ll often fall off the board no matter how skillful you are.

2. Floating and Balancing

These ‘baby’ steps will enable you learn the basics of kneeboarding and even try some rookie tricks as well. Once you have all the above requirements, pick a day when the sea or lake isn’t too violent then follow the steps below:

First, learn how to float on your belly on the board without any motion from the tow boat. Simply lie flat on the kneeboard as you float behind the boat. In this position, your feet are to be dangling in the water at the back of the kneeboard.

Second hold unto the sides of the kneeboard with your elbows resting on the kneeboard. This position allows for stability on the board.

As a starter, holding unto the board, holding the tow rope and balancing at the same time can be a bit difficult to pull off. As such, you can use the hook on the kneeboard (if it has one), or you can hold the ends of the tow rope unto the kneeboard with the adds still in the position described above.

This will help you focus on the balancing as the board is towed. Before any movement, ensure the tow rope is tight between you and the tow boat. This prevents the jacking motion that often leads to falling at the start of the exercise.

3. Starting on a Kneeboard

Once you’ve done the balancing above, it is time to know how to start on a kneeboard either while in water or on dry land.

If your starting in water, loosen the knee straps attached to the board, hook the rope the board and lay flat on board.

As the boat slowly starts moving, slowly move your knees from the flat profile towards your elbows strap your legs and the finally get hold of the rope handle. In this position, the tow boat can gain some speed (to a level you’re comfortable with).

If your starting on s kneeboard on land, strap your legs, and grab the rope handle. Shift your weight to back when boat starts to move. Once in water, stabilize and enjoy.

4. Controlling the Speed

The speed of the tow boat can be related to the weight of the kneeboarder based on the following guidelines:

  • 5-8 mph tow speed; less than 50lbs kneeboarder weight
  • 8-12 mph tow speed; 50-100lbs weight of kneeboarder
  • 12-16 mph tow speed; 100-150lbs kneeboarder weight
  • 16-20 mph tow speed; more than 150lbs kneeboarder weight

Shift the weight of your body such that you’re leaning on your heels and are not kneeling upright. Essentially, you’ll be sitting on your legs throughout the exercise. You should thus ensure that the feet are held comfortably to avoid quick fatigue. In this position, strap your knees with the Velcro strap if it has one. This gives you better command of the board underneath your body.

Hold unto the tow rope such that your hands are extended before you and the palms are facing downwards. This prevents fatigue from the hands and keeps you in better control of the balance. If the tow rope was on a hook, unhook it and hold the handle as described here.

Once you gain speed, learn to move on a straight line first. You can then learn how to steer as the boat moves. Given that the boat will be moving in curves, you should lean to the side of the turn.

For example, if the boat moves to your left, you simply lean your head and shoulders to the left and the board will move in that direction. With time, you’ll get the idea of how much leaning is needed for what speed and what degree of turn.

These steps are the basics and, with time, you’ll do them faster and even combine some tasks. For example, medium-level kneeboarders are able to hold unto the tow rope with one hand and use the other to strap their thighs on the board without falling off.

Learn the Basic Skier Hand Signals

These are signals between the kneeboarder and the tow boat driver to indicate various aspects. Both the kneeboarder and the driver should know them since communication by words may not be possible owing to the speed and sound of the water.

They’re as follows:

Speed up

The signal for speeding up is a thumbs up with either hand.

Slow down

To tell the tow boat driver to slow down, you use the thumbs down signal with either hand.


The sign to show that the speed (or everything) is okay is a ring formed with the index finger and the thumb with the three fingers spread out.


This signal can be used by both the kneeboarder and the driver of the tow and indicates that they need to turn to a direction or are turning respectively. You point one finger in the air then make a circle with it followed by pointing in the direction you’re going to turn or want to turn.

Back to the dock

Patting the top of your head signals the need to return to the dock either by the kneeboarder or the tow boat driver.

Stop/Cut motor

The driver of the tow boat will stop if you signal with the slashing motion at your throat. An observer on the side can also make the sign with the same meaning.

I’m ok

After a fall, you should always indicate to the driver and observer that you’re okay by clasping both hands above your head.

These are standard signals for any water sport and should be learned for safety purposes.

Water Skier’s Safety Codes

These are codes that should be adhered to for safety no matter the water sport you’re engaging in.

They’re are follows:

  • Always wear a life vest.
  • Check your equipment before the start.
  • Only give the starting signal when you’re ready.
  • Don’t kneeboard near other swimmers, boats or docks.
  • Don’t wrap the handle on any part of your body.
  • Avoid kneeboarding near land or shallow waters.
  • Aim to fall either backwards and to the sides rather than forwards.
  • Learn the hand signals above before the activities.
  • When you fall into the water and other people are kneeboarding or skiing around you, lift the side of the board out of the water to signal to the others that you’re there to prevent injuries.
  • Avoid kneeboarding until you’re exhausted.
  • Never kneeboard at night even with the moon or floodlights.
  • Ensure the motor is turned off before entering or exiting the tow boat.
  • Always have someone observing from the sides as you kneeboard even when you’re an expert.

These guidelines will ensure you’re safe at all times no matter the water sport you’re engaging in.


Is kneeboarding bad for your knees?

If done correctly with the right board, injuries are rare. But in cases where riders are performing extreme tricks and stunts, injuries are likely to happen.This is mostly because of the impact of falling on and bouncing from water.

There are also possibilities of hitting other objects doing the stunts. In addition to the safety codes above, here are tips and ideas to avoid the pain and injuries

  • Do not go to kneeboard if you have any injuries
  • Choose a kneeboard that is made from the right materials. You can as well fit the boards with additional fitting for comfort
  • Stretch before starting to kneeboard
  • Maintain good form or the right posture all throughout the activity: back straight while shoulders leaning slightly back. Arms bent and close to the body. Outside of your hips on top your heels not heels directly below your bottom

How do you do kneeboard tricks?

You can perform countless tricks while kneeboarding but this almost entirely depends on you experience in the sport. If just starting, learn the fundamentals first. If you’re an intermediate or an advanced rider, check out this list of some of the top kneeboard tricks.

Further Reading

Kneeboarding vs Wakeboarding