When looking at how to improve as a wakeboarder and learn more tricks, riding and doing tricks switchstance (backwards) is one of the best options available. It's often overlooked and under-utilized by people because they get comfortable riding their board in their normal stance, and they don't want to have to "learn how to ride all over again".
That's actually not the case, learning to ride switch after you know how to ride or learning a switch version of a trick you already know how to do is much easier then learning how to ride or do the trick in the first place. This is because your body already knows how to do it, you just need to reverse everything, and get some repetition at doing it.
The following are suggestions on how you can either learn to ride switch or improve your switch riding:
1. Visualize It
Just like any other sport, visualization helps in wakeboarding. When going to bed at night, driving to the lake, sitting in class, or sitting at work, visualize how your body feels when you're riding normally, then visualize how it feels when you're riding switch. Think about how your weight is distributed on your feet, how your knees are each bent, how you hold the handle, where your shoulders are, and how you hold your head. Think about each body part in your normal riding position, then map it over to switch. Visualize carving, doing grabs, or whatever tricks you can normally do, and then visualize doing the same things switch. The more visualization the better.
2. Practice On Land
Grab your handle and tie it to a tree, wall, door, or some other object. Practice standing in your normal riding position while holding the handle and take note of your body positioning again. Now pretend you're riding switch and mimic your normal body position. Pretend you're doing some heelside and toeside edging and mimic your normal body positions for those as well. If you've got a trampoline, skateboard, or balance board you can practice riding switch on all those as well.
3. Riding Switch
If you don't have surface 180s or ollie 180s down (click here if you don't), the easiest way to start riding switch is to just slide the board that direction as you get pulled up out of the water.
When you're riding switch, do the same thing as we did in Steps 1 and 2 above, and think about how you have your weight distributed on each foot when you ride normally. Copy that while riding switch. Do the same thing with all your body parts. It's easiest if you can do an ollie 180 so that you can actually compare your body positioning with your normal stance quicker.
After you're comfortable with how you have your body positioned, start carving around on your heelside and toeside edges, and again compare this with your normal stance.
Like anything, it takes time and practice to get good at it, so a good way to make yourself ride switch is if after a few falls, make yourself get up and ride switch until you fall again, or for 3 minutes, or something of the sort. It's also good to do if you're not riding very well and just feel like working on something else, or if the water is rough.
4. Switch Tricks
After you're very comfortable riding switch, it's time to do some tricks. What tricks you do first is up to you, but we recommend doing tricks that you are really comfortable with in your regular stance. Some easy things to try at first are switch ollies, butterslides, switch ollie 180s, switch wake jumps (with grabs of course), and half cab 180s (switch 180s). Just like with all our previous steps, visualize the switch trick first, practice it on a trampoline if you can, and mirror how your body works when you normally do the trick. It's usually much easier and quicker to learn a switch 180 compared to how hard it was to learn a regular 180.
The most common excuse we hear from riders about not riding switch is that they don't want everyone in the boat to just watch them ride around and do easy tricks while learning how to ride switch. Don't worry about it. If the people you ride with don't want you to have fun and improve then you need to find some new riding friends.
Switch riding is easier then most people think, and it can really improve your wakeboarding. As you advance, so many tricks involve switch riding like 540s, 180s, Roll To Reverts, Scarecrows, etc. that it's essential to be a good switch rider to become a good wakeboarder. It also is an easy way to add more tricks to your arsenal by adding switch versions of the tricks you can already do.