A popular alternative to three-event water skiing,
wakeboarding and barefooting is kneeboarding. Along with a pair of combo skis, you'll find
a kneeboard in most recreational boats. However, the sport also has a
athletes compete in slalom, tricks and expression session events. In
slalom, the six buoys are positioned the same as a traditional course.
Tricks are performed in two 20-second passes and awarded technical and
subjective points. A kneeboard expression session is similar to a
wakeboard event, each pass is scored subjectively for style points.
The roots of modern kneeboarding can be traced to Southern California,
where surfboard enthusiasts tried using their homemade "knee"
and "belly" boards behind boats about 35 years ago.
Surfers in other parts of the country soon caught on to the new concept
of "surf-skiing." As early as 1965, the Inland Wake Board was
developed in Downey, Calif., and was being sold through Abercrombie
& Fitch stores in the East, South and West.
During the late 1960s and early 1970s, several California entrepreneurs
were working on a kneeboard specifically designed for towing behind a
boat. Mike Murphy worked with Bud Holtz to produce the
fiberglass-wrapped Knee Ski, while John Taylor invented the blow-molded
plastic Glide Slide. Of the two, the Glide Slide enjoyed the greatest,
though short-lived, commercial success.
A skier named Danny Churchill, who had worked for Taylor, soon got
financial backing to form the Portugal Company and bought Glide Slide
out of bankruptcy. Churchill reshaped the board, switched to rotational
molding and called the product Hydroslide. The company was bought by
Kransco in 1982. Numerous water-ski manufacturers also began producing
kneeboards; according to Churchill, a million have been sold since the
products first hit the shelves.
The first kneeboards were much heavier and more cumbersome than the
boards used today. They resembled large teardrops, with flat bottoms,
thin knee straps and slippery rubber knee pads. Today, the shape has
changed. The bottom is contoured to provide better performance, the knee
strap is broad and helps to hold the skier on the board, and the pads
are resilient to protect the skier’s knees from injury.
Kneeboards are now manufactured by many of the nation’s top water-ski
producers and they come in a variety of colors, shapes and sizes. There
are boards for novice skiers, as well as more sophisticated ones for
Kneeboarding as a competitive activity is a relatively new sport, having
developed within the past 17 years. In 1983, a group of traditional
water skiers from the lower Midwest banded together to form a club that
would encourage kneeboarding as a competitive sport. They chartered the
American Kneeboard Association (AKA), and produced slalom and tricks
events that were modeled closely after events sanctioned by USA Water
Ski. Two other events, wake crossings and turns, were tried but have
since become "novice only" events.
As news of competitive kneeboarding spread, interest in the sport grew
tremendously. Today, there are thousands of recreational and competitive
kneeboard skiers across the world.
Many changes have occurred since the AKA was formed in 1983. The
association is now recognized internationally as the leading authority
on competitive kneeboarding. It is governed by an elected board of
volunteer directors, who meets regularly throughout the year to discuss
tournaments, new tricks and rule changes. In January 1988, the AKA
achieved Sport Division status with USA Water Ski, the national
governing body for the sport of water skiing.