Getting Air-Everything You Wanted to Know About Wakeboarding But Were Afraid To Ask


Sunni Anne Ball does some of her swiftest thinking forty feet above lake level, usually while upside down and spinning like a Chihuahua chasing it’s own tail.

Sunni Anne Ball does some of her swiftest thinking forty feet above lake level, usually while upside down and spinning like a Chihuahua chasing it’s own tail. Inverted aerial tricks, or simply “inverts” in wake-speak, score top points and Ball the 2003 Canadian National Open champ (she finished 6th on the 2005 pro tour) is no stranger to getting the judges in a tizzy over her awesome air flare. I chatted up Sunni in a rare respite in her sched when she wasn’t tethered to a screaming motorboat tossing from wake-to-wake.

With wakeskating and wakesurfing taking off it’s getting hard to keep track of all the wakesports, is wakeboarding still the kingdaddy?
Yes, but wakeskating is easier on the body off the wake and it’s more accessible to people because the boards don’t cost as much. You just use shoes in wakeskating, and you don’t need a big wake so you can use a smaller boat. Wakeboarding is a lot more fun to watch, because people are just going bigger, and doing more flips and in wakeskating there is a lot of falling.

What’s the biggest rush you get out of the sport?

The best rush, the best thing ever is to land a new trick, I get so happy that I can’t control the smile on my face. All the tricks that I land the first time are always in tournaments because I ride better in tournaments, it’s funny.

Isn’t trying new stuff in competition taking a big risk?

Oh yeah for sure because you have a greater chance to fall. I usually do all the tricks that I have and then at the end I go “ah, whatever, might as well try it.”

Were you a natural born wakeboarder, or did you start on skis?

I started on skis when I was eight and then just started wakeboarding, my brother was into it and he got me into the sport. After I started I pretty much stuck to wakeboarding. I realized it was the way to go.

How long did it take for you to surpass your bro on the board?

Ability wise, I never surpassed him, there’s a huge difference between guys and girls in the sport. I keep trying to figure it out but I don’t really know what it is, it must be something to do with strength. They’re crazier—maybe they have something we don’t.

Does it hurt at all when you fall or does the water usually provide a soft cushion?

No, it hurts. Some people say water doesn’t hurt and you’re like, “…well”. It’s not concrete but it’s definitely feels like hitting a wall. My last injury, my foot went all the way through my boot and they had to cut the binding off. You get lots of ankle injuries. Knees are the biggest things though because there is so much pressure when you come down all the time on them, and if you land straight-legged it’s pretty intense. So many people in wakeboarding have gotten knee surgery, you see scars all over the place.

It’s often said that wakeboarding is easy to do, but difficult to excel at, would you agree with that characterization?

Getting up is pretty easy but then there are boundaries you have break through and fears you have to overcome in order to excel.

Do you do a lot of trampoline work to practice twisting and spinning in the air?

I have a trampoline in my back yard and it helps you get the rotation down before you get tricks down on the water.

What other dry-land training to you do?

I have a dislocating shoulder so I do some physio and weights to strengthen it in the offseason and I do cardio on the bike and at the gym but most of my training is in the summer on the water.

Is it tough keeping pace with the girls from the southern states who are able to wakeboard year round?

In the States I would be competing with the pros because that’s the level I’m at now. The last two years I’ve gone down to the worlds and have won the worlds as an amateur Jr. woman. And yes [it is tough] they’ve stepped it up because of all the time they have down there.

So do you have to be that much better to compete with them?

Yeah, I’m surprised that they’re not even more skilled than we are in Canada. I think because we only have three months out of the year to wakeboard we give her harder in the summer. There are a lot of Canadians who go down to the States and have a chance, and are at the same level as they are.

Is there anything you can do on a board that no one else can do?

Pretty much everything has been done. Right now double back flips are in, you got to get to the level where you throw a triple to do something that hasn’t been done.

What’s the craziest trick you can pull off?

A toe-side back roll to a revert. You come in toe side and you hit the wake going forward, do a back flip and then you do a 180 while upside down.

What’s the breakfast of a wakeboarding champ?

Mmm…Muesli. Granola and fruit and yogurt. My mom makes the granola and then I add the yogurt and the fruit.

What’s your wakeboarding fantasy?

The next step for me is to do the pro tour and compete with Dallas Friday and Emily Copeland and them, and be in my own video game. I recently got my first video part this summer with the Muskoka Militia so that was nice.

If you could have any superpower to help you bust out bigger tricks what would it be?

I’d like to be completely aware of what I’m doing when I’m upside down, I can have trouble knowing where I am.

So slo-mo ability?
Oohh, that’d be good

An abbreviated version of this story ran in the Toronto Sun

Copyright © Mike Dojc, 2006

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