Why tow your wakeboard with a motorboat when you can use a KAMAZ truck?
Learn how Russia's Nikita Martyanov became the first wakeboarder in the world to nail a trick line while getting towed at 80kph by a Dakar Rally-winning KAMAZ-master truck.
Russian wakeboarder Nikita Martyanov and KAMAZ-master team pilot Anton Shibalov have just expanded the boundaries of the sport together. When Martyanov saw a picture of the monster Dakar Rally-winning KAMAZ ripping down a narrow levee on an artificial lake, he knew that the time had come to raise the bar of wakeboarding to a new level.
Wakeboarders are usually towed behind a boat or system of cables or winches. But all that's old news. Get towed by one of the most powerful vehicles in the world at speeds up to 80kph to perform tricks 10m up in the air is where it's at now.
Before taking wakeboarding to the next level however, first Martyanov and Shibalov had to find the right location. Luckily, the perfect location was soon found near to home in Naberezhnye Chelny, the birthplace and testing ground of the legendary KAMAZ truck and the base of the KAMAZ-master racing team. Everything was coming together nicely. But this was the easy part.
The practical part
The biggest problem was torque – a lot of it. The team were trying to get watercraft-like performance out of a lorry. The KAMAZ was built to rip up the track, though. It's got mad torque numbers far exceeding anything a normal wake boat could ever produce. At first, the crew thought that Martyanov could just plan the route as if he was following a boat. Things were... different.
"We ran our first test and we installed a ramp and dug out an area where I thought I was going to land, but when we were shooting the second take, I flew so far and landed like a metre away from the rocks lining the lake," says Martyanov.
I couldn't tell you the way it would go despite my 23 years of wakeboarding experience
The team quickly had to rethink things and adjust the way the lorry accelerated and the speed at which it travelled several times. The position for the ramp was also revised and all the stones were cleared from the landing zone for safety.
It was, of course, a challenge for KAMAZ-master driver Anton Shibalov – his role here was dramatically different from what his usual job.
"Wakeboarding is a new experience for us all. The KAMAZ is a powerful vehicle and you've got to be careful around it. the first thing on my mind was getting the truck to pull away smoothly, because starting too fast would just exert too much force on Nikita's hands and legs. A racing start would literally tear up his joints, which is why I started and accelerated to the speed we needed smoothly," says Shibalov.
"Our vehicle can thankfully do that. Here's what was most difficult, though: I could hardly see anything out of my cabin. I could see something when we started moving and I could see Nikita jumping to perform the tricks in my mirrors, but that's it. It's scary, really. I had to give him enough acceleration and speed to fly over the section of the road effectively blind. If I was going too slow, below the speed we'd discussed, he'd crash straight into rocks and that would have been my fault."
If I was going too slow, below the speed we'd discussed, he'd crash straight into rocks and that would have been my fault
It took a number of test runs for the truck and the wakeboard to start working in harmony. There were a lot of factors at play: the truck's acceleration, the angle of Martyanov's jump and the speed of the jump over the levee. Wind speed and direction were also important here.
In most trick-oriented sports, the athlete also usually lands on an incline that dampens the landing impact, but wakeboarders land on the level water surface and the speed the truck generated to make this jump left Martyanov facing a seriously hard landing.
"I need to dampen all the power I get from accelerating with my body before I land," says Martyanov. "Usually, I enter the water with the bottom of the board and then the knees start working and, finally, you crouch way down. With a landing this heavy, you only get so many tries to do it. I don't think my chiropractor is going to approve of this."
I don't think my chiropractor is going to approve of this
When faced with a challenge of performing a series of elite-level tricks while being pulled by a powerful racing truck, Martyanov exceeded all expectations. He flew 25m through the air at 80kph, 10m above ground, landing on a level surface. Nothing like that has been ever done in wakeboarding before.
It also turns out that the tyre-ripping KAMAZ can accelerate smoothly, just like a wakeboarding boat.
"The experience was tremendous – nobody has experienced torque like this before, that's for sure," says Martyanov. "Just the feeling of being pulled by a KAMAZ is a lot to take in. You're bound to this huge, crazy machine and then there was the all-or-nothing jump I made. I don't think anybody in wakeboarding has come close to this!"
The KAMAZ-master team is aiming to win another Dakar Rally truck title when the 2021 event gets under way on January 2 in Saudi Arabia. Find out more info here:
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