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SLOBS, STALE FISH & POTATO PEELERS

Intrigued? Welcome to the world of wakeboarding, the fastest growing watersport in America.

Travis Meisman tried other watersports. The 21-year-old kneeboarded, water skied, even raced personal watercraft.

Then a friend introduced him to wakeboarding. There was no turning back.

"Nothing else compares," said Meisman, who lives in Tarpon Springs. "You can do all sorts of things on a wakeboard. The only limit is how big a chance you are willing to take."

Wakeboarding has been hailed as the fastest growing watersport in America _ and Florida is Wakeboard Central, USA.

Most of the world's top pros live in central Florida, home to the World Wakeboard Association and Wakeboard Magazine, the bible of the sport.

"Wakeboarding is to water skiing what snowboarding is to snow skiing," said Jim Emmons, publisher of Wakeboard Magazine. "We have seen a phenomenal growth in recent years."

According to the Sporting Goods Manufacturers Association, the number ofwakeboarders increased 21 percent from 1998 to 1999.

"There are 2.7-million people wakeboarding today," Emmons said. "They are everybody from kids 6 or 7 years old to dads in their 40s who run a slalom course in the morning then head out on a wakeboard in the afternoon with their kids."

The sport's hard-core group is made up of men and women in their mid-20s.

"That is how you learn, by going out and riding with your friends," Meisman said. "Somebody is always willing to show you something new."

Twisting and turning behind a motorboat, wakeboarders try to complete acrobatic moves such as "air rallies," "fakie backside rolls" and "butter slides."

But you don't have to be 10 feet in the air to get a feel for the sport.

"Most people can pick it up in a weekend," Meisman said. "It takes about a month before you feel comfortable enough to start doing tricks."

You can wakeboard behind most boats and personal watercraft. Because of the wide surface area of the board, you don't need as powerful an engine as you do for slalom skiing. Boards, made of thin, compression-molded epoxy fiberglass, are performance-oriented. They also can be adapted to suit different riding styles with foot straps/boots and variable fin assemblies.

The most popular boards are double-ended and resemble a snowboard in design. They allow a rider to switch directions and perform spinning turns.

"Wakeboarding is a social sport," said Emmons, whose magazine is distributed around the world and now publishes an edition in Japanese. "Because you don't have to go as fast as you do for slalom skiing, you can pile a bunch of people in the boat. You make a day of it.

"The boat plows through the water and you have sort of a stadium seating affect," he said. "You sit and watch your friends crash, wipeout and then congratulate them on a good move. It's a gas."

For information about the World Wakeboard Association, visit the Internet at www.thewwa.com; write WWA, 116 Nelson St., Auburndale, FL 33823; or call (863) 551-1683.

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SLIDE: Slide board slides on water.

LIP SLIDE: Rider slides sideways on the crest of the wake.

POTATO PEELER: Body slide with fin release.

BACKSCRATCHER: Board raised at at least a 90-degree angle to the water, no grab.

POWERSLIDE: Rider breaks fin out while doing high-speed turn outside the wake.

PEREZ: Carving turn outside the wake, slide into surface 360.

TAIL GRAB: Rear hand tail grab.

INDY GRAB: Rear hand toe-side grab between feet.

MELANCHOLY: Front hand rear heel-side grab between feet.

SLOB: Front hand toe-side grab, bone out back leg, push board in front of rider.

STALE FISH: Rear hand heel-side grab between feet, around back leg.

Source: World Wakeboard Association Web site, www.thewwa.com.

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