Russian wakeboarding star Nikita Martyanov and Kamaz-Master team driver Anton Shibalov broke down the borders between their two sports.
The duo put on a wakeboarding session powered by the rally-raid truck, which has dominated its Dakar Rally class in recent years.
The idea formed when Martyanov saw a photo of a Kamaz truck ripping down a levee across an artificial lake and thought to himself: “What if that mad truck towed me? I could do some sweet tricks.”
And so the seeds of the project were planted.
The location for the stunt was a spot near Naberezhnye Chelny in west-central Russia. Chelny is the birthplace and testing ground of the legendary truck and the base of its racing team.
Finding the location, however, was the easy part. The practical part posed some greater challenges.
The team had to adjust the way the truck accelerated and the speed at which it traveled several times.
The position for the ramp was revised, and all the stones were cleared from the landing zone for safety.
“Our biggest problem was torque. We were trying to get a motorboat performance out of a race truck,” explains Martyanov.
“The race truck is built to rip up the track; it’s got mad torque numbers.”
“At first, I thought that I could just plan the route as if I was following the motorboat: ‘I’ll just jump off of here, then go there, and it’s gonna be fun and easy.'”
“Things were… different! We ran our first test – installed a ramp, and dug out an area where I was going to land.”
“When we were shooting the second take, I landed like a foot away from the rocks. I couldn’t tell you the way it would go despite all my 23 years of experience in wakeboarding.”
A New Role
Shibalov had to take on a new and unfamiliar role.
“Wakeboarding is a new experience for us all. Kamaz is a powerful vehicle; you’ve got to be careful around it. The first thing on my mind is getting off the start smoothly.”
“Starting too fast will exert too much force on Nikita’s hands and legs. A racing start will tear up his joints. This is why I start smooth and accelerate to the speed we need smoothly.”
“Our vehicle can do that too, thankfully. Here’s what was difficult, though – I can hardly see anything out of my cabin.”
“I can see something when we start moving, and I can see Nikita jumping to perform the tricks in my mirrors. It’s scary, really. I have to give him enough acceleration and speed to fly over the section of the road.” ”
“Because if I’m going too slow, below the speed we’ve discussed, he’ll dive straight into rocks, and that will be my fault.”
It took some test runs to get the truck and the wakeboard to start working in harmony.
Multiple Variables at Stake
There were a lot of factors at play: the truck’s acceleration, the angle of Nikita’s jump, and the speed of the jump above the levee, to name a few.
The speed and direction of the wind are also important here.
In snowboarding, motorcycle freestyle, and other trick-oriented sports, the athlete lands on an incline that dampens the contact with the ground.
In wakeboarding, the athlete lands on the flat water surface.
“I need to dampen all the power I get from accelerating with my body before I land,” adds Martyanov.
“Usually, I enter the water with the bottom of the boards, then the knees start working, and finally, you crouch way down. You only get so many tries to do it. I don’t think my chiropractor is going to approve of this.”
Once these obstacles had been overcome, the project proved to be a great success, with the Kamaz-towed wakeboard tricks bigger than anticipated, even setting some records.
Martyanov achieved a 26-meter flight at 80 kilometers per hour, 10 meters above ground, landing on a level surface – nothing like that has been ever done in wakeboarding.
“The experience was tremendous – nobody’s experienced torque like this before, that’s for sure,” he concludes.
“Just the feeling of being pulled by a Kamaz is a lot to take in, you know. 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 as much as came close to this!”