Wakeboarding with a KAMAZ Semi Truck
Russian wakeboarding star Nikita Martyanov and KAMAZ-Master team pilot Anton Shibalov broke down the borders between two extreme sports. Nikita saw a picture 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 a project for the future was born, and the people of the internet have picked the perfect location near Naberezhnye Chelny. Besides, Chelny is the birthplace and testing ground of the legendary truck, and the base of its racing team. Everything was coming together nicely. This, however, was the easy part. The practical part followed.
“Our biggest problem was torque: we were trying to get a motorboat performance out of a racetruck. 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: we installed a ramp, 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 riding,” says the wakeboarder. The team had to adjust the way the truck accelerated and the speed at which it travelled several times. The position for the ramp has been revised and all the stones were cleared from the landing zone for safety.
Anton Shibalov, KAMAZ-Master team pilot, took on a new unfamiliar role: “Wakeboarding is a new experience for us all. KAMAZ is a powerful vehicle, you gotta be careful around it. 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. Which is why I start smooth and accelerate to 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 levee. 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 for the truck and the wakeboard to start cooperating. There were a lot of factors at play: the truck’s acceleration, the angle of Nikita’s jump, the speed of the jump above the levee. Speed and direction of 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 level water surface. “I need to dampen all the power I get from accelerating with my body before I land. 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,” says the athlete, sharing his impressions about the sport.
The project was a success — the KAMAZ-towed wakeboard tricks were even greater than anticipated, setting some records. 85 ft flight at 50 MPH, 33 ft above ground, landing on a level surface — nothing like that has been ever done in wakeboarding. Another discovery of the project: tire-ripping KAMAZ race truck can accelerate smoothly, just like a motorboat commonly used as a towing vehicle in wakeboarding.
“The experience was tremendous — nobody has experienced torque like this before, that’s for sure. Just the feeling of being pulled by a KAMAZ is a lot to take in, you know. You are 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!” Nikita Martyanov told us.