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A wakeboard winch is a device that combines a motor, winch, and tow rope, and can take the place of a boat in the sport of wakeboarding. In order to use a wakeboard winch, the tow rope must be manually spooled out either by walking or swimming to an appropriate distance. When the winch is turned on, it then rapidly winds the tow rope back up and pulls the user over the water on his wakeboard. These same devices can also be used for wakeskating and to tow skiers across the snow. Wakeboard winches are available commercially, though it is also possible to construct one from a small motor, winch, and a suitable frame.
Wakeboarding is a water sport that involves a rider being towed across water on a specialized piece of equipment known as a wakeboard. The rider is typically towed by a boat and can achieve speeds of around 25mph (40kph). Though the name of the sport comes from the fact that the rider and his board constantly interact with the wake from the tow boat, other towing methods can also be used. All terrain vehicles (ATVs) can be used in some situations, and winches have also become popular.
The main advantage that a wakeboard winch offers is that it can allow wakeboarding without a boat. This can make it less expensive to get into the sport, but it can also allow a wakeboarder to make use of bodies of water where boats either cannot be used or are banned. Water that is far too shallow for a motorboat can often support a wakeboarder, and a wakeboard winch is one way to take advantage of this.
Unlike traditional wakeboarding where the rider floats in the water and waits for the boat to pick up speed, the use of a wakeboard winch requires more setup. The winch has to be secured in place so that it will not be pulled towards the rider, and the tow line then has to be spooled out. If the water is very shallow, the rider can simply walk out the full length of the tow rope and then have someone else start the winch. Deeper water requires the rider to swim out to the place he wishes to start wakeboarding.
A number of manufacturers produce wakeboard winches in a variety of configurations. Some of these winches have more torque, while others allow the rider to achieve higher maximum speeds. Other winches include throttles or electric starters, and some can be attached to the receiver hitches of trucks. It is also possible for an enthusiast to create a wakeboard winch from a few basic components, such as a motor, winch, and frame. This type of project is typically less expensive than buying a commercial unit, though it can require a good deal of technical knowledge.