In this video I want answer a question I've have been hearing a lot lately. Many students ask why do the professional riders and some other riders hold the handle with both hands in the middle rather then apart near the ends of the grip or vice versa. What I can say for sure is that I think a lot of it has to do with style rather then technique, but there is definitely some method to this way of holding the handle. Along with these different ways of holding or placing your hands on the handle there are a couple ways you can pass it behind your back depending on the type of trick you are doing. Lets go over hand placement first so you understand how that can effect the type of pull you get when you initiate a spin.
What a lot of people don't realize is that your hand placement on the handle can directly effect how sensitive your pull is when you pull to start spins and you can adjust the sensitivity just by moving your hands towards the middle or towards the outside.. The most common way to hold the handle is to place each hand nearest the end of the handle on each side. This wide grip is typically used for normal wakeboarding and learning your first handle pass tricks. When you release one hand this positioning on the handle give you a long stick or bar to pass behind your back and you won't have to reach far to get your free hand on the handle. In this position however, as you let go with one hand you can see the handle tilt first before the rider gets a direct pull down the line. This turn of the handle, when you release one hand, decreases the sensitivity of your pull. It essentially is adding a slight delay in response time. If you place both hands in the middle of the handle and release one hand to reach for a pass the tilting or turning of the handle is eliminated and you get a more instant, more sensitive direct pull from the rope. But now when you release one hand and reach for the handle behind your back with your free hand to pass the stick or bar is shorter in length on that side and it can be harder to reach if you are first learning handle passes.
I recommend the far apart grip for spins that need a slower smoother pull of the handle such as BS 180's or FS 3's and this ensures that you will be able to reach the handle but also ensures that you will pull through your hip to pass the handle in a way that will build a good foundation. It should be palms down and apart in front to start, and then as you pass the handle behind your back your palms are up and apart behind you as well. Some beginner riders instinctively hold the handle like water skiers or slalom skiers because they may have done that prior to learning wakeboarding or they feel that they have more strength with one hand up and one down in a cross grip fashion. The problem is when you release one hand and turn the handle to pass, the handle will not be there when you reach with your free hand behind you. I recommend that you never hold the handle like this since it serves no real purpose in wakeboarding. Place your hands on the handle palms down and place them in either of the two positions on the handle, far apart or close together.
The close together grip or centered grip and it's more sensitive direct pull is more ideal for faster more technical rotations 540 and above. This handle position allows you to start the spin more aggressively but forces you to pass the handle in an orthodox way. Instead of the palms up in front palms down in back way that I described earlier for slower more basic spins you will pass hand to hand with the handle turned more vertically rather than horizontally. The handle will also be sandwiched in between your open hands like you see here. Instead of both hands being on the handle at the same time the handle will be passed from hand to hand more quickly and one hand will really only be on the handle at a time allowing you to really speed up your passes.
With this vertical style of passing the handle you actually increase your margin of error. Since the handle is upright behind your back there is a larger area for you to reach so your hand will hit the handle as you can see here. You can be a bit sloppier with your passes and even throw the handle from hand to hand. With the handle horizontal like you would pass for a standard wide gripped pass the area in which you can grab the handle is greatly decreased and misses might occur more frequently if you are trying to spin far and fast. If you get sloppy with the handle horizontal the option of throwing the handle hand to hand behind you doesn't work as well like it does when the handle is vertical.
Ok, just to recap, hold the handle wide for learning your first BS 180's, 360's or any trick that needs a smoother less sensitive pull to build a good foundation. Hold the handle in the center to get a more direct pull so you can initiate faster spins with rotations 540 and above while passing the handle vertically to increase your pass margin of error so you can get the handle more consistently.