Have you ever been wakeboarding before? It’s a sport that’s in its own league. It’s loved by over four million people worldwide. All you need is to know someone with a boat or capable of renting one and your personalized wakeboard. Before long you’ll be begging to get on the water every day.
Some have compared wakeboarding to snowboarding in the water, but that’s not really a good analogy. The only similarities that this activity shares with snowboarding is that you’re strapped to a board with two feet. Everything else is different. Below we’ll give you more info on this adrenaline-packed sport as well as our recommendations on gear for beginners.
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- What To Consider When Shopping For Your First Wakeboard
- How to Maintain Your New Wakeboard
The origins of wakeboarding are a bit murky. It most likely began with a few surfer buddies who were just having fun out on the water one day, but in 1985, a competition surfer named Tony Finn developed a board that was a cross between a water ski, and a surfboard. He called it the skurfer.
It was a primitive beginning and looked like a small surfboard with some minimal foot strapping. However, it was the 80’s, and people were looking for something wild and new to try. The sport took off like a rocket, and within a few years innovative new wakeboards were popping up everywhere. Every kid wanted one, and they were the hottest new trend on the beach and lake.
Wakeboarding as an Extreme Sport
Although it started out as a friendly sport to show off to your friends at the beach and as a fun family activity, wakeboarding has made it’s mark as an extreme sport the past thirty years. There is a whole industry that has been built around it.
From high-performance wakeboards and even boats that are specially designed for professional wakeboarding competitions, business is booming. Every pro wakeboarder spends their summers trying to break new records for flips, aerial time, crazy stunts, and even obstacle courses. It’s safe to say that this sport isn’t going anywhere soon.
Whether you’re just going to be having some fun on the lake, or you plan on taking the sport to a professional level, you need to consider quite a few factors when choosing your gear. To help you out with this, we’ve assembled the ultimate buyer’s guide. By the time you’re finished reading this article, you’ll have all the knowledge you need to get your first board and get in the water!
What To Consider When Shopping For Your First Wakeboard
It’s important that you get the wakeboard that is right for you. You never just want to go hit a sporting goods store to go get what “looks the coolest.” Almost every wakeboard you see will try and lure you into believing you’ll easily be shredding and slicing wakes, and choosing a product based solely on its looks is a recipe for failure.
You need to get a board that fits you. You need to take into account for your height, weight, foot size, and skill level. You also need to know what type of water you’ll be performing in, and what features that you want out of a board.
If you get a board that’s not meant for somebody like you, then you’re going to have a hard time getting up, find it difficult to stay up, and most likely you’ll faceplant time after time. Wakeboarding should be fun! The way to ensure that both your learning and continued enjoyment of this sport is fun is to get the right board.
We’ve put together a comprehensive guide to every feature that you need to be on the lookout for. Check them out!
Wakeboarding Length + Weight Capacity
When comparing wakeboarding sizes, you will need to consider both your body weight and your style of riding. Each wakeboard is different and is going to have varying guidelines for the weights that they support. The information should be readily available on the board or the manufacturer’s website.
If you plan on sharing your board with other riders, then its usually a wise idea to make your selection based on the heaviest rider’s weight. A lighter person can still ride a larger board, but the same principle does not apply to heavier people. If a heavy person tries to use a board that is too small for him, then he will sink and not be able to get up.
Aside from special weight considerations, there are still some general guidelines which can be helpful to keep in mind:
|Rider’s Weight (pounds)|
100 lbs or less
100 – 150
150 – 180
180 – 240
230 – 280
|Wakeboard Length (inches)|
50” or less
50” – 53”
53” – 55”
55” – 57”
57” – 60”
In general, individuals with a heavier body weight are going to want a longer board. This will ensure that their heavy mass has more surface area on the water and will ensure that they can get up to a standing position when the boat begins to pull them.
Differences Between Long and Short Wakeboards
After you’ve considered the general guidelines, there are a few other factors that come into play when looking at a boards length.
Long wakeboards are usually the best for beginners, and if you attend a wakeboarding camp, these are most likely going to be the type of boards that you learn on. They have a solid, heavier feel which gives new users more confidence and really helps them get an extra boost out of the water.
They are heavier, which makes doing crazy aerial tricks a lot harder than they would be on a shorter board. However, they do offer the rider more control, so they are good to learn the basics of a trick on. They also have the added advantage of providing a softer landing, as the board will absorb the brunt of the landing force.
Longer wakeboards will also ride smoother. Because of their increased surface area, they easily glide over the water with wide, swift movements. This makes them a great choice for the wakeboarder who just wants an easy cruise across the lake.
Some riders will prefer a board that is on the shorter end of the spectrum. There is a great feeling that you get from being able to carve and shred through a large wake that you can’t quite get from a longer wakeboard.
Short wakeboards do require a lot more effort, however. Because they have less surface area than their counterparts, they will go slower. If you want to get up to a good speed, you will really have to twist and work your momentum.
The thing that shorter boards are perfect for though is aerial tricks. Their lighter weight allows the rider to get some great airtime. It also makes the wakeboard far easier to flip and spin since it won’t catch as much wind resistance.
You will have to be more careful of the way that you land. Because the nose of the board doesn’t have the extra surface area, this will make it a lot easier for the nose to go under, which will cause to violently faceplant. Every wakeboarder has to faceplant sometimes, but if you can avoid doing so, you will have a lot more fun of an experience.
Not all wakeboards are made the same. Each board is designed not only with a certain weight range in mind but with a certain skill level as well. If you are a beginner and find yourself on a wakeboard designed for professionals, you won’t be able to maintain a good level of control, and your riding experience will be both aggravating and painful.
If you are an advanced wakeboarder and happen to find yourself on a board meant for beginners, then you won’t be able to use the full extent of your skills. You can forget about crazy tricks and advanced carving techniques.
When you are looking at wakeboards, there should be an indication either on the board or on the manufacturer’s website, which lets buyers know what skill level the board was designed for. It’s important that you don’t overestimate your skill level. Just because you see yourself as an advanced wakeboarder, doesn’t mean you are.
These boards are best for people who have never ridden before, or for beginners who are seeking to get better. These are also great options for kids. They will usually be longer and have a wide nose to prevent dunking and faceplants.
Beginner wakeboards will also have a smoother rocker. This will result in more of a gliding style of ride, and make it easier to stand up and maintain control of your board. Because of their lack of advanced features, these boards will also tend to be significantly cheaper than their more advanced counterparts.
If you’ve been practicing for a year or two and you are adept at being able to cross over the wake both directions then you should check out an intermediate board. An intermediate rider will also be able to handle large wakes and rougher water without any issues.
Since you’ve got all of the basics down, you’ll probably look at some more advanced board features as well. Things like fins, rockers, extra body design, and sharper rails will add to your experience. With the extra features, these boards usually cost a bit more than an average beginner’s wakeboard as well.
If you’re a veteran or professional wakeboarder and have been riding for years, then you should be looking at advanced wakeboards. These are designed for riders who have mastered all of the beginner and intermediate skills. Advanced riders will have no problem traversing even the roughest waters, and are looking for a crazy ride and extra air time every chance that they get.
Advanced style wakeboards are unforgiving in their nature, but can offer a great ride to those who are skilled enough to handle all of the extra features. These boards will usually have aggressive rockers, extra channels on the underside, and a sharp edge meant for shredding through any wake that’s thrown at them.
All About Rockers
When looking at wakeboards, the design and shape of its rocker is very important. The rocker refers to the underside of the board (the place where it rocks over the water’s surface). The shape of the underside makes a huge difference in the type of ride that you will get out of the board.
Some are smooth and meant to glide over the water. Others have sharp edges and hollow spots that are meant to manipulate the water flow and wake to provide extra carving power to the rider. Whichever you prefer, it’s a good idea to have the various styles put to memory. Let’s take a look.
This style of rocker is arguably the most common. The bottom is a smooth, gradual curve. This design allows the board to glide over the water’s surface just as if it were ice, and give the rider maximum speed.
Continuous rocker wakeboards are also great for carving up a wake since the smooth edges give little resistance to motion. If you’re looking for a smooth, fast, ride, then these rockers will give you just that.
Three-stage rockers have two angles. The bottom is flat, and the tail and tip angles are set at around 30-45 degrees. This style of rocker is great for a wakeboarder who is seeking to get a lot of air time because they will pop out of the water at a higher velocity than the smoother continuous rocker boards.
The main disadvantage of three-stage rockers is that their shape makes them significantly slower. They have a tendency to plow and drag through the water instead of gliding over it. If you’re just looking for a nice ride, you’ll want to find something with a smoother bottom, but if you want a good pop and some air time, these are a great option.
This style of rocker is somewhere in between a continuous and a three-stage rocker. These hybrid rockers try to combine the best elements of each. They tend to have smoother angles which are great for building speed, but with just enough angle to give a better pop than traditional continuous boards.
You’ll see a lot of intermediate skill level boards with these as well as some advanced models. They give a good ride to the semi-experienced rider, and the option to get some extra air time for the more experienced rider.
Cambered rockers are the latest in wakeboarding technology, and they are unlike anything else you’ve seen before. This style of rocker utilizes a concave-shaped bottom. It provides a really interesting style of ride, that takes a while of getting used to.
A cambered rocker redistributes your weight across the water and gives you a very centered ride. You can build up quite a bit of speed on these and even get some great pop if you want to try your hand on the waves. This style isn’t recommended for beginners, but if you have an intermediate level of experience and are looking for something new, then this is a great option.
Wakeboard Bottom Design
After considering the style of rocker that you wish to use, then you’ll want to look at some extra features. Bottom design refers to little design tweaks that are built into your board that affect your ride. Let’s take a look at some of the common ones.
Channels are bumps and small fin shapes that extrude from the bottom of the board. These are great for advanced carving techniques because they can give you extra grip on the face of the wake.
Also, these channels help to break surface tension when landing form an aerial move. Instead of your board flopping violently back onto the water’s surface, the channels help to slowly carve the board back into the water. This way you can maintain the most speed.
Concaves are the opposite of channels. These are rounded divets in the bottom of your rocker that direct water flow in a very interesting way. They make the water ripple in a quick action which creates a lifting effect on the wakeboard. This can greatly increase your speed, and even make your board hover above the water a little bit.
These triangular-shaped spines function similarly to the way that channels do, but are usually found on the outer sides of your rocker instead of the center. These essentially make rolling the bottom of the board from side-to-side a lot easier. If you’re looking for enhanced maneuverability, then look for V-spines on your board.
This is mainly for stunt riders. There is a school of wakeboarders who specialize in grinding through wooden and plastic obstacle courses that are usually left floating in the water. If you’re going to be doing a lot of grinding and subjecting your board on impact with hard objects, then you’ll want to look for a board that offers additional protection on its rocker.
If you’ve ever been surfing before, then you know just how important fins can be to your riding experience. Now, most people don’t necessarily think of wakeboards having fins because most boards do not, in fact, have fins. Usually, the board’s natural channels and spines are enough to carve through the water.
However, if you plan on riding in excessively rough waters (such as an ocean environment), or if you’re looking to achieve next-level maneuverability, then fins can certainly help you. Because they aren’t as popular many wakeboards, do not even come with fin slots, so if fins are important to you, make sure that the board you’re purchasing has open space for future fins.
Fins are often a great way for beginners to learn how to ride as well. The fins give extra stability through the water and prevent unwanted side-to-side strafing motion, that can easily knock a rookie wakeboarder onto his face.
Edgest are another very important consideration when looking at wakeboards. The edge, or rail as it’s more commonly called, affects how you will track through the water, and how much lateral speed you can build up.
Most beginner and intermediate boards have rounded edges which are far more forgiving if you misjudge your footing or lean. You can’t get a bunch of extra carving action, but at least you won’t faceplant into the water.
You will mostly find sharp edges on advanced skill level wakeboards. The sharper edges allow you to really track and carve through the waters almost effortlessly. You can also build up quite a bit of speed with these as well. To be able to work with a sharp edge efficiently, however, you will need to have a masterful control of your body and board. Otherwise, the results won’t be pretty.
How to Maintain Your New Wakeboard
Let’s talk a little bit about maintenance. We would hate for you to buy a brand new, beautiful wakeboard, and then accidentally mistreat it and have a nonfunctioning board. Here are some pointers:
- If you’re going to be riding in salty or brackish water, always remember to wash your wakeboarding boots and board thoroughly after each use. Salt water can eat away at both your board and your boot straps. It doesn’t have to be a hard wash, just make sure it gets sprayed down with some fresh hose water before storage.
- If you have detachable fins, make sure that you remove them and store them safely after each use. These fins can be delicate and can easily break or crack if they make contact with hard surfaces.
- Try not to let your rocker come into contact with sand or other abrasive materials. If the bottom of your wakeboard gets all scratched up, it can greatly decrease the performance and speed of your board.
We hope that this guide has armed you with all of the knowledge that you need to know to go out and make your first wakeboard purchase. Wakeboarding is a fun and exciting sport and can be a great way to spend the summer (or all year if you’re in a warm area).
Investing in a well-made board that’s made just for your skill level and size will go a long way in ensuring that you enjoy this great sport for years to come. Most importantly remember to have fun. Happy riding!
Images (in order of use):
- By Original uploaded by Logan wake (Transfered by T137) – Original uploaded on it.wikipedia, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=12638846
- By Surf2wood – Photo prise le 1er septembre 2004 au club 2DN (Neuilly-sur-Marne).Transferred from fr.wikipedia to Commons by Manuguf using CommonsHelper., CC BY-SA 1.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=9867127
- By Foto von Hydro bei Wikipedia, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=50119218
- By Marco Verch – Wakeboard, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=50965276
- By User:Pattyboy1010 – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Image:Tailbone2.jpg English Wikipedia, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=1380367