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Wakeboarding The Right Board Makes All the Difference

Phoenix Roberts

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Back in the 1980s, some snowboarders and skiers got tired of sitting out the summer and came up with a new idea, ultimately called wakeboarding. It takes its name from the wake of the tow boat. Cutting across the wake gives the wakeboarder “pop, " that is, lift above the water for stunts. Combining waterskiing, snowboarding and surfing, this new water sport made a fast rise as a way to mix fitness and fun. Today, the sport includes millions of wakeboarders, both amateurs and professionals.

Wakeboarding is great for fitness, both cardio and strength; it works most muscle groups - legs, upper body, abdomen, etc. If you'd like to glide across the water with the speed of a skier and the style of a snowboarder, pick out a good wakeboard and you will max out your water recreation fun!

The Right Wakeboard

The choice depends on several factors, principally the rider's size and skill. The more advanced the rider, the more individual the choice, so these guidelines concern the basic wakeboard user. Wakeboards come in two basic varieties: “Single tip" boards have more point in the front than the back, for those who want a water ski or snow ski feel and speed across the water. “Double tip" boards are pointed front and back, for those who want a more skateboard or snowboard feel to perform bigger stunts.


A wakeboard's “rocker" is the curve along its length: A smooth curve or “continuous rocker" is like a surfboard; it gives more speed and less pop. A slight lip at the front and back with a flat midsection, called “three-stage rocker" gives more pop with less speed, like a skateboard. Riders must consider the amount of rocker or depth of the curve, generally 5-6cm or 2-2.5in. More rocker (a deeper curve) allows the wakeboard to swivel more and make sharper turns like a snowboard. More rocker also softens the impact after jumps. For edgier wakeboarders, lower rocker boards are easier to control, meaning more aggressive turns and better acceleration. Lower rocker also means less work, allowing longer rides. Beginners often find a board with lower rocker a little unstable, but the out-of-control feeling is generally brief and they usually get their sea legs quickly, moving more easily from jump landing back into acceleration without bailing


Proper length is determined by the riders weight:

Up to 85lbs - 119cm or 46.75in

Up to 105 lbs - 121cm / 47.5in

Up to 130 lbs - 130-131cm / 51.50in

Up to 160 lbs - 132-133cm / 52.25in

Up to 180 lbs - 134-135cm / 53.20in

Up to 200 lbs - 136-139cm / 54.75in

Above 200 lbs - 140cm / 55.1in.

These numbers are recommended for beginners. If you're looking for versatility, the 136cm wakeboard is a good “family" board, meaning it's a good fit for most adults and older children.

Width & Weight

These vary little, boards generally run 39-43cm (15.5-17in) at the widest point. Boards with narrower tips and tails sit lower in the water and have a quicker edge-to-edge slide. Weight is mostly determined by board length; it isn't considered much of a performance factor.


The “rail" or edge of the wakeboard can be rounded or fairly square. Sharp (rounded) rails are faster, give more pop and allow better control when leaning into turns, but are less forgiving of mistakes (more wipeouts). More square rails are for the beginner: better speed and more balance.


Like surfboards, wakeboards use fins for stability. Fins create drag, pulling the wakeboard tail down into the water to prevent “squirreling" or swiveling under the rider. Larger fins mean more stability in rough water, while smaller fins give more maneuverability on calmer days. Since fins are easy to switch out, wakeboarders may want several sets to match several conditions. Among fin styles: “Canted" or angled fins which give superior performance when leaning into a turn. “Long-base" fins have increased surface area for a better release and a more snowboard feel. “Molded" fins are channels designed into the board itself. “Ramp" fins are considered the overall best style; the most user-friendly and works best with a variety of riding styles.

Boots & Bindings

Unlike skis and snowboards, wakeboard boots and bindings are usually built as a single assembly. Boots and bindings keep the board and the rider hooked together, so properly fitting boots are vital. The feet, in large measure, control wakeboard movement; loose boots decrease control. Since wakeboarding isn't a normal activity for human ankles, they need support and loose boots won't provide proper support. Advance riders know exactly what they need and want, and may customize their binding components; beginners or those who want to share boots, should consider adjustables.

Wakeboard terminology

Goofy foot: Riding the wakeboard with the right foot forward.

Regular foot: Riding the wakeboard with your left foot forward.

Glass: Smooth, calm water.

Washy wake: An extra turbulent wake.

Grab: Holding the wakeboard with your hand while riding.

Bone out: Straightening the legs fully while riding.

Flip: Spinning the wakeboard and rider end over end, like a gymnast going head over heels.

Roll: Spin the wakeboard and rider side over side; since the feet point perpendicular to the line of travel, this is also called toe-side over heel-side or heel-side over toe-side, depending on direction. Looks a bit like a cartwheel.

"You bailed": You fell off your wakeboard.

Butt check: Sloppy landing, where your backside drags along the water.

Case: Landing directly on top of the boat's wake.

Digger, faceplant, wipeout, stack: Bad fall.

Wakeboard extras

The rope

If you want to do tricks, you'll need a stiffer rope than water skiers use. Polyethylene wakeboard ropes have very little stretch, about 1 percent of length, while ropes made of spectra have less than 0.5 percent stretch. Wakeboard ropes generally run about 60 feet in length with handles about 14 inches wide, though other sizes are available. The longer grip makes it easier to pass the handle behind the back during tricks and some ropes have an additional braid or second handle to hang on to. Neoprene floats help you find your rope if it comes adrift.

Ballast tanks

If you want a bigger wake following your boat, you have two options: more speed or more weight. More speed may not be safe, but more weight is easy with a portable ballast tank. The bag is rated by the weight of water it holds, from less than 100 to nearly 1,000 pounds! A good pump should fill or empty the bag in four or five minutes. Some ballast bags include inflatable head or armrests - providing additional seating as well as weight.

Phoenix Roberts has been a journalist, freelance writer and desktop publisher for over 10 years. His work has appeared in local, regional and national publications and he's worked for numerous corporate, community and political clients. Presently, he is an SEO Content Writer for Internet discount retailer ( ).
(C)2008 Rights Reserved.


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