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Learn All About Wakeboards

Wakeboarding is an established watersport that first gained popularity back in the mid 1990’s. Wakeboarding is a bit like snowboarding on the water and it produces a highly exhilarating new way of having some serious fun. Compared to other tow-based sports such as waterskiing, wakeboarding is relatively easy to learn and most beginners are able to get up on their board after a few runs in the presence of a good Instructor. With a bit of practise, many can do their first modest hops across the wake within just a few hours.


WAKEBOARD DESIGN

Wakeboard design has advanced considerably in recent years and boards are now built with a specific purpose in mind - either cable, boat, or both. When buying a wakeboard, the 2 main questions you need to ask yourself are where am I going to actually use the thing (behind a boat, at the cable park, or both) and what is my honest skill level. After that, a lot of the design considerations are taken care of by the manufacturers. For example, a beginner/intermediate board will be carefully designed to get you going and maximise your learning curve. It will therefore not have any of the advanced features found on higher end boards that improve performance but almost certainly hinder your progress while learning.

CABLE WAKEBOARDS

A Cable Wakeboard is designed to withstand the abuse of hitting all of the various types of obstacles found at cable parks, such as kickers and sliders. As a general rule, a Cable Wakeboard will have at least 1 set of removeable fins plus possibly 4 moulded fins, although some only have 2 moulded fins and some actually have no fins at all and a base that is completely flat and profileless. Cable wakeboards generally have what's known as a grind base (a sacrificial tough plastic coating designed to protect the fragile skin of the board from impacts and abrasion) and reinforced edges to minimise side-on impact damage from striking obstacles. A cable wakeboard often has wider tips and a flexible core to assist with pressing tricks and to cushion the rider from heavy impacts and hard landings. Basically, a cable wakeboard is a heavily reinforced and more flexible type of wakeboard that is designed to take as much abuse as possible while also helping to protect the rider.

BOAT WAKEBOARDS

A Boat Wakeboard needs none of the impact protection features of a cable board and is designed to perform a different variety of tricks. Boat boards often have profiling on the base and more emphasis on fins as these are not vulnerable to damage when being towed behind a boat. A Boat Wakeboard also has a stiffer core and more features to help it perform better on the smoother, softer wake profile created by a boat rather than the rock hard obstacles found at cable parks.

HYBRID / CROSSOVER WAKEBOARDS

A Hybrid Wakeboard combines many of the features of both cable and boat boards to create a board that is reasonably at home in either environment. However, a Hybrid Wakeboard by definition will always be something of a compromise. If you only ever ride at cable parks then get a cable board and if you always ride behind a boat then get a boat board. If you regularly do both then a hybrid board is worthy of consideration, the only alternative being to buy 2 seperate boards, one for each environment.

Within these 3 categories of wakeboard you then have boards designed for beginners, intermediates and advanced riders. Beginner boards are usually the slowest and most forgiving to ride whereas advanced board are normally the fastest and most responsive to ride. When deciding which skill category you fall into, be brutally honest with yourself.

WAKEBOARD SIZE

Wakeboards are measured in centimeters and vary in length from around 120cm to 150cm and in width from approx 38cm to 44cm. These dimensions are important when choosing your wakeboard as being on the wrong board will hinder your progress and potentially spoil your fun.

Deciding which sized wakeboard you need is surprisingly easy. It's all about simple physics and basic surface area to volume. In short, the heavier you are the more volume (board size) you need in order to stay on top of the water. If your board is too small for your weight then your tow vessel will need to travel at excessive speed in order to keep you on the plane, which is not desirable while you are learning. If your board is too big then it will feel like you are strapped to a door and it will hinder your progress. Here is a simple beginner's guide to help you calculate your optimal board size.

To reiterate, this guide is intended to help beginners choose the board that will be easiest to handle and which will help them progess. Seasoned riders often like to ride boards that are outside of these guidelines, which is purely down to personal preference and riding style. Until you are confident and experienced, we recommend sticking to the guidelines.

WAKEBOARD ROCKER

Rocker is the measure of how much a board curves from one end to the other (Wakeboards are all somewhat banana-shaped when viewed from the side). There are 3 main types of rocker, continuous, 3-stage, and progressive.

Continuous Rocker

Wakeboard Continuous Rocker

Continuous rocker wakeboards have a constant curve and tend to ride slightly lower in the water. They are stable and forgiving and provide soft landings. They are also proportionally slower in a straight line and are easy to carve and turn. These types of boards work well at the cable park.

3-Stage Rocker

3-stage rocker wakeboards have a flat centre section with two distinct bend points at either end. Wakeboards with a 3-stage rocker ride slightly higher in the water and are faster with a "looser" feel to them. They provide more "pop" off the wake but the tradeoff is that landings can be harder. These types of boards work well behind the boat.

Wakeboard 3-Stage Rcoker

Progressive / 5-Stage / Hybrid Rocker

Progressive rocker wakeboards (aka hybrid rocker or 5-stage rocker) feature the best of both continuous and 3-stage rockers. These types of boards work well behind the boat or at the cable park.

Wakeboard Progressive 5-Stage Hybrid Rocker

WAKEBOARD FINS

Fins provide forward stability and tracking and give the board "grip" on the water. Without fins a wakeboard will still travel in a reasonably straight line as it is longer than it is wide, but it will be able to rotate freely and very loosely on the surface of the water which requires skill to control.

In addition to straight line tracking, fins also enable a rider to load up the line and accelerate on the approach to the boat wake or an obstacle, and they then provide grip and stability on the landing.

Fins are either screwed through the board or moulded in (or both). The nearer the edge the fins are the more effect they have. The bigger and wider they are the more drag they create and therefore the more stability they provide. Beginner wakeboards therefore tend to have larger wider fins and advanced boards have smaller thinner fins.

WAKEBOARD HULL SHAPES

The shape of the underside of a wakeboard has a marked effect on how it handles out on the water (and on obstacles). This diagram explains the basics.

Wakeboard Hull Shapes Explained

WAKEBOARD EDGES

The edges of a wakeboard are either sharp or rounded. Sharp edges give the best performance but can result in more face plants for beginners as it is easier to "catching an edge", especially on landings or if "switching" (rotating the board through 180 degrees to change the leading leg).

Rounded edges are more forgiving so are much better suited to beginners. Cable wakeboards (and many hybrid boards) have ABS reinforcement in the enges to enable them to better withstand impacts against obstacles.

WAKEBOARD BINDINGS

Wakeboard bindings are designed to hold your feet firmly to your wakeboard and to support your ankles, but in such a way that they will release in the event of a hard tumble. Many Wakeboards come complete with bindings and these will be carefully matched to suit the board. Cheaper wakeboards will have more basic bindings and the more advanced boards will have proportionally superior bindings.

Wake Bindings are either open-toe or closed-toe. Open toe bindings (where the toes of the bindings are literally cut out and your toes are visible) are best suited to recreational beginner to intermediate riders as they offer slightly less rigidity than close toe boot type bindings. However, open-toe bindings are much more versatile as they are designed to fit a foot size range (e.g. UK 7-11) rather than just one size. This makes them perfect for shared / family setups (wakeboards that are likely to be used by more than one person). Closed toe bindings offer the best support and "feel" so are the best choice for intermediate to advanced riders that do not share their board.

Bindings tend to be either lace-up or velcro (or both). Laces give you a nice tight "locked-in" feel but are more difficult to do up when in deep water. Velcro bindings won't offer quite the same level of locked-in feel as lace-ups, but they are much easier to do up when you're in the water. The beginner boards at most watersports schools have velcro bindings for exactly this reason. It comes down to personal choice at the end of the day.



FREQUENTLY ASKED WAKEBOARDING QUESTIONS

What Is Wakeboarding?

Wakeboarding is an established watersport that first gained popularity back in the mid 1990’s. Wakeboarding is a combination of waterskiing and snowboarding and it blends key elements of these 2 sports to produce a great and highly exhilarating new way to have some serious fun on the water.

Compared to other tow-based sports such as waterskiing, wakeboarding is relatively easy to learn and most beginners are able to get up on their board after a few runs in the presence of a good Instructor. With a bit of practise, many can do their first modest hops across the wake within just a few hours.

Unlike wind-based sports such as kitesurfing that require little more than some appropriate equipment and a windy day, wakeboarding requires a bit more organisation and logistics such as a boat, a driver, and a spotter (someone sat in the boat facing backwards telling the driver of any hand signals you make or if you have fallen). Wakeboarding therefore requires a bit more ongoing cost than most wind-based watersports, the average rate for a 15 minute tow being between £20 and £30. However, don’t let this put you off as in our experience 15 minutes is usually plenty (wakeboarding gives you a pretty good workout) and a 15 minute session will usually leave you exhausted and grinning from ear to ear.

Cable parks are extremely popular these days and enable multiple wakeboarders to safely use the same stretch of water, usually a lake. The route that the cable takes is generally dotted with rails and sliders so that the more experienced riders can do tricks, but it when you are learning it is easy to follow the route round and avoid the obstacles. As well as looped cable systems, another popular format is the point-to-point cable system, also known as a System 2. This is a straight cable running from one gantry to another with obstacles littered along its route. An important point to note is that a looped cable system runs continually at one speed without any human intervention so if (when) you fall the handle will not wait for you and you will need to walk back to the start again. A system 2 is different in that an operator is "driving" the rope for you and can adjust the the speed according to your skill level and (most importantly) will bring it back to you if you fall.

Do I Need Wakeboarding Lessons?

In our opinion, having lessons with a trained professional coach is a really good idea as it will not only dramatically improve your learning curve but it will also teach you some of the not-so-obvious skills and etiquette that you will require, such as how to properly communicate with your driver, how to get your feet back into your bindings while treading water, what to avoid doing when in close proximity to the boat etc. Try to avoid the temptation of letting someone inexperienced take you out for the first time. This could be a slow way to learn and it may teach you bad habits that will hinder your progression. Just call your local Wakeboard Club instead - it really will will be money well spent.

A good instructor will spend a certain amount of time on land-based activities but will be keen to get you straight out on the water. Try not to panic though as this really is the best way to learn. In our experience most total beginners are able to get going within just a few attempts once they have been let in on a few trade secrets.

Interestingly, one of the most difficult things that novices find doing is holding a straight line and staying directly behind the boat. The power in the rope and your twisted posture often makes first-timers load their heels and drift quite quickly over to one side of the boat - and then get stuck there! Initial Wakeboard Instruction and early Wakeboarding Lessons therefore focus a lot on performing basic exercises and mastering the fundamentals of board control before even attempting to do anything impressive.

As with all watersports there is always an element of danger associated with wakeboarding, but by having professional lessons from the outset and by ensuring that you know some basic do’s and don’ts the risks reduce dramatically. One thing is for sure though. There aren’t many watersports that are as fun and exciting as wakeboarding.

Can I ride my Boat Wakeboard at a Cable Park?

You can, but it will almost certainly get damaged so we strongly advise against. Boat Wakeboards have none of the protective properties of Cable Wakeboards such as a Grind Base or ABS Rails.

I am between Wakeboard Sizes - which one shall I go for?

This comes down to personal preference. The bigger board will be more stable and the smaller board will be more lively. Personally, we'd tend to go for the bigger of the two boards if you're riding Cable and the smaller if you're riding behind the boat.

I am between Binding Sizes - which ones shall I go for?

We usually suggest going smaller as bindings will stretch a little with use. So, if you're a size 10 and the binding choices are 9-10 and 10-11 we suggest you go for the 9-10.

How Do You Start On A Wakeboard?

This depends on whether you are riding cable or boat. At the cable park you will be required to "Beach Start" from the water's edge, which basically involves holding the handle and then jumping onto the water when the line has built up enough tension to be able to pull you hard. Behind the boat is somewhat different as you will be sat in the water with the board at 90 degrees to the boat and it will benefit you if you are using a Wakeboard Tower too as this provides more of an upward pull rather than a horizontal one. Both require practise but are faily easy to master. 

Is It Hard To Wakeboard?

No, it is actually quite easy once you understand a few basics. Getting to the stage where you can perform tricks takes time but most people can comfortably get going and stay upright after just a few hours of practice.

What Speed Should You Pull A Wakeboarder?

We think the optimal speed for beginners is between 15-20 MPH and as you porgress we think 20-25 MPH will allow you to perform more tricks off the wake.

How Do You Control A Wakeboard?

In a nutshell, the skills required to control a Wakeboard are similar to those required to control a Snowboard in that weight distribution and body stance gives you the balance you need and leaning on the boards edges give you the ability to turn. Obviously there's a lot more to it than this but these are the fundamentals.

Do You Have To Be Strong To Wakeboard?

Wakeboarding is definitely an energetic activity and does require good arm, core and back strength. Unlike other water sports such as Windsurfing or Kite Surfing where a harness can be used to take the load off your arms, Wakeboarding with a harness would be extremely dangerous so it is down to you to hold onto the handle using just your grip strength.

Do I Need To Be Able To Swim To Go Wakeboarding?

Our answer to this is always YES, especially if Wakeboarding behind a boat. Remember that most Buoyancy Aids and Impact Vests are only provide 50N and are not life jackets so they will only assist you in deep water, not save your life.

Can You Wakeboard Behind A Jetski?

Definitely, and the simple rule is that the more powerful the Jetski the easier it will be to get a Wakeboarder out of the water. Jetskis are lighter than boats though so sometimes an agressive Wakeboarder can require the rider of the Jetski to work quite hard to stay in a stright line when out on the whip.

Can A Sea Doo Spark Pull A Wakeboard?

Yes it can, but the Spark is a relatively low powered Jetski and it is very light so bear both of these factors in mind (see answer above)

Is Wakeboarding Hard To Learn?

No, it is actually quite easy once you understand a few basics. Getting to the stage where you can perform tricks takes time but most people can comfortably get going and stay upright after just a few hours of practice.

What Is Easier - Water Skiing Or Wakeboarding?

Personally, we think that it is easier to learn the basics of Wakeboarding than Water Skiing. This is mainly down to the fact that learning to Waterski requires 2 skis, both of which can feel like they have a mind of their own when you are learning.

Is Wakeboarding A Dying Sport?

You only need to go to your local Cable Park at a weekend to see that the answer to this question is a resounding NO.

What Is The Difference Between Goofy And Regular Stance?

Goofy just means right foot forward and regular means left foot forward. Which is best for you is entirely down to personal choice. There are two good ways to work out which is your leading foot. The first is to stand with your feet together, eyes closed, and then get someone to give you a gentle shove from behind without warning. Which ever foot you move forward first to catch your fall will be your natural leading foot. Another even simpler test is the pants test! Whichever foot you lift first when putting on your underpants will be your natural leading foot. Funny, but true!

What Is Wake Ballast And Why Do I Need It?

Ballast is simply the term used for increasing the weight of a tow boat (normally at the stern) in order for it to generate a larger wake. If you are serious about your wakeboarding then ballast will enable you to get more air and perform better tricks. You won't get any benefit from ballasting a boat until you are comfortably and reliably landing wake to wake.

Why Is It Called Wakeboarding?

Because originally (prior to cable parks) you were basically riding a board on a boat's wake

Can You Wakeboard Without A Wakeboard Tower?

Yes, but all levels of Wakeboarder will benefit from using a Wakeboard Tower. For deep water starts the higher attachment point on a tower provides more of an upward pull rather than a horizontal one which gets you out of the water more easily. As you progress you will also benefit from the same upward pull to get more air and perform tricks.

How Do You Jump A Wake On A Wakeboard?

When Wakeboarding in the early days you soon learn that the act of crossing the boat's wake, even at modest speed and at a shallow angle, will often result in you leaving the surface of the water, whether you like it or not. The skill of course is learning to get enough speed / height to completely clear the V of the wake and land on the opposite side (known as wake to wake).

Is Wakeskating Harder Than Wakeboarding?

Yes, mainly because Wake Skates are smaller so require a bit more boat speed, and more crucially because they have no bindings! However, if you are a good skateboarder then you should pick it up relatively quickly (Wake Skates look like skateboards and many even have griptape decks too).

Is Wakeboarding Dangerous?

Wakeboarding, like all extreme sports, inherently involves an element of danger but wearing the right protective clothing (buoyancy aid, helmet, wetsuit etc) minimises the risk. From experience we find that we get more bumps and scrapes at the Cable Parks than we do when riding behind the boat but these are nearly always superficial.

Is Wakeboarding An Extreme Sport?

We would like to think so. It certainly feels extreme sometimes :-)

Is Wakeboarding A Good Workout?

Very much so, especially on the core, arms, shoulders and back. On the downside, it can be quite rough on the knees.

How Do You Progress Wakeboarding?

Simply put the hours in on the water and get regular tuition.

What Is The Difference Between A Wakeboard Rope And A Waterski Rope?

Everything! Unlike water skiing, wakeboarding requires a wide handle (normally 15in wide) and a rope with minimum stretch in order to "load the line" and perform tricks and get the maximum amount of air. Waterskiiers are generally doing everything they can to remain in contact with the water, whereas experienced wakeboarders are normally doing the complete opposite. For this reason, specific wakeboarding ropes and handles have been developed that service the specific needs of the wakeboarder. OK, you could wakeboard with a water ski rope but it would be like hiking in running shoes. Sure, it can be done but you can't beat a proper pair of hiking boots.

How Do I Know What Wakeboard Boots To Get?

This is a subject in its own right so please visit our dedicated advice page on wakeboard bindings by clicking the link below: -

https://www.actionsportsinternational.com/wakeboard-bindings-boots-buying-advice-advice-centre-buying-guides-product-guidance-user-guides

Can I Wakeboard If I Am Pregnant?

No, wakeboarding can sometimes result in sudden and often harsh wipeouts!

Can I Wakeboard Wearing Jewellery?

We don't recommend this at all as jewellery could easily get damaged or could become entagled in equipment and cause injury. If in doubt, just ask the person who lost his Rolex watch at the bottom of our local lake!

What Equipment Do I Need To Go Wakeboarding?

Whether you are riding cable or boat, you will need these: -

1. Wakeboard with Bindings

2. Helmet (recommended for boat, required for cable)

3. Buoyancy Aid / Impact Vest

4. For wakeboarding behind a boat you will need a tow rope, and a boat with driver!

5. Towel and dry clothes

How Long Are Cable Park Session Times?

These vary from park to park so please check your local lake for more details

Do You Need To Be Experienced To Hit The Features At A Cable Park?

Cable Park Features (AKA Obstacles) vary significantly so the answer to this question is not clean cut. A modest kicker (simple ramp for getting air) can be attempted fairly early on in your wakeboarding career but some of the more complex sliders and rails will require a lot more experience.

How Old Do You Need To Be To Go Wakeboarding?

We've seen 5 year olds Wakeboarding out on the sea (albeit slowly and with a huge amount of supervision) but cable parks will all have their own rules so definitely check first. A confident child that can swim should be able to wakeboard safely.

Do I Need To Have My Own Wakeboard At A Cable Park?

No, you can hire when you get there, but having your own gear is preferrable. Be warned that rental equipment gets a real battering over the season so may not be in particularly good condition. However, all parks check their equipment regulaly for safety so don't be too put off by the appearance. Safety comes first.

Can Wakeboarding Beginners Use A Cable Park?

Yes, we all have to start somewhere and Cable Parks are an excellent place to learn. Avoid the obstacles though and make sure you have lessons first.

What Happens If You Fall Off At The Cable Park?

If you're riding a Sytsem 2.0 then the operator can bring the handle back to you so that you can get going again, but at the larger looped systems the handle will carry on without you and leave you bobbing about in the water. It's not a problem though, you just need to free yourself from your board, swim to the side and walk back to the launch pad again (AKA the walk of shame). Some manufacturers have realised that this is a common event so have started making bindings with removable inners (AKA Walk Liners) so that you still have something on your feet during the walk back.

It Is Compulsory To Wear A Helmet At A Cable Park?

Yes, and you will not be able to ride without wearing one. Either buy your own helmet (prefferable) or hire at the park.

Can I Wear My Spectacles While Wakeboarding At A Cable Park?

No, you will amost certainly lose them during your first wipeout.

Do I Need To Wear A Buoyancy Aid While Wakeboarding?

Definitely, not just to aid your floatation but also for your protection. For more info on buoynacy aids and impact vests follow the link below: -

https://www.actionsportsinternational.com/life-jacket-buoyancy-aid-buying-advice-advice-centre-buying-guides-product-guidance-user-guides

What Is The Difference Between A Wake Vest And A Buoyancy Aid?

Quite a lot to be honest. For more info follow this link: -

https://www.actionsportsinternational.com/life-jacket-buoyancy-aid-buying-advice-advice-centre-buying-guides-product-guidance-user-guides

What Is A System 2.0 Cable Park?

A System 2.0 is basically a cable system that travels in a straight line and back again. An operator controls the position of the handle and the speed of travel. Great for beginners.

What Muscles Does Wakeboarding Work?

Wakeboarding primarily works the arms, shoulders, core and back.

What Does It Mean To 'Pop Off' The Wake?

Pop is the term for using the wake as a ramp and travelling up it at speed to the point where you leave the surface of the water.

Why Do Wakeboards Have Fins?

Fins are there to assist with straight line tracking, turning, and landing.

What Is The Difference Between Cable And Boat Wakeboarding?

A lot. See the info a the top of this page for more details

Is Wakeboarding Safe?

Yes, as long as you wear suitable apparel (vest, helmet, wetsuit etc), follow the rules of your cable park, and use your common sense.

How do I fit my bindings to my board?

This video from O'Brien should explain all.