Wakeboarding is one of the coolest water sports out there. It's a fairly niche sport to get into. In this guide we're going to explain what wakeboarding is and how you can get out there on a board as soon as possible!
What is Wakeboarding?
Wakeboarding is essentially a mash up of a few different sports - surfing, water skiing and snowboarding. Whilst wakeboarding the rider is attached to one board, unlike two thin skiis in water skiing.
It's very similar to a snowboarder grabbing a rope attached to a speed boat and being dragged across the waters surface at high speed. There is a few differences for example the technique used and the board shape.
Many people think the speed boat directly pulls the rider along the waters surface however this is not true. The boat generates a wave and the rider actually rides the wave like a surfer would once they have been pulled up to speed.
Without any experience on a wakeboard is can be scary for a first timer - you can reach speeds of up to 30mph. However i'm sure with the right teachings and taking the proper time to learn the basics anyone can have a great time whilst wakeboarding.
Why is it called 'wakeboarding'?
Wakeboarding is a relatively new development in the world of water sports. It was discovered by a surfer called Tony Finn, who was apparently tired of surfing against calm waves and rarely catching any big ones. Since it's discovery in 1985 over 3 million Americans now participate in wakeboarding every year - and it's still growing fast!
When you are out surfing you will often hear the term 'wake surfing' which relates to catching the wave at a perfect time and being propelled forward by the power of the wave.
The speed boat which pulls the rider creates it's own wake. If you look at a speed boat flying through the water you can see the waves and ripples it is creating at high speed.
A wave is a wave... If you can surf it near the shore, you can definitely surf one being generate by a speed boat.
Wakeboarding Equipment List - So what do I need to start?
If you really want to get started in the world of wakeboarding then you'l either have to get yourself some gear or head to a local wakeboarding / water sports rental shop and hire some gear for the day.
Here are the essential things you'll need to get started with wakeboarding:
A boat - The first thing that comes to mind is a boat. Whilst obvious, it can be the biggest barrier to entry for most people due to the financial investment. The type of boat you're using for wakeboarding will make a big difference as you want it to be set up for attaching the rope to, and it has to create a good sized wake for you to ride.
If you aren't prepared to make the financial investment into a boat then there is likely to be places you can rent one next to any popular lakes in summer.
A Board - Boards are the next main piece of equipment for wakeboarding. Beginners should start of with a double ended board which usually have fins. These boards have a higher stability and will be easier for a beginner to manoeuvre. Ronix Vault and Slingshot both produce great beginner boards.
Bindings - Bindings for wakeboarding are similar to bindings in snowboarding. they are essentially the thing that pins your feet to the board. For beginners velcro bindings are a great choice as they are highly adjustable and easy to take on and off. Bindings with a solid high back are usually used more by experienced riders as they are easier to carry out wakeboarding tricks in.
Rope - Ropes can vary from rider to rider and it all comes down to what you like and your experience level. Shorter non stretch ropes are usually used by beginner riders as you will have more control which is great whilst you are learning the basic techniques.
Longer ropes with a little stretch are favoured by more experienced wake boarders as they give you more freedom and allow you to move around more in the water. You can also carry out more tricks whilst wakeboarding with a longer rope.
Wetsuit - Whilst it's common to see many people wakeboarding in nothing but their board shorts or just a rash guard. Depending on the season you might have to opt for wearing a wetsuit. Staying warm will allow you to wake board for longer periods of time and avoid muscle injuries. For the women reading, we wrote a comprehensive guide on the best wetsuits for women.
Personal Flotation Device / Buoyancy Aid: It's the last thing that most people want to wear. Yes wakeboarding in general looks badass, does slipping on a PDF ruin your look? In most people's opinions, yes.
But don't risk your life when there is no need to. Where a PDF to stay safe in the water. Whilst wake boarding you will be travelling at very high speeds. Hitting water at speed is like hitting a concrete wall. You can easily be knocked out and suffer terrible injuries.
Do I have to be physically fit to wakeboard?
Whilst I wouldn't say you need to have the stamina equivalent of someone who is about to cycle 50 miles or run a marathon to be a good wakeboarder, there is some basic physical requirements needed.
If you are out of shape and overweight you will find it difficult to balance adequately on the board and will likely spend 90% of your time falling in the water.
You also need decent core strength to wakeboard. I'm not saying you need to develop it straight away as it will get stronger and stronger the more you practice as a beginner. But a good core strength will make standing in an upright position and balancing on the board much easier. It will also give you the strength required to quickly shift your weight and ride the wake.
Your upper body will also get a great work out wakeboarding, you have to firmly grip onto the tow handle and stabilise your body. After a few hours your shoulders, arms and upper back are going to start to burn! If you are not that strong it shouldn't stop you learning. You will develop the majority of the strength you need from practicing.
So now the fun begins...
Let's get into what to expect...
One of the best tips we can offer a beginner is to stay calm and relaxed. If you tense up every muscle in your body you are just going to hit the deck over and over again. You want to be relaxed, light on your feet and nimble whilst cutting through the wake.
There is a high degree of flexibility and balance required but don't think you need it straight away. Everyone starts from zero and i can guarantee no one became a pro after their first outing. With persistent practice you'll become a great wakeboarder in no time.
Before you begin getting towed around you start with the cable in your hands and your arms stretched out as far as possible. You squat down so your knees are near your chest and start to get pulled slowly.
Wakeboarding is relatively simple, as the speed increases you confidently stand up and before you know it your knees are locked out and you're stood upright! Usually for beginners this ends in a face full of water! but that doesn't matter, you get back up and go again. It's part of the fun.
Once you are up on the board you must keep your arms fully stretched out and knees slightly bent (this helps to maintain your balance). If you slightly angle your body the board will follow your angle and before you know it... you're cruising along the wake of the boat! Awesome.
It definitely takes time to get use to being pulled along by the boat and then releasing the slack in the tow line and allowing the wake to push you along.
Don't let crashing put you off trying again and again, it takes time to develop the right technique and balance. Just like any other sport really.
Once you've mastered the basics you can start playing around with tricks like flipping 360 degrees and doing an ollie!
Overall wakeboarding is an adrenaline packed, fun and interesting sport to learn ad master. If you are after a new water sport then this could definitely become a great one for you.
And with the increase in wakeboarding demand across the world, rentals and product prices are on the decline so there is no better time to start.
We truly hope this article has helped answer the question 'what is wakeboarding?'. And that you become another raving fan of the awesome sport.
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