Beginner’s Guide to Wakeboarding
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  • Post last modified:October 7, 2020

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Wakeboarding Guidelines

Catching wakes behind a boat is by far the best alternative to surfing. The captain, boat, and wakeboarder are three of a kind, working together as one. Plunging into the water, surfing the tides, and looking toward the horizon, leaving behind the world for the waves.

You could be the next Cory Teunissen and land a Switch Toeside Wake to Wake 1080, or like Taylor McCullough, load the line, release the tension with maximum pop leaving the wake, and blissfully land a 360.

Wakeboarding is a popular watersport. Embrace that newfound adrenaline; it pulses through you, from the pull of the boat to the rush of the wake beneath your board. Getting up on the wakeboard takes balance, strength, and courage. Standing up and staying up takes practice and skill, but before you know it, you will be gliding from wake to wake.

In the 80s, surfers were pulled by a rope attached to small, fast boats during a lull in the tides or out of tremendous waves. This was known back then as skurfing. By 1985, Tony Finn invented the first wakeboard. Nowadays, the original design has evolved to fit wakingboarding’s needs for agility and power. Most wakeboards are made of fiberglass and graphite, and wakeboarders of moxie and grit. The boards are about five feet long and two feet wide, and feature bindings that hold the boarder’s feet in place.

Wakeboarding on platformTo start, surf online for an excellent rental board before you dish out too much cash. If you have experience in surfing waves, snowboarding, or skateboarding, you will be ahead of the game with athletic skills. You also should know if you are a regular rider (right foot back) or goofy-footed rider (left foot back). If this is your first board to ride, just think about the foot you naturally kick a soccer ball or football with; that kicking foot will be your back foot on the tail end of the board.

First-timers can rent something simpler and quickly adapt on a single-tipped wakeboard with squared-off edges, providing more stability during their ride. As beginners gain experience with airborne action, they can then upgrade to a twin-tipped wakeboard with rounded edges at both ends. This style of board provides better speed and ease to grab when landing jumps, controlling directional changes, and attempting more tricks.

Many people just need a few hours of commitment to stay vertical while a boat pulls them across the surface. But of course, to be an expert in any sport, you need to put in the work every day and throughout the seasons. There are thin and thick wetsuits you can wear depending on the season and the water’s temperature.

Many people just wear bathing suits, but you must make sure they fit well! Even if you are not laying out tricks and catching air, you’ll want a bathing suit that stays in place—girls, grab those boardshorts. A life jacket doesn’t hurt either for any washy wakes and wipeouts, to keep you safe and afloat.

Check out this video from international wakeboarder Guy Tanaka.

Next, grab two or three friends: someone to drive the best kind of towboat, a lookout, and another friend for some laughs, because you certainly need a sense of humor in between the diggers where you drop and slap the water face-first.

The Master-Craft X-7 or Moomba Outback are perfect boats for your day out on the lake or in the bay. Smaller boats designed for watersports, ranging from 18 to 25 feet in length, will be your go-to towboat for wakeboarding. If you can catch a ride on a boat with a mounted swim platform ,you’re in luck! This provides easy access to the water, and your friend who is driving the boat will be able to handle a smaller boat with more ease at 18 to 20 feet due to their lighter weight.

The lighter the boat, the less large waves they will create, which is best for beginners. Wakeboard boats are specifically designed V-drive boats, where the boat’s engine is located in the back of the boat and inside the hull to keep the weight in its rear, creating larger wakes than other boats. Fat sacks known as ballast bags add weight to your boat and sink it lower into the water, technically creating displacement (hello physics), but in our world, we just are hyped for the bigger wakes during our rides.

You might want to start somewhere with fewer waves, because the boat can make some waves for you. Also, start with a tighter rope length and a tow speed around 15-18 mph. As you get better, you can amp up to 21-23 mph and more lenient rope length. Riding with the right wakeboard rope length will guide you into new territories for tricks of the trade, and you will get the most out of the wake.

Don’t skip out on wearing a pair of gloves! Pick up a pair at O’Brien’s or O’Neill’s, along with that wetsuit and life jacket. Gloves will help you grip the rope, protect your hands, and leave your skin less sore.

To endure all the water’s flats, jibs, and bails, it’s best for riders to utilize tow ropes with modern handles and buoyant ropes. The Straight Line Apex Suede with Dyneema Wakeboard Rope at 65ft is the right place to start. With some tangible tension and a place for your gloved palms to grip the padded handle, you are ready to ride.

Although this article is about wakeboarding and water skiing, don’t forget about tubing.

Lastly, communicate with your friends in finding the right tow speed. Pull yourself up by the strength in your body, not the rope! Keep the handle low and look straight ahead. Gain confidence, progress safely, and become one with the water!


John Allen

With more than a decade of experience cruising the lakes in my Crestliner Grand Cayman pontoon boat and my Boston Whaler, I now want to share everything I've learned with my community here at Boating Hub.

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