If you’re thinking of getting into wakeboarding then you’re not alone. Over the last decade it has become one of the fastest growing extreme sports in the world with wakeparks and cable parks popping up all over the world. However, there are a couple of different wakeboarding types and variables that you might want to check out before you start.
On top of wakeboarding, wakesurfing and wakeskating you have to factor in the difference between towed and cable riding, which creates subtle differences in riding style.
Here’s our quick guide to the different wakeboarding types, plus points and drawbacks of each. Hopefully, this will help you to decide which one of these disciplines is for you.
We have to start with wakeboarding because of the three types of board riding, this was the first to really gain notoriety and wider attention. As we’ve already mentioned, it’s a combination of waterskiing, surfing and snowboarding skills. In a way, just like snowboarding was a logical progression from skiing, so wakeboarding followed from waterskiing.
Said to have originated in Australia and New Zealand and have been created by snowboarders during the summer season, the sport really took off in the late 80s. It was originally called skurfing, but thankfully that name never really took off
Riders are towed behind a boat (although sometimes it’s a cable – see below) at typical speeds of around 18 to 25 miles an hour. Depending on the size and style of the board, riders can attempt tricks and jumps by lifting off from the wake created by the boat. For that reason, the type of boat used is very important to all three styles, with specialist wake boats often being preferred.
Riders are attached to the board with bindings and the curved shape of the board, known as the ‘rocker’, aids the movement over the water. There are a number of different rocker types but it’s really down to personal preference which one you ride.
With a similar design of board to wakeboarding, this variant differs in one key area. Namely, that the rider is not attached to the board in any way – much like riding a skateboard and hence the name.
The top surface of the board is covered with grip tape or high traction foam to allow some hold and riders will usually wear shoes for extra grip while riding. Speeds are slightly slower than conventional wakeboarding.
If you think about it, it’s not really surprising that wakesurfing actually predates wakeboarding. It’s not a huge leap of imagination for surfers who saw water-skiers in action to want to give it a try on their boards. The rider uses a tow rope behind a boat to get up on the board before dropping the tow and riding the wake of the boat like a conventional wave.
The boards used are smaller than a regular surfboard, around five feet or shorter. Although waksurfing has its roots back in the late 70s, it has really been a minority discipline until relatively recently when interest in the sport has renewed.
Towed or cable
Wakeboarding and wakeskating (but not wakesurfing for obvious reasons) can be practised either being towed by a boat or on a closed-course cable system. Many of the wakeparks opening around Europe and the world operate the cable system purely because once it has been constructed, it can run and run.
Of course, in a cable park you don’t have the choppy waters of a wake meaning that tricks and jumps are limited to when obstacles are placed in the water. Cable systems are great for learning the ropes but many serious riders prefer the freedom and natural wake only created by a boat. Then again, with a wakeboat setting you back anything from about $40,000 upwards, a cable system is definitely easier on your bank balance.
What the variety of different wakeboarding types does show us is the amount of ingenuity and freedom available in the world of extreme sports. Disciplines are constantly evolving and developing, following the familiar route from pioneer, to early adopter to mainstream acceptance.
There are always people out there willing to try something new and create an entirely new way to have fun on the snow, water or in the air. And that’s why we recommend you give all of the different wakeboarding types a try.