The best way to get into wakeboarding is to head to your local wakeboarding centre or cable park and give it a go. It’s the easiest way to learn the ropes without having to shell out for all your own gear. But assuming that you get hooked (we’re sure you will) then you’ll be wanting your own kit. So we put together this guide to wakeboard gear for beginners.
We say wakeboard gear for beginners because like most sports, the more experience and technique you build up, the more specialised equipment you will need. As a beginner, however, the basics will suffice until you’re ready to move up. So, with that in mind, here’s a run down of some of the kit that you’ll need.
The first thing to think about is the size of the board. This will depend on your height, weight and ability. If you’re unsure then go to a shop and ask to be measured up. The type of board you choose also depends on what kind of riding you’ll be doing. While you might not be riding too many rails to begin with, if you want to progress to obstacles then you’ll need a board with very shallow moulded or removable fins. If you’re just planning on cruising wake, then fins are essential as a beginner.
Boards are available relatively cheap online, especially on auction sites like eBay. Wakeboarding is a relatively new sport and board design has taken off in recent years, so its possible to find great deals from suppliers trying to offload old gear. As a beginner, last years board or even a board from a few years ago will be fine, the advantages of newer gear become more apparent the better you get.
The other key piece of kit is the bindings – the parts that attach you to the board. Generally made of a heavy foam, bindings need to be snug but not too tight. These days many bindings look a bit like snowboard boots coming half way up the calf, although often with open toes.
Bindings normally have laces of Velcro straps that allow you to tighten the boot. The key advice is really to try before you buy, which goes for the board too. Most shops will let you demo a board with bindings first for a fee, which they can then include in the price if you make a purchase.
Unless you’re lucky enough to be wakeboarding in sunnier climes, you’re going to need a wetsuit if you’re in the water for a while. The colder the water, the thicker the suit and more covering (full arms and legs) you need. Basic wetsuit logic really. But remember that most boarders still wear shorts over their suits – there’s no real reason here, it’s just the style.
The bottom line is, you’re going down. A lot. And sometimes it’s going to hurt. But that’s the only way to learn. So, to protect yourself, you need a buoyancy aid to keep you afloat if you’re knocked out or struggling. Beginners might want to consider an impact vest, which will absorb some of the hit and protect your torso.
OK so most wakeboarders don’t wear a helmet, but then neither did snowboarders of skiers until a few years ago and when I grew up you only wore a cycle helmet if you were BMX racing. If you choose to be safe and helmet up, don’t be tempted to use your snowboarding or skating helmet for wakeboarding as they’re made from a different foam so are not the same.
That’s about it in terms of wakeboard gear for beginners. As you get better you will probably upgrade and if you’re doing extremely well for yourself, then you might even want to invest in a wake boat. And if you do, can we be friends?