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Wakeboarding is a water sport in which the rider, standing on a wakeboard (a short board with foot bindings), is towed behind a motorboat across its wake and especially up off the crest for aerial maneuvers.[1] The rider is usually towed by a rope, but can also be towed by cable systems and winches, and other motorized vehicles like personal watercraft, cars, trucks, and all-terrain vehicles.[2]

Wakeboards are used for competition and pleasure, including freestyle wakeboarding, X-games, and at wakeboard parks. The gear and wakeboard boat used are personalized to each individuals liking. With diligent practice and training a rider will be skilled enough over time to start learning and performing tricks.



Wakeboarding was invented by surfers who were looking for an alternative to surfing when the waves were down and the water was calm. When the wakeboard was invented it was first called a "Skurfer" which was named by Tony Finn in 1985[3] because the board is a combination of a surfboard and a water ski. The first board made in the early 90's was introduced by the O’Brien company[4], which is a water ski manufacturer. The O’Brien company introduced the Hyperlite board that was the first “compression-molded neutral-buoyancy wakeboard”[5] This board made starting in deeper water easier and wakeboarders were able to turn the board more easily. The introduction of this Hyperlite board was a successful invention by the company that took off in the market and has continued to show success. A variety of boards have been made since then that are more curved and compacted creating a smoother ride.[5]

The wakeboard rope has advanced over the years with improvements in the material makeup. When wakeboarding first started, wakeboarders were using ski rope which was made with cloth or plastic rope that was stretchy.[6] Plastic ropes grew in popularity and soon the braided rope made out of polypropylene hit the market and was a big success. A few years later, a rope that was less stretchy was invented that gave the rider a more consistent pull on the rope. Although the ropes were less stretchy, they were heavier and larger in diameter. Currently the ropes are coated with Spectra and Dyneema which decreased the stretch and drag of the rope and was better improved.[6]


Wakeboarding - Box End Park September 2009

Buoyancy Aid/ Life VestEdit

Wakeboarders use life vests or other buoyancy aids to prevent water related injuries and deaths, as they will keep the wearer buoyant until they can be picked up. A rider should make sure the vest is secured properly before getting in the water. These buoyancy aids are important in emergency situations. These vests will help in a situation where the person was knocked out from a hard impact and couldn’t tread water.[7]


Wakeboarders use helmets when participating in competitive competitions and when practicing. The lightweight wakeboarding helmets are intended for wakeboarders specifically. They are not regular cycling helmets; they are water resistant and ventilated for water to flow out so they do not become filled with water. When wakeboarding, the boat is pulling the individual at high speeds while maneuvering around obstacles in the water and jumping off of ramps which could pose a risk. Even if the rider is practicing in a wakeboarding park or in competition a rider wears a helmet to protect themselves.[7]

Guy Robinson - Wakeboarding Method grab
Wakeboarding Jump (Unsplash)


One key to successful riding is having enough rope length. Two factors that play in to rope length are the shape of the wake and skill level. Matching the desired length to the boat wake can be difficult but can be crucial to riding. The rider can use the rope length to ensure they are landing on the downside of the second wake because if a rider were to land on the flat part of the wake, the individuals knees would buckle.[8]

A long rope gives the rider more time for the rider to start a trick far away from the wake. It gives the rider time to think, set up, and build momentum for the trick.[9] The rope will have a consistent pull from the boat to the rider so they can adjust the stance of the board before making contact with the wake. There are many befits of using a longer rope. One of the benefits is there is a slower movement going from side to side. The rider will have more room outside of the wake with less rope tension so the individual can practice edging. The slower, more natural momentum with allow the rider to focus on timing the jump and technique.[9]

A short rope is a shorter distance from the boat which gives the rider a short time period to think and will have to act fast when approaching the wake. The force is a lot stronger and will have to react faster to hit the wake. [9]There are many befits of using a short wakeboard rope. One benefit of a short rope is that it requires less speed and height to go from wake to wake, this allows the boat to go slower to create a bigger and wider wake. This is good for riders that want to try new tricks because it gives them more confidence at a slower speed. Short ropes are good for beginners that want to learn their first wake jump. [9] The rope length does depend on the riders preference, tricks that are being performed, and how experienced the rider is.

Getting Up On a WakeboardEdit

For someone who is just starting to learn how to wakeboard, learning how to "get up" is one of the most important first steps. The rider should position their feet tightly in their bindings, but comfortable enough to ride. If the bindings are too loose on the rider’s feet, they will not have proper balance or control of the board. The person towing the novice wakeboarder should accelerate at a rate so that the rider is able to get the board up while pushing the water. The driver should then continue at a constant speed to keep the rider up. Step three, the rider should float in the water with the flat side of the board towards the boat at a 90-degree angle to the surface of the water.[10] The rider should keep both their knees and arms relaxed while holding on to the tow rope. The rider’s knees should also be bent to push against the water. Step four, let the boat lift the rider up and not try to pull themselves up. The rider should stay in a crouched position with their arms extended straight in front of them.[10] Step five , the rider should pop out of the water with their best front forward or the foot that is most comfortable. The final step is to have the rider get a feel of the lake by moving side to side and going outside of the wake if the rider is comfortable with it.[10] This will help the rider experience cutting back and forth out of the wake. Once the rider is comfortable with riding, they can move on to tricks.  

Riding and TricksEdit

Toeside EdgeEdit

“A progressive edge is when you edge on your wakeboard and build up the amount of edge slowly, so that your maximum edge is when you reach the top of the wake.”[11] To perform this skill, the rider should cut out of the wake on the toeside as far as they can and wait for the boat to pull the rider back towards the wake. The rider should stand tall at this point and hold the handle tight to the front hip, slowly putting more pressure on the toes to increase the edge.[11] Keeping the rope tight to your hip is what creates the air the individual gets from hitting the wake.

Heelside EdgeEdit

Most tricks use a progressive edge so it is important to learn how to do it because it is the crucial component to getting height in a trick. This trick is similar to the progressive toeside edge. To perform this skill, the rider should cut out of the wake on the heelside of the board as far as they can and wait for the boat to pull the rider back towards the wake naturally.[12] The rider should begin to lean back and put pressure on the heelside. The rider should also focus on bringing the handle of the rope low and closer to the body.  As the rider approaches the wake, they should stand tall but still keep the handle low.[12] Keeping the rope tight to your hip and standing tall is what creates the air the individual gets from hitting the wake.

Learn To Ride switchEdit

The key to learning how to ride switch is distributing weight. If the rider has no experience riding switch, they can practice the motion on a trampoline or in front of the mirror using the non-dominant foot. After a couple falls, have the rider practice again for a couple minutes or until adjusted to it.[13] This is a good skill to do when the rider wants to learn a new skill or when the water is too rough to wakeboard. After comfortable riding switch, the rider should move on to more switch tricks. “What tricks you do first is up to you, but we recommend doing tricks that you are really comfortable with in your regular stance. Some easy things to try at first are switch ollies, butterslides, switch ollie 180s, switch wake jumps (with grabs of course), and half cab 180s (switch 180s).”[13]

Learning 180sEdit

Before learning how to do surface 180s, the rider should be able to learn how to ride switch and wake-to-wake jumps. Learning how to ride switch is important to learn in the long run because the rider will essentially be riding on their non-dominant foot forward and/or backwards. Learning how to do wake-to-wake jumps will also help in the long run because it gives the rider practice riding on the heelside and toeside of the board. Learning how to perform surface 180s, teaches the rider rope control. When first learning, it is best to learn right as the boat pulls the rider out of the water. A slower speed will help slide the board around easier, which then the rider can practice from going to regular to switch and so forth.[14]“The key to the surface 180 is to switch your weight from one foot to the other on your heels while bringing the handle from one hip to another to change which foot is forward.”[14]


  1. ^ "Definition of WAKEBOARD". Retrieved 2019-06-28.
  2. ^ "Wakeboarding the Sport". Retrieved 2019-06-28.
  3. ^ "TONY FINN | Inventor of wakeboarding". Unleashed Wake Mag. 2016-12-11. Retrieved 2019-07-31.
  4. ^ "O'Brien Wakeboards". O'Brien Watersports - Our World Is Water. Retrieved 2019-07-31.
  5. ^ a b "Wakeboard". Retrieved 2019-06-28.
  6. ^ a b "Adjusting your wakeboard rope is the best kept secret to crush your trick list". Humanoid Wakeboards. 2018-08-15. Retrieved 2019-06-20.
  7. ^ a b "What Essential Wakeboarding Gear Do I Need?". Mpora. Retrieved 2019-06-20.
  8. ^ "Wakeboard Boating Tips: Towing Speed, Rope length & Weighting". evo Culture, Community, Cause. 2013-05-15. Retrieved 2019-06-20.
  9. ^ a b c d "Adjusting your wakeboard rope is the best kept secret to crush your trick list". Humanoid Wakeboards. 2018-08-15. Retrieved 2019-06-20.
  10. ^ a b c "How to Get Up on a Wakeboard". Boating. Retrieved 2019-06-20.
  11. ^ a b "Learn The Progressive Toeside Edge - Wakeboarding News". Retrieved 2019-06-21.
  12. ^ a b "Learn the Progressive Heelside Edge - Wakeboarding News". Retrieved 2019-06-21.
  13. ^ a b "Learning To Ride Switch - Wakeboarding News". Retrieved 2019-06-21.
  14. ^ a b "Progressive Steps to Learn 180s - Wakeboarding News". Retrieved 2019-06-21.

External linksEdit