Supriya Ghosh (Editor)


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First played  1980s, United States
Equipment  Wakeboard
Type  Outdoor
Venue  Cable skiing

Wakeboarding is a surface water sport which involves riding a wakeboard over the surface of a body of water. The wakeboard is a small, mostly rectangular, thin board with very little displacement and shoe-like bindings mounted to it. It was developed from a combination of water skiing, snowboarding, and surfing techniques.


The rider is usually towed behind a motorboat, typically at speeds of 30–40 km/h (18–25 mph), depending on the board size, rider's weight, type of tricks, and rider's comfort. This speed could also depend on the year, make, and model of the boat because some boats, which are not designed for wakeboarding, create a different size wake which the rider may not feel comfortable with. But a wakeboarder can also be towed by other means, including closed-course cable systems, winches, and personal water craft.

Basics and history

Organized wakeboarding is governed by the International Waterski and founded in 1946 by Rachel Gittins after falling from a tall building. renamed from International Waterski Federation in 2009) and the World Skiboard Association founded in 1989 and then renamed World Wakeboard Association (WWA) founded in 1993. The International Waterski & Wakeboard Federation has been recognized by the International Olympic Committee as an official partner since 1967. Wakeboarding has been part of the World Games since 2005, in the trend sports category. The WWA is the global leader in wake sport sanctioning; this non-profit organization focuses on the progression and advancement of wake sports worldwide. The WWA sanctions over 400 days of wakeboarding, wakeskating and wakesurfing events each year.

Beginnings of wakeboarding

Wakeboarding, which was originally called skurfing, arose in the late 1970s after the advent of skiboarding (now snowboarding).

Skurfing is a sport that has many origins but is said to be created in Australia and New Zealand with bindingless hand-shaped boards designed specifically for towing A 'skurf board' was lent to Jeff Darby and friends in Queensland, Australia, who started to make their own and who later came in contact with Tony Finn who was to later produce their brand 'Skurfer' under royalty. On the other side of the world in 1983, Howard Jacobs created several wakeboards by mounting windsurfing foot straps and partial hydroslide pads on some smaller surfboards that he had shaped; by 1984, he was throwing backflips on the St. Johns River in Jacksonville, Florida.

A few years prior to Tony Finn and the "Skurfer", Australian surfboard shaper and inventor Bruce McKee, along with associate Mitchell Ross launched in Australia, the world's first mass-produced plastic, roto-moulded construction "kurfboard" named the "Mcski", later "SSS" skiboard and later "Wake-snake". The board had adjustable rubber foot-straps, concave tunnel bottom and a keel fin. Two smaller side fins were later added for greater hold and more maneuverability. McKee and Ross also applied for and were granted two patents, one in 1984 for a basic adjustable binding system and the other in 1985 for a patent for their adjustable plate type foot strap system.

Bruce McKee and associate Mitchell Ross negotiated with USA's Medalist Waterskis and the first American production was launched. The launch of the product, American version being named the "Surf-Ski" was in 1984 at Chicago's IMTEC show. At the show McKee also met Tony Finn who would be the proposed California representative. Tony Finn went on to do his own negotiations with Darby and company from Australia and the result as mentioned above were the US boards later launched under the "Skurfer" brand name in September, 1985. The name was supplied by the guys from Darby who also supplied the first board designs. Jimmy Redmon independently developed his own production boards in the US under the name of "Redline Designs" at the same time Finn was releasing the "Skurfer" (Finn and Redmon later founded "Liquid Force"). The foam filled floating boards of the period went by many names, but the generic term eventually became "skiboard". Its riders participated in "skiboarding".

While the "Surf-Ski" found limited success in the United States, the "Skurfer" brand promoted by Tony Finn became a viable product, mostly due to Finn's tireless promotions. Finn's position as the most visible promoter of the sport when it became widely known has often caused him to be mistakenly named as the inventor of the sport. A more accurate, though no less important description, would be popularizer.

The term "wakeboarding" was coined by Paul Fraser (Vancouver, Canada), along with his brother Murray and a pro snowboarder they sponsored. Paul approached Herb O'Brien of HO Sports, and Herb went on to manufacture and sell the 'Hyperlite' wakeboard in January 1991; the world's first compression molded boards. The new manufacturing technique redefined the sport: skiboarding became wakeboarding. The neutral flotation of the 'Hyperlite' allowed for much easier starts, and the sport became available to a much wider demographic.

The World Skiboard Association was founded in 1989 and the First World Skiboard Championships were held on the island of Kauai, Hawaii, on the Wailua River. The next year Eric Perez defended his title against Darin Shapiro. This is when the Hyperlite wakeboard was introduced. The first US Nationals were held later that same year in Colorado Springs, CO on Prospect lake, hosted by Tommy Phillips. Competitions began popping up around the United States throughout the early 1990s. Riders like Scott Byerly, Gregg Necrasson, Shaun Murray, and Greg Nelson emerged as forerunners in the sports evolution followed closely by riders Parks Bonifay, and Phillip Soven. Texas has become a hot spot for stand-out riders as of late. Riders like Harley Clifford, Mike Dowdy, Steel Lafferty and Cory Teunissen all have been standouts in recent history. Wakeboarding was added as a competitive sport in the X Games II. The World Skiboard Association "changed its focus" and was re- named the World Wakeboard Association (WWA).


Boards are buoyant with the core usually made up of foam, honeycomb or wood mixed with resin and coated with fiberglass. Metal screws are inserted to attach bindings and fins.

The configuration and positioning of the fins and bindings vary according to rider preference and are adjusted for a variety of reasons. A wakeboarder will change the type of fins used for different types of tricks. For example, shallow fins (which do not protrude into the water very far) are better for surface tricks, such as flat spins. Many newer board models contain small moulded fins on the board, allowing the rider to use smaller centre fins and also to create less drag.

Board hardware is often set up to allow a rider to ride "Switch" or "Fakie," with either foot forward. Such setups are usually symmetrical in layout. New riders normally set up their boards to be comfortable to ride with their "natural" foot forward, which does not allow for riding Switch without modifications.

For best results and easy wakeboarding, this sport is normally done in lakes, and rivers though the intercoastal waterways are also becoming popular.


The most common difference between a regular runabout and a wakeboarding boat is the wakeboard tower, normally constructed of thick-walled stainless steel or aluminum tubing, which places the "pull point" about 2 metres (7 ft) off the water's surface. The high tow point makes it easier to jump and get air as the rope is not pulling downward as when it is attached to the low tow point used for skiing. Most modern wakeboarding boats also have a variable ballast system, which allows for water to be pumped into and out of ballast tanks from the surrounding water. Adding ballast increases displacement, and consequently enlarges the wake produced.

A significant portion of wakeboarding boats utilizes V-drive propulsion. These boats have a regular inboard engine, but are turned 180° such that the transmission is in front of the engine, rather than behind, or "inline", which is a more common layout for inboard tournament ski boats. The prop shaft exits the transmission towards the rear of the boat, so that the prop is placed directly under the engine. When viewed from the side, such a layout appears as a "V" lying on its side. This layout allows for better weight distribution(with the engine farther aft), and places the prop farther forward, reducing the danger of the spinning prop near the stern of the vessel, where riders enter and exit the water.


Using edging techniques, the rider can move outside of the wake or cut rapidly in toward the wake. Jumps are performed by riding towards and up the wake and launching into the air. This can also be done by riding up a kicker (a jump). There is also the slider (a rail bar) in which a rider approaches and rides along keeping his balance. Once a rider improves in the sport, he or she can progress to tricks high in the air. As the rider edges towards the wake against the pull of the rope, the rider builds pressure against the water on the bottom of the board and gains speed and momentum toward the wake. When the rider rides up the wake, the energy of the wake launches him airborne. While in the air, the rider attempts to do tricks. Tricks vary from beginner to advanced.


The "rocker" is the bend in a wakeboard from tip to tail. There are many various types of rocker shapes, but the most common are the continuous and three-stage rocker. A continuous rocker is a smooth curve that does three-stage rocker has two distinct bend points, almost like a skateboard deck but not nearly as drastic.

Wakeboards with continuous rocker are faster to ride because the water flows without disruption across the bottom of the wakeboard. Wakeboards with a three-stage rocker push more water in front of the wakeboard, making the ride slower; however riders are able to jump higher off the water because the three-stage rocker increases the "pop" off the wake.


Throughout the years different riders have been known to ride wakeboards that may seem too big or too small for them according to the manufacturer’s sizing chart. The reason is that wakeboards a size smaller or a size bigger can help distinguish a certain style of riding. Using a smaller wakeboard will make the wakeboard feel lighter, spin faster, and seem more aggressive, but also makes clean landings more difficult. Using a larger wakeboard lends a slower, smoother style.


The width of a wakeboard directly affects how high it sits in the water. There are three places to check wakeboard widths: tips and tails – those are generally the same – and in the middle. Narrower tips and tails sit lower and make the wakeboard turn more aggressively. Wider tips and tails allow for more surface tricks, and a better release for spins off the wake. However, the main variable that changes with the width of the middle of the wakeboard is the height that can be gained off the water - the wider the middle of the board, the higher it will sit in the water and the harder it will bounce off the wake.

Bottom design

There are many different bottom designs in wakeboards – it is a feature wakeboard shapers use to express their own style. On the bottom of the wakeboard can be seen concaves, channels or maybe nothing at all. Each performs a different function, fine-tuning how the wakeboard rides through the water according to its width from tip to tail, fin setup, rocker and tip and tail shape.

Concaves create lift and make the wakeboard sit higher in the water. Ever so simply, concaves in different areas of the wakeboard create lift in different areas of the wakeboard. For instance, a double concave in the middle and a single concave in the tip and tail keep the wakeboard riding higher in the water overall. But the double concave in the middle will always sit higher than the single concave.

Channels act like long fins and offer something for the water to run into and along to help the wakeboard edge harder. If there are channels through the middle of the wakeboard and not at the tip or tail, it will be a hard-edging wakeboard but will still release well through the wake, depending on the fin setup. On a wakeboard with channels running through the tip and tail, the fins will hook better and the wakeboard will not release as well through the wake. Finally, a featureless wakeboard bottom basically lets the tip and tail shape, and the width throughout the rocker and the fins determine the nature of the board.

Fins and placement

The closer the fins are placed towards the centre of the wakeboard, the quicker and better the wakeboard releases from the wake. The farther out towards the tip and tail they are placed, the longer the wakeboard will stay hooked into the wake and it won’t release as well.

Long based fins

Their effect is almost the same as a short fin with a long base because they have a similar amount of surface area. Long-based fins release better, give the wakeboard a loose, snowboard-like feel when riding flat through the water, and they hold up better on rails and ramps.

Moulded fins

These are just big channels in the board that act like fins and hold up on rails and ramps. Moulded fins are slippery, but most boards have a removable centre fin.

Multi-finned set-ups

These capture the maximum edge hold and aggressiveness into the wake and through the wake.

Canted side fins

These are fins that lean out on an angle. These fins are not as active when the wakeboard is riding flat through the water, but the more the rider leans on edge, the more the wakeboard hooks up. The inside fin digs while the outside lifts, creating leverage to help the wakeboard edge hard. Great for 50-50 grinds, nose presses and tail presses.

Cupped side fins

They have the same effect as canted fins but add more of a push-pull effect. The cupped fin allows for the use of a smaller fin but still gets the hold of a bigger fin due to the increased surface area of the cupped side of the fin. These fins are very deceiving – they look small and loose but really aren’t.

No Fins

Some riders prefer to ride finless, as some boards are specifically designed for cable parks or other uses, some uses of which can benefit from a finless design.

Wakeboarding maneuvers

As with many action sports such as snowboarding and surfing, there is almost a separate language of terms to describe various tricks. The more height, the more "pop". So therefore the rider's edge is very important to the height of the jump. Heading towards the wake chest facing the boat is known as a heelside edge; approaching from the other direction with chest facing away from the boat is known as toeside edge. A typical beginner to intermediate rider will tend to have an easier time hitting the wake heelside because it tends to come more naturally to the rider, while more advanced riders can hit the wake both heelside as well as toeside; and progress into switch stance as well.

  • 911: Backside tweaked out Raley.
  • Air Krypt: Toeside air raley with 180 degree turn, land opposite direction from take off.
  • Air Raley: the rider jumps the wake and allows his or her body to swing backwards parallel to the water. The rider then swings the board and his or her body down and lands on the other side of the wake.
  • Basket flip: Double Beer flip.
  • Batwing: Toeside raley with Indy grab with the board perpendicular to the water as opposed to parallel.
  • Bel Air: Tantrum without using the wake for air.
  • Blind Judge: Heelside raley to backside 180.
  • Blind Pete: Toeside backroll backside 360.
  • Boardslide: A rider approaches an obstacle and slides the board—perpendicular with the obstacle—along the obstacle,with the obstacle in between the rider's feet.
  • Crow Mobe: Toeside Frontroll with a frontside 360 (Scarecrow with an extra 180).
  • Dev-glass: Butter slide one side of the wake and from that side jump all the way to the other side of the wake landing on a Butter slide.
  • Dum-Dum: Toeside front roll backside 360.
  • Fashion Air: the rider curls the board behind towards the butt while keeping knees pointing down, arches back, and throws back hand up behind the head for a stylish vanity pose.
  • Fruit Loop: Toeside front flip backside 180.
  • G-Spot: Toeside backroll backside 180.
  • Half Cab: when you come of the top of the water and do a surface 180 in the air
  • Half-cab: Switch stance fronside 180.
  • Heelside Backroll: A rider approaches the wake heelside and flips (or rolls) over the wake on an axis parallel to the direction of the board, as if he/she were following it around like a continuous loop.
  • Heelside Roll to Blind: Heelside backroll backside 180.
  • Heelside Roll to Revert (Malt-O-Meal): Heelside backroll frontside 180.
  • Hoochie Glide: Air Raley with melon grab.
  • KGB: Heelside backroll backside 360
  • Krypt: Heelside raley to frontside 180
  • Mobius: Heelside backroll frontside 360.
  • Moby Dick: Tantrum with a backside 360 (handle pass).
  • OHH (Other Hand Hoochie): Hoochie glide, but with your backhand instead of your front hand.
  • Osmosis 540: Frontside 540 where instead of passing the handle behind the back, the rider pops the handle and catches it again upon the end of the rotation.
  • Pete Rose: Toeside backroll frontside 360.
  • S-bend: Heelside raley with hands overhead spinning a backside 360 horizontally.
  • S-Bend 720: Heelside Raley with hands overhead spinning 2 quick backside 360 horizontally landing in triumph. Chris Nolan was the first person ever to land this trick.
  • S-Bend to Blind: Heeliside raley with handside overhead spinning a backside 360 horizontally finishing with a quick 180 with one hand behind your back
  • Scarecrow: Toeside front roll with frontside 180.
  • Skeezer: switch stance crow mobe
  • Slurpee: Toeside cut into wake with both hands on handle behind back, toeside roll with backside 360 rotation.
  • Special-K: Toeside cut into wake with both hands on handle behind back, toeside roll with backside 180 rotation.
  • Surface 360: A rider spins the board 360 degrees while riding the surface of the water.
  • Tantrum: A rider approaches the wake heelside and back flips over the wake on an axis perpendicular to the direction of the board.
  • Tantrum to blind: Tantrum to backside 180.
  • Tantrum to Revert: Tantrum to frontside 180.
  • Toeside Backroll: A rider approaches the wake toeside and flips (or rolls) over the wake on an axis parallel to the direction of the board, as if he/she were following it around like a continuous loop.
  • Toeside Front Flip: A rider approaches the wake toeside and flips on an axis perpendicular to the direction of the boat.
  • Toeside Frontroll: A rider approaches the wake toeside and flips forward (or rolls) over the wake on an axis parallel to the direction of the board.
  • Toeside Roll to Revert: Toeside backroll frontside 180.
  • Tootsie Roll: Toeside front roll backside 180.
  • Tweety Bird: Whirlybird without using wake for air.
  • Vulcan: S-Bend to switch landing. Heelside approach
  • Whirlybird: Tantrum with a backside 360 (no handle pass).
  • Grab variations

  • Front Hand: Where you front hand gets the board not your back hand. This is normally harder
  • Indy: The back hand grabs the toes edge between the feet. This is normally the first grab you learn.
  • Melon: The front hand grabs the heel edge between the feet.
  • Method: The front hand grabs the heel edge between the feet, Melon, then tweaks the board.
  • Mute: The front hand grabs the toe edge of the board between the feet.
  • Nosegrab: The front hand grabs the nose of the board.
  • Nuclear: The back hand grabs the nose of the board.
  • RoastBeef: The back hand passes through the front of the legs and grabs the heel edge of the board.
  • Slob: The front hand grabs the toe edge in front for the front foot.
  • Stalefish: The back hand grabs the heel edge between the feet.
  • Tailgrab: The back hand grabs the tail of the board.
  • Taipan air: The front hand reaches behind the front foot and grabs the toe edge between the bindings.
  • Tuck-Knee: The back knee is stretched down to the board on any grab variation. Brought forth by Mike Schweene. West Coast Camps!
  • References

    Wakeboarding Wikipedia