The Freeze guide to buying a wakeboard isn’t just for beginners. We’ll run you through the stages to help you buy your first wakeboard setup –from flex to rocker, binding mounting to base grinds, and fins to featureless wakeboards. But we’ll also take a look at some of the more technical elements behind board construction, binding mounting and the intricacies of flex, rocker and sidecut.
When you’re just starting, the world of wake might seem confusing, but follow a few simple steps and only the hard parts will remain – choosing the right graphic, and learning how to wakeboard…
We stock a comprehensive range of wakeboards for all styles from brands like Hyperlite, Liquid Force, Ronix and O’Brien but don’t worry too much about the right wakeboard brand or how to choose the right wakeboard for now. Let’s cover the basics first then check out the more subjective elements.
Note: Each section features a TL;DR (Too long; didn’t read) at the start to help you navigate quickly and get the most out of this buying guide.
Wakeboard Buying Guide: What We’ll Look At
- A brief and simplified introduction to wakeboarding
- Boat, cable park and hybrid wakeboards
- Wakeboard technologies and construction
- Wakeboard rocker types
- Wakeboard binding systems
- A word on wakeboard maintenance
Before we dive in and discuss the deepest and darkest secrets of the wakeboarding world it’s important to remember that it’s easy to refine your options when looking at buying the right wakeboard, but tech specs and stats can only tell us so much. Talk to folk, head to your local wakeboard shop, check out the cable park – and never be afraid to ask people’s opinions. Give us a call or head down to our HQ in Edinburgh if you’re local.
1. A Brief Introduction to Wakeboarding
The first wakeboards came from chopped-down surfboards towed behind boats.
The boat creates a wake that acts as a ramp for tricks.
Cable Parks were developed as early as 1950 for water-skiing – because they’re cheaper to use, popularity steadily gains over the years.
Cable parks feature obstacles and ramps for tricks instead of a boat wake.
Boat wakeboards and cable park wakeboards are different because of the differences in riding style.
Boat wakeboarding is where it all started, but back in the early days, it was known as ‘Skurfing’ due to its links with the surfing world. The concept is fairly straightforward – a rope, attached to a boat, is used to pull a person on a wakeboard. A wakeboard boat is designed to displace a large amount of water and therefore create a large wake – the playground of the boat-powered wakeboarder.
Wake boats have a specific hull shape that helps to create bigger wakes for bigger tricks, but ballast, engines and wedges all play a role in ‘shaping’ the wake for the best performance. The wake acts much like a kicker does in snowboarding – giving the wakeboarder a ‘ramp’ to provide lift, air time, and the opportunity for grabs, spins, straight-airs, carves.
The main problem with boat wakeboarding is that you need a boat to pull you around, and they’re fairly expensive bits of kit. As a result, cable wakeboard parks have gained serious popularity over the past few decades, using kickers, boxes, and rails as features for tricks. Cable wakeboarding works by using an elevated cable that’s mounted with a ‘carrier’ to which the rope and handle are attached. The cable is driven by an electric motor which moves the carrier and pulls the wakeboarder. It seems complicated but this system is a lot more cost-effective, meaning a trip to your local wake-park is a more affordable way to get into wakeboarding. Importantly, the boards you use for cable or boat wakeboarding are actually quite different… So how do you make sure you’re buying the right wakeboard setup?
Wakeboard Buying Guide | Freeze | Ronix Boat Wakeboarding
2. Boat, Cable Park and Hybrid Wakeboards
3 types of wakeboard: Cable or Park Wakeboards, Boat Wakeboards, and Hybrid Wakeboards.
Boat Wakeboards – stiffer, shorter, prominent fins, channels and sharp edges for grip, foam cores.
Cable/Park Wakeboards – variations in flex (normally softer), better for plastic features, wood cores for durability and feel, smoother bases for butters and presses.
Hybrid Wakeboards – good for those riding a bit of both, but not ideal for progression in either discipline, removable fins.
The first big question in choosing the right wakeboard is ‘where are you going to ride?’. There are only three answers here: behind a boat, in a cable park, or ‘I don’t know’. Unfortunately, it’s very difficult to work with uncertainties so if your answer was the latter then you’re probably jumping the gun on buying your first board. Head to the local cable park, lake, or loch and get riding first.
Boat Wakeboards: What’s the Deal?
As the name might suggest, these wakeboards are designed for riding behind a boat. The nature of which means you’re going to be out on your toeside or heelside for the majority of the ride, carving in to hit the wake and (hopefully) ride out clean the other side. This tracking and carving means that boat wakeboards are designed to grip the water, allowing you to engage an edge and drive into the wake for more power, bigger pop and better stability. Boat wakeboards use a combination of flex, fins, contours channels to provide this traction and power.
Boat Wakeboards: Contours, Fins, Channels and Edges
Fins come in two designs: moulded-in or screw-on. The former is not removable and have been specifically shaped to provide a specific-feeling ride from the wakeboard. Moulded-in fins are often asymmetrical, meaning one side is steeper than the other. This means the fin will engage through powerful carves and then release as the rider exits the turn. Reducing hang-ups and increasing fluidity and speed. Screw on fins look and act similar to surf and wakesurf fins, but they’re often a bit smaller. You’ll often see removable fins on beginner and hybrid wakeboards as it allows the rider to adapt the board for boat or cable riding. You’ll also find sharper edges on boat wakeboards as they allow even more speed to be generated, however, they create a very small margin for error. These are usually just glued together into an almost seamless finish to keep the shape nice and sharp.
The intricacies of fin, channel, contour and edge design quickly enter the realms of fluid dynamics, meaning we’ll leave it there, but if you’re after more information on the designs of specific models then get in touch and we can help out!
Boat Wakeboards: Size and Flex
Boat-pulled wakeboarders typically need a stiffer flexing board to provide a more active pop. This is down to the nature of wake – whereas cable park features are typically built from solid HDPE panels, a wake is made of water. In short, boosting big off a plastic kicker doesn’t need as much force or surface area. You’ll typically find that boat wakeboards are shorter than their cable park cousins. Boats tend to go a fair bit faster than cable speeds; this increased speed negates the need for a bigger surface area, and a smaller board is easier to manoeuvre and grab in the air when doing wake jumps.
Cable Wakeboards: What’s the Difference?
In contrast to boat-drawn wakeboarding, cable park wakeboarding does not involve a boat at all. This means there’s no wake to hit, and the water’s surface is normally pretty flat. So how do tricks happen? Nowadays cable parks are full of big plastic, metal, and sometimes wooden, features – just like a freestyle ski and snowboard park. It’s these features that dictate the main differences between a boat wakeboard and cable wakeboard. Durability and base detail. While fins and contours are the things that make boat wakeboards perform behind a boat, they’re also the thing will hinder them through a cable park. Fins, contours and channels all reduce the amount of flat space on the wakeboard base, meaning unstable presses, hang-ups and damage to features. In fact, many cable parks won’t allow you to ride a board with fins at all, even if you’re not into hitting features.
Cable wakeboards also have to built to take a hit or two. Wake park features are a lot more solid than water, meaning wakeboards have to be built to take the abuse of hitting solid objects again and again. All-wood cores and urethane edges are added for durability and longevity, making a cable wakeboard a bit heavier, but much tougher than their boat-towed relatives.
Cable Wakeboard: Flex, Base and Edge Construction
Cable Park-specific wakeboarding is constantly evolving, just like every extreme sport. Five years ago, you might see most pros maxing out scores with big kicker lines, huge rotation, wild grabs and the resulting heavy landings. Check out riders like Hyperlite’s Nick Davies and his pro-model, the Hashtag.
Nowadays, cable park wakeboarding is trending toward a jibbier, rail and box-focussed approach to style. Naturally, board design is focussed on maximising the potential of each of these styles – big kicker boards are built to flex less, build speed into kickers (jumps), and boost higher. Box and rail orientated boards are designed to press and butter easier and provide a catch-free ride across the stuff that’s more solid than water – check out boards like Liquid Force’s ‘Butter Stick’ or Ronix’s ‘Top Notch’.
These wakeboards have a relatively smooth base, with minimal base channels and contours, and almost certainly no fins. This means that park wakeboarders need to use their edges to engage turns and create speed and control. Typically, the more structure on a base the more hold and grip you’ll feel in the water but the less stable you’ll feel on rails and boxes. These minimal base designs also reduce friction and hang-ups on features. Cable board bases are almost entirely made up from a very hard-wearing impact-resistant material usually known as an ‘endurance base’. Designed to take an absolute battering all day long, this material adds a bit of weight to the board but it’s essential for a cable board. Hyperlite’s all-new-for-2019 ‘Lunchtray’ or the Ronix ‘Springbreak’ are some top examples from this season.
Hybrid or Crossover Wakeboards: What’s the Deal?
The name kind of gives it away but Hybrid Wakeboards are designed to offer a stable ride behind a boat and in the cable park. You’ll normally find them they feature less contoured bases than boat-specific boards, with removable fins, and flatter areas that should still offer some stability on obstacles. These wakeboard designs are aimed at those that might be riding both cable and boat but don’t fancy splashing out on two decks just yet. So why doesn’t everyone ride a hybrid?! The term ‘jack of all trades’ comes to mind. While these wakeboards are more than capable at both disciplines, they can never provide a truly specialised ride.
How to buy a wakeboard | Freeze | Cable Park Wakeboarding
3. Wakeboard Technologies: How to Navigate a Wake Tech
TL;DR: Two core types are common: wood (in cable park boards) and foam cores (in boat wakeboards) although there is some crossover.
Wood is durable and playful, while foam cores are rigid and lightweight for power.
The wakeboard ‘layup’ is all the separate tech/components combined that make a wakeboard what it is.
The most expensive tech is not necessarily the best for every rider.
Wakeboard tech changes constantly, as with every boardsport. Each season sees new and more advanced technologies, shapes, and designs that are all about making the best wakeboard. Unfortunately, choosing the best wakeboard is a very subjective thing and with quickly changing technologies it’s sometimes difficult to navigate the world of wakeboarding.
Wakeboard Buying Guide | Freeze Pro Shop | Ronix Top Notch
We’ll try and keep this bit simple. Boat wakeboards are typically made of foam cores while cable park wakeboards feature wooden cores predominantly. A foam core helps to keep the ride more rigid and powerful, while wood core wakeboards are typically more forgiving, easier to press and thus better for a cable park. You’ll see cable park boards that feature a hybrid construction of wood and foam to create stiffer flexing park board too.
The way these cores are shaped will directly affect how each wakeboard rides – so pay attention here. More expensive wakeboards will feature increasingly more complex construction techniques like milled cores and inlays that create a ‘mapped’ flex pattern to enhance certain riding styles. Remember that this increased performance is only unlocked by the right rider though – if you’re not waking at a certain level then these technologies can hinder your ride, rather than help them.
The layup refers to all the individual components of a wakeboard. With the core as the starting point that decides the shape and profile of the wakeboard. The rest of the wakeboard takes shape around the core, and these components combined are referred to as the ‘layup’. This includes resins, reinforcements like carbon and fibreglass, graphic top sheets, bases and sidewalls. All these influences affect the overall feel of a wakeboard’s ride and, rest assured, they’re all very carefully considered.
So, what’s the best wakeboard for you? Typically, the most expensive wakeboard will have the most specialised tech. For a beginner, this tech isn’t going to do anything and will probably make your experience worse. An advanced rider, on the other hand, will likely know exactly what tech they’re after to enhance their riding.
Wakeboard Buying Guide | Layup | Freeze Pro Shop
4. Wakeboard Rocker Profiles
TL;DR:Continuous Rocker – Smooth consistent arc for a consistent ride and higher speeds but not the poppiest.
3-Stage Rocker – Aggressive pop that needs precision to utilise. Slower but much higher when used right.
Hybrid Rocker – The do-it-all rocker profile that balances pop with stability – quiver-killer rocker.
What’s in a rocker?
A rocker profile refers simply to the shape and size of the curve a wakeboard makes when you’re looking at it from the side. The nature of this curve (or combination of curves) affects how a wakeboard rides and how it pops. There are three different types of wakeboard rocker that each provides a different ride: Continuous Rocker, Three-Stage Rocker, and Hybrid Rocker. Let’s take a look…
Continuous Rocker Wakeboard: As the name suggests this profile has a single curve that runs from the nose to tail. This rocker-type is designed to provide a smooth and predictable ride that won’t drop speed easily. A continuous rocker won’t be the fastest or the poppiest though.
3-Stage Rocker Wakeboard: This profile has a defined flatter middle section with a kicked-up nose and tail. This enhanced kick is designed to super-charge pop off the wake that increases jump height. This means more time in the air and more spins – it’s often found in boat wakeboards as a result. The ramped-up nose and tail do create increased resistance in the water but it’s a worthwhile trade-off for some.
Hybrid Rocker: Hybrid Rocker wakeboards try to blend the benefits of continuous and three-stage designs with a curve that varies its radius along the length of the board. Hybrid profiles are ideal for those that have a mixed and varies riding style and don’t want, or can’t afford, to run several different setups.
5. Wakeboard Bindings and Boots
TL;DR: Two binding types: Open Toe Bindings and Closed Toe Wakeboard Bindings.
Open-Toe offers a broader range of sizes but less comfort and precision when riding.
Closed-toe is more expensive but offers improved boardfeel, performance and comfort.
This topic is deserving of a completely separate guide, so we won’t go into too much detail here. Keep an eye out for Freeze’s Guide to Buying Wakeboard Bindings very soon. In the meantime, here’s a quick summary of how you keep your feet securely and comfortably attached to your wakeboard.
A wakeboard binding or boot is designed to keep you safely attached to your wakeboard. Easy, right? Well, yes and no. As with everything there are a few different options and what works for one, might not work for another – compromise is the aim of the game for most.
For example, there’s no point buying a single-size top-end wakeboard binding to put on a board that’s going to be shared at the lake by everyone on the boat. Unless everyone miraculously has the same size feet. It’s better to buy an open-toe variant, but in doing so you do lose some comfort and fit.
Open-Toe Wakeboard Bindings: There are two different wakeboard binding types available: open-toe and closed-toe. Open-Toe is designed to fit a range of foot sizes, perfect for groups, learners and families that just like to mess about behind the boat on weekends and holidays. The downside of an open-toe construction is that it’s unlikely to fit anyone perfectly and is normally built as a value-oriented option – so it’s not as comfy as it’s closed-toe counterparts.
Closed-Toe Wakeboard Bindings: Closed-Toe bindings are designed to offer a more precise fit which allows for increased board control and faster skill progression. As the price goes up, so does the technology, with more expensive models featuring not only improved performance but also comfort. These bindings are built to cater for the wakeboarders that are pushing tricks and looking for progression. As a result, you’ll mainly find new and innovative features in closed-toe wakeboard boots and bindings – such as removable liners. As the name suggests, these bindings feature a removable liner that stays on the wakeboarder’s foot even when they’re not riding, ideal when you bail a long way from the dock and might have a fair walk back. Removable liner wakeboard bindings are ideal for cable park wakeboarders when a lot of time might be spent out of the water, but they also often offer improved heel-hold, increased board-feel, and a more secure fit for some riders.
Guide to buying a wakeboard | Binding Setup | Freeze
6. Wakeboard Maintenance
The biggest killer of wakeboards is getting a crack somewhere, usually, an edge, which means your wakeboard is no longer watertight. If your board has a foam core and it gets cracked and wet, you’ll see some bubbling under the top layer. Unfortunately, when the foam is exposed to water it tends to rot and become very brittle, which could be then of its life. It’s also another reason you’ll see very few foam-only cable park wakeboards. If you have a wooden core board like a cable board and the wood becomes wet it isn’t the end of the world, you’d just need to dry the board out for a few days until it’s completely dry again. Then use epoxy resin or something similar to make the board watertight again and you’d be good to go! If you’re unsure about how to repair your board then get in touch and we can point you in the right direction.