How Flex Wakeboards Are Designed and Why They’re Awesome

Should I Ride A Board With Flex? - Sandwich Construction Flex Pattern Wakeboard

 

Let’s get right to it. The question of whether to ride  flex wakeboards, flexboards, or more accurately, wakeboards with flex, continues to be a heavily debated topic. First let me start by saying, every board has flex irrespective of the type of construction. The difference lies in the amount of flex. So yes, you should ride a flex wakeboard! Second, let us squash the “flex board” term and explain where that reference originated using a quick little history lesson about wakeboarding.

Origin of the name wakeboarding

Wakeboarding was once called “skurfing” by some and “ski-boarding” by others back in the late 70’s and early 80’s during wakeboarding’s start. Wakeboarding grew from ‘surf boarding’ behind boats with no foot straps or bindings when there were no waves in the ocean. The term skurfing originated in reference to combining water-skiing and surfing. Others organized the words differently by keeping “skiing” the prominent fixture in the name, since water-skiing had been around much longer. Eventually the term was modified and gained popularity as “boarding” – people were standing on a board after all – not on skis.

The birth of wakeboarding

Wakeboarding grew in popularity and gained legitimacy through major publications, governing committees, manufacturers, and athletes. The name change better suited ‘board sports’ already entrenched in pop culture, like ‘surf’ boarding, ‘skate’ boarding and ‘snow’ boarding. In the early days of wakeboard manufacturing, the boards were constructed much like a surfboard, with a foam core, wood stringer,  fiberglass and resin. They were then cured, sanded, and shaped to a finish. The real difference in these boards, when compared to normal sized surfboards, was the smaller design and foot straps. Much like surfboards, this process yielded very little board flex.

Advancement of the manufacturing processes then led to invention of the first compression molded wakeboard. These wakeboards still had a foam core, fiberglass, and resin. They also had a top and bottom plastic material that enabled manufacturers to add colors by printing. Still, these early stage compression molded boards had very little flex. Actually, in those days, a board lost it’s stiffness quickly and was hung up on the wall as artwork.

Invention of flex wakeboards

Compression molded boards quickly became the most popular way of manufacturing. Boards remained rigid and very stiff for decades. Eventually, a new method of wakeboard manufacturing evolved from snowboarding. We all know that snowboards have flex engineered in many different patterns. This crossover in manufacturing was probably a result of avid snowboard manufacturers tinkering with wakeboards in the summer and vice versa. Many manufacturers [humanoid included] market snowboarding’s original method of making a board “sandwich” construction. Sandwich construction is really a unique process of compression molding similar to traditional wakeboard compression molding.

When you compare the two builds, traditional vs. sandwich, the difference is in several factors. The board press, the materials used in the press, board design, and how the board comes out of the mold (both in regards to aesthetics and flex) differ. This bring us to why wakeboards with flex gained the notoriety as “flex boards” or “flex wakeboards”. But, wakeboards don’t necessarily have flex just because they were pressed a certain way.

The difference between traditional and sandwich construction

Traditional

Traditional compression molded boards come out stiff because of materials used, the overall design/contours of the board, and perimeter parting lines. On a traditional wakeboard, there usually isn’t a sidewall material surrounding the perimeter of the board. The molds and core are designed in a way that presses the top and bottom material which encompasses the sides of the core giving the board a very thin parting [lamination] line around the entire perimeter of the wakeboard. The top material, bottom material and fiberglass wrap the board and join together at the sides creating a very rigid structure.

A good real world analogy would be trying to bend a flat piece of aluminum vs. a square aluminum tube. Assuming each piece is the same thickness, the square tube is much harder to bend because of the support that the two vertical sides give to the two opposite horizontal sides. This adds rigidness and very little flex.

Sandwich

When laying up a board for sandwich construction, the design of the board is intended to have a sidewall and this sidewall often makes a huge difference. The sidewall eliminates the need for wrapping the entire core in fiberglass which is what you see on a traditional compression molded board. This eliminates much of the dead stiffness so the board comes out with what we call a “flex pattern”. Sidewalls will also help your board last longer by protecting the lamination or parting lines of your board.

The core of a flex wakeboard usually has a higher tolerance for flex. These cores are often different species of wood, like the 100% Paulownia wood cores in Humanoid Wakeboards. They flex and rebound very efficiently. Other cores used are foam or foam wood core combinations. Other wakeboard brands use this like Ronix Wakeboards, Hyperlite Wakeboards, and Liquid Force Wakeboards.

Designing flex wakeboards

We can control the outcome of the sandwich constructed board’s flex pattern by strategically locating the board’s contours. The coutours are set depending on where or how much we want the board to flex. The deeper the contour and the more vertical the angle of this contour the stiffer the board gets. We also control the flex pattern outcome by controlling the core thickness and taper of the board from middle out towards the end of the board.

Why flex is awesome

So this brings up the question, does the board have to flex? No! Do we want it to flex? Yes! Why? We can create a board with a much more lively and responsive feel by adding or subtracting flex in certain areas. This caters to a rider’s preferred style of riding.

For riders who prefer boat riding, the middle of the board can be kept rigid so they feel response and pop off the wake. Adding different variations of flex in certain parts of the board allows riders to load up the tail as they pop ollies or pop off the wake.  They can also get a bit of torsional twisting as they carve hard through turns. For riders that prefer the park, we can also soften the nose and tail. This helps them achieve better presses and more control on rails. Additionally, we can alter the middle of the wakeboard to make it more stiff so the board holds rocker landing off jump ramps. This keeps the board from smacking flat against the water, scrubbing speed in the process and making the board feel slower.

Growing popularity of flex wakeboards

From what I’ve seen recently, it seems like the sandwich construction process is maturing and growing in popularity among manufacturers. Traditional wakeboard manufacturers are modifying their hydraulic presses to accommodate this type of sandwich construction with sidewall board design.

Remember, the design of the board and the materials used are what dictates the outcome of the flex pattern. So, should you ride a wakeboard with flex? Again, the answer remains a resounding yes! All boards flex to some degree! It’s just up to you to decide on how much flex you want according to your riding style and needs.

Check out our shop and see what flex works best with your riding style.

-Kyle Schmidt