How To Buy Wakeboards. The Definitive Guide. 4 Important Questions To Answer Before You Buy

How to Buy Wakeboards: The Definitive Guide

How to Buy a Wakeboard | Chris O'Shea | Method

Don’t get sold on new wakeboards because the seller has  ‘your size’ in stock. In this definitive how to guide we will explore the most important questions to answer before you start buying wakeboards.

Having the perfect wakeboard model for your style and skill level leads to performance and progression on the water. Progression means learning new tricks and all the enjoyment that comes along with it. That’s why we strap a wakeboards on in the first place! Choosing the right wakeboard can significantly decrease the frequency of hard falls that cause fatigue as well. Like many other activities, fatigue is a major contributing factor to injuries on the water. Choosing the right style of wakeboard is everything for fun and progression.

Now, before you start daydreaming about unboxing your new wakeboard, you need to factor in several key components before pulling the trigger. The basic factors are riding environment, body type, riding style & performance preferences.

First, where you are going to wakeboard?

How to Buy a Wakeboard

This may seem like a no-brainer for some people. However, if you are new to wakeboarding, you should know there are two distinct types of riding categories / genres [riding environments]. Each of them are quite different. First, we have boat riding – sometimes called wake riding [or riding behind a boat]. Second we have cable riding – sometimes called park riding. To add to the complexity, there are additional riding styles or niches that exist within cable park riding.  And, of course, rather recently there are wakeboard designs dedicated to each specific riding category or a ‘crossover’ between the two.

Behind a Boat / Off A Wake Wakeboards (we suggest: Circus, Cameo)

View: ‘boat wakeboards’

How to Buy a Wakeboard

What type of wakeboard flex do you want?

Wakeboards designed for riding behind a boat typically have a stiffer flexibility from the nose of the board to its tail.  If you take your hand and push on the center of the board, you’ll notice it is harder to flex when compared to a park specific wakeboard. Today, we see a range of stiffnesses which will indicate how responsive the board will feel under a riders feet. This could be a desirable attribute for more advanced, aggressive riders. It may, however, work against newer riders unfamiliar with the mechanics of wakeboarding (i.e. hard falls).

A stiffer board is historically more desirable for boat riding because it produces a more energetic ‘pop’ or response off the wake. Why is that?

Imagine having a rubber band in your hands and snapping it against a hard surface. The thicker [or stiffer] the rubber band, the more force that needs to be exerted to pull it back between your fingers. This causes a more impactful snap and louder ‘pop’ upon release. The same analogy applies for the energy released at the wake when riding a wakeboard with a stiff flex profile. Also, a stiffer wakeboard can hold its rocker line better during landings. This will keep the board from smacking flat against the water, killing speed in the process and resulting in hard landings.  There are some drawbacks to a stiffer board- like decreased faceplant forgiveness. However, overall a stiffer wakeboard profile is generally preferred for boat riding.

View: Flex Wakeboards

Choose A Shape

How to Buy a Wakeboard Circus WakeboardBoat specific wakeboards also have more base contours or features that help direct and control water flow along its base and edges. These affect how the wakeboard rides on the water. If you really want to get nerdy, this is where hydrodynamics come into play. In short, a board’s base design can influence factors like board speed, edge hold and pop which will affect how aggressive or playful the board will feel when riding behind a boat. 

What’s Your Fin Setup?

How to Buy a Wakeboard Bomber FinsFins [skags for you throwback riders] are also a major influence in wakeboards designed specifically for boat riding. They are either bolted on with screws or molded into the base. Fins can dramatically affect how a board rides in conjunction with a board’s base. In general, moving the fins towards the nose and tail of the board and outwards will make the board hold its edge longer through turns. Holding the edge longer creates more leverage and pop off the top of the wake.

Cable Park Wakeboards (we suggest: Pinewood Club, Automator, Team Meme)

View: cable ‘park wakeboards’

How to Buy a Wakeboard Mitch Langfield

Cable park specific wakeboards have evolved over the years due to the growth of cable park construction and the development of features being built within the parks [see Sesitec & Unit]. As riders request more advanced cable park features, we see an increase in park specific boards coming to market with very minimal base designs. These minimalistic wakeboard bases are built with a playful flex and designed exclusively for riding ramps [kickers], rails, pipes, and other technical park features. We commonly refer to this style of riding as park riding.

[cable] Park Wakeboards Shape and Flex

How to Buy a Wakeboard Nick Dorsey ValdostaPark riders use the perimeter edge of their wakeboard to create speed and control. This is different from relying on the base channels and fins, like boat wakeboards do.  As we dive further into the finer details of park riding, you’ll discover subtle variances of base designs and board flexes in park specific wakeboards. Typically, this category of boards is built with a softer flex profile and more minimal perimeter shape overall. A softer flex gives riders improved control on park features and a more responsive feel when riding on hard park feature surfaces. Minimal base contours are desirable for park riding because they create less friction or hangups with park features. Less friction makes a more durable design.  This leads us into wear factor. 

What’s Your Wakeboard Wear Factor?

How to Buy a Wakeboard Valdosta Bob SichelIf a wakeboard has a completely flat bottom, this lowers the friction generated between a park feature and your board base. This is due to an equal distribution of weight over a larger surface area. This helps keep the heat generated from friction much lower on a flat board base. A wakeboard built with channels or contours on the base [concaves, spines, or channels] will have a higher concentration of friction [pressure] in the area the base hits the park feature. So, this concentration of friction will cause the base to heat up faster in those areas, and over time result in more wear on the base.

Wakeboard Friction

I know what you are thinking – Heat?! While riding on water? Yes! In the sun, park features dry out quickly and you aren’t guaranteed to hit wet surfaces consistently to keep friction heat low, so wear and tear is inevitable. Your best alternative is to minimize friction by choosing a high quality sintered board base that best suits your riding style [and buy some of our wax]. So, a wakeboard built with minimal base contours will outlast a board with more base contours because of friction and the resulting wear factor it causes.  This assumes both wakeboards are built with the same base materials.

Another significant factor to note is cable parks build features with different materials and shapes which greatly contribute to friction generated on a wakeboard’s base. Transfers from different surfaces and falls during riding can greatly affect the areas of wear on your board’s base too!

What’s Your Style?

Finally, within the category of cable park riding we have a style of riding that originated before riding park features became popular. This style emerged because cable parks were in operation well before riding cable park features came into popularity. A rider would initiate tricks around the turn of a cable because…well there weren’t features and ‘getting air’ was fun! With this style of riding, wakeboarders prefer a mixture of base contours to load line tension from the cable in order release their edge. The cable then pulls them up and off the water and into the air. This leads us into a category of crossover boards which are an option for riders who enjoy both boat wakeboard & cable park riding.

Oli Breumland Wakeboard Valdosta
(creds: O’Shea)

Crossover / Hybrid Wakeboards (we suggest: Oracle, Huxtable, iO)

View: crossover wakeboards

You can probably guess crossover wakeboards are designed to ride in both riding categories. Their bases and flex profiles blend both wake [boat] specific and cable park specific board designs. They are generally characterized by middle-of-the-road flex patterns with more simply contoured bases. Crossover wakeboards are desirable for riders seeking a strong edge and soft landing behind a boat or on a cable. These boards are still built playful enough and have strategic flat spots on the base to maintain responsiveness and control when riding in the cable park or park features.

How to Buy a Wakeboard Kaesen Suyderhoud

An important factor in these boards to consider before purchasing is how often you ride park features. If you ride park features frequently, the board’s performance behind the boat will suffer as the base wears. Wear lines will start to develop across the base of the board perpendicular to the riding direction. They are easy to spot! This will make the board feel slower and less responsive as the wear increases. We highly recommend building a quiver of boards dedicated to a specific category of riding. This will help you discover a much quicker path to progression and it’s money well spent. However, if it’s not in the budget, crossover boards are a great way to enjoy all aspects of wakeboarding.

What is your weight AND height? Size Up! 

Wakeboarder Weights

Historically, choosing the correct size wakeboard was based on weight alone. Wakeboard sizing guides allow you to select your weight and it shows your ideal wakeboard size range. Weight is an important factor in choosing your board size because it’s important boards give you the surface area to make you float! If your weight places you in between size ranges – the higher side of one size range and the lower side of another size range – we’d highly recommend you select the larger board size. A larger board size will be much more forgiving with softer landings since the increased surface area will float you higher in the water while riding. Having said all this, not many people know that your height can also play just an important of a role when selecting your wakeboard size.

Wakeboarder Heights

Your height can affect your balance on the board both nose to tail and edge to edge [much like your weight]. If you are above average in height when compared to your weight and you select a board that is on the lower size range, your center of gravity is higher and imperfect landings will cause more falls. This is due to smaller boards having narrower stances which force you into unbalanced positions when riding. It’s also important to remember that a smaller board will lose speed very quickly and make you work much harder when edging.

Conversely, when your height is shorter when compared to your weight [common for most wakeboarders], riding a board that is too large will make edging and turning feel sluggish. Larger boards are wider edge to edge. Sizing down is an option, as long as you don’t sacrifice speed because your board is too small. In general we always recommend having a board too large is always better than having a board too small. We won’t get into too much detail but we have another article that goes into depth on this topic [ link below]

To make it easy when selecting the ideal wakeboard size for your height and weight, we’ve created a new wakeboard sizing app that factors in both height and weight.

 

There’s plenty more to explore when selecting the right wakeboard size and we’ve created a separate post for it.

view: Choosing A wakeboard size

how to buy a wakeboard trevor bashir in deep thought

Third, what kind of rider are you?

Okay, so by now you know what type of environment you’ll be riding in. You’ve selected your ideal wakeboard size. Now you’ve got to do an honest self-assessment of your wakeboard skills. There are 3 basic skill levels. They are as follows:

Noob, Newbie, New (You forget to check your equipment and need some help with the fundamentals)

We suggest: Oracle, Huxtable, iO, Cameo

If you are just getting your feet wet, try to find a wakeboard that has forgiving features. These include variable edges, canted rails and rounder tip and tail shapes. All these things decrease the chances of catching a hard edge while riding. Remember just because a wakeboard is good for a beginner doesn’t mean you can’t ride it through advanced ability levels. There are features on each wakeboard that caters to a wide variety of skill levels. In fact, as riders typically progress in skill level, they’ll often find less features in a wakeboard make for a smoother ride.

Weekend Warrior  (Decent bag of tricks and your set might get you a contest podium spot in the 90’s)

May we suggest: iO, Cameo, Team Meme, Automator, Pinewood Club

As you learn, the performance of your board should improve linearly with your progression. You’ll want to try a few boards that have more aggressive performance features built in. These features will look and perform more ‘sharp’ so you can build speed quicker and hold an aggressive edge out on the water.

Advanced, I’ve Got Skills Yo!  (You know what a Double Indy Tantrum or 270 back lip transfer looks like…you also forget to check your equipment)

May we suggest: Circus, Team Meme, Cameo, Pinewood Club, Automator

Leverage your experience to help you pay close attention to the material, the build, and the shape of your wakeboard. This way you can tweak the performance based on your riding style. The board’s build, material layup, and shape will offer large differences in performance.  You’ll factor in durability, flex, pop, and swing weight. Hopefully by now you know what to look for depending on what where you’re riding, your wakeboard size, and your skill level.

Finally, what kind of performance characteristics do you prefer? 

Understanding the basic theory behind performance characteristics will really help you dial in that perfect board! It all starts by selecting your riding environment, body type, and riding style.

Characteristics that affect speed & response:

  • Wakeboard Rocker type – Continuous, 3-Stage, or Blended 3-stage

  • Wakeboard Sidecuts

How to Buy a Wakeboard Chris O'Shea TurnRocker directly affects the speed of the board as it rides on top of the water. The more rocker, the more water the board will push. This will make the board feel slower as more rocker is added.

This begs the question, if adding more rocker is slower, why do we bend boards? The short answer: more rocker produces more explosive pop. The more rocker in the tip and tail of the board, the more energy produced off the wake. A more upward trajectory off the wake is created as more rocker is added. However, counter intuitively adding more rocker is not always the answer.

Speed is affected by float as well. Float is related to overall shape of the wakeboard.

Herein lies the challenge; pop high and lofty or pop far and fast? We like create an ideal blend of speed and pop aimed at the performance you’re expecting from a wakeboard geared for a specific aspect of riding. Overwhelming as our rocker theories have evolved, we find the variances of a continuous rocker give much more to riders of all abilities vs. ‘three stage wakeboards’. Our focus has been trying to find the perfect blend of rocker which works in conjunction with shape & sidecut for each wakeboard. We’ve written an article about why you shouldn’t rely on a wakeboard’s rocker exclusively. sidecut is just as important.

Characteristics that will affect wakeboard flex

Wakeboard Shape

Usually, when people think about the “shape” of a wakeboard, they interpret it as the board’s perimeter outline. The word shape is also meant to include the top and bottom surfaces and contours of the wakeboard. Along with thickness, materials, and rocker, shapes also affect the flex profile of a board. All these other flex variables aside, a flat base and flat top wakeboard has a softer flex profile when compared to a wakeboard with contours along the top & base.

How to Buy a WakeboardLet us explain: first, visualize a thin sheet of aluminum alongside a corrugated piece of aluminum. If you bend the piece of flat aluminum, the sheet would bend easily and without much resistance. Now take the corrugated piece of aluminum and try to bend it across its corrugations – like you would flex a wakeboard. The corrugated sheet would flex very little. When you introduce angles into a flat surface, the angles reinforce and strengthen the surface creating stiffness & rigidity. This is why thin pieces of corrugated cardboard can hold weight exponentially greater than their own. 

Now apply this concept to a wakeboard. Adding contours that initially appear to be cosmetic actually introduce a new flex profile for the shape. Adding a big step down along the perimeter of the board is a good example of that. This same concept applies to each unique shape when we add in channels and concaves. In our designs, this concept not only creates a unique flex profile but also an identity to each shape. 

Wakeboard Core Thickness

Core thickness is a simple concept. You can look at the thickness profile of a wakeboard by viewing it at eye level from the side. The areas that are thicker will be stiffer. The thicker the material the harder it is to bend. Most wakeboards will be stiffer under foot then taper to a thinner profile towards the nose and tail of the board. How much the board tapers from center to its ends depends on what type of riding the board is designed for. Boat specific wakeboards will stay a little thicker on the nose and tail for more stiffness. Inversely, cable specific boards will taper to a much more thin profile. 

Wakeboard Density

How to Buy a WakeboardThe density of core materials can vary and greatly affects the weight of the board. Higher density wood cores weigh more but are more durable and lively overall. Lower density foam cores weigh less and are typically not as durable without adding a substantial amount of reinforcement material.  The fibers of a wood core are intertwined creating a structure that won’t break as easily. This is part of the reason we use wood cores exclusively. Foam is made of tiny little bubbles. Each bubble is linked together at smaller points of contact. These points are not bonded as strong like the fibers of a wood core are. Small fractures occur within these microscopic contact points over time much quicker than wood cores.

From a performance standpoint, a heavier core will give the rider additional swing weight. This may make the board harder to maneuver in the air. This mobility depends on where most of the weight is distributed in the core thickness profile. A lower density core will lower the swing weight overall. It may also make the board feel lighter on your feet depending on the reinforcements used.

Wakeboard Layup

How to Buy a WakeboardThe layup refers to the resin [glue] and fiberglass reinforcements used to laminate the layers of the wakeboard together during the manufacturing process. The layup process involves a multitude of components to select before we even start building. We have the core components, resins, fiberglass, topsheets, reinforcement composites [more fiberglass & carbon fiber], and even the type of ink.

These all affect flex and performance in some way, some more than others. Epoxy based resins are most commonly used in wakeboard manufacturing and can vary in strength, flex and weight. Some resin systems cure to a very brittle state making a wakeboard feel more stiff. Others have a final curing process that will flex more to give a board softer feel. This, combined with the reinforcements, adds to the final outcome of a board’s final strength, flex and weight.

Trevor Basir How To Buy A Wakeboard Van Jib
(creds: O’Shea)

Now you know…

Congrats for reading this far. You now know more about how to select and buy the right wakeboard than most people selling wakeboards. Our goal is to arm you with the right info, cause there is a lot of conflicting info out there. We encourage you to demo or try as many shapes as possible. As you start to explore the different riding categories, you’ll find what you like best. We hope to see you out on the water enjoying the progression that follows.

Interested in learning more? Comment and let us know what questions you have.
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