It can be pretty tricky working out exactly what you need to look for when you are just getting into wakeboarding. What size board do I need? What shape should it be? Do I need two fins or four?
We’ve pulled together a basic guide to wakeboards and their various configurations. We will explain what changing different features of your board does to your ride so you can ensure you choose the right wakeboard for you. Once you’ve got your board sorted, we are here to help you choose the right boots for the job as well.
The first thing most people will consider is the length of their board. As a general rule, the bigger the rider the longer their board will need to be. A longer board covers a greater area of water creating more buoyancy. Boards typically range from 120cm to 150cm. Advanced riders may play around with board length; a shorter board is easier to manoeuvre in the air, but more difficult to land.
As a general rule, when you are first starting out, you probably want to purchase a board suitable to your body weight. If more than one person is going to be using the wakeboard, you are better off purchasing a board that is suitable to the largest rider as they won’t float so well on a board that is too short for them.
Check with your local store or technician to find out what size board is best suited to you.
Board Materials and Construction
Boards vary in price depending on what they are made from. The lightest, strongest materials are usually the most expensive, so be sure to look for a board that will last, but that matches your price range and level of ability.
Wakeboards are typically made up of many layers of material. The inner core is usually made from foam, or wood — foam boards are sometimes lighter, but less durable and break easier than wood boards. The core is layered with fibreglass outer layers to provide strength and keep things water tight. Finally, things are all capped off with the graphic making your board look very cool.
The thickness of your wakeboard’s edge will greatly affect its performance. As a general rule, a sharper edge will give a more stable ride, whereas a curved edge will enable smoother transitions between edges and reduce the chances of an edge digging in and you copping a mouthful as the water comes up to meet you….
The next thing to consider is your new wakeboard’s rocker. The rocker is the shape of the base of the board from tip to tip. A Flat rocker will mean that the nose and tail surf close to the water’s surface - an aggressive rocker will have a more curved or angled base. A flatter rocker creates a more stable base; easier for new riders to control as this creates a good deal of suction with the surface of the water. However a flat rocker is not as manoeuvrable as a more aggressive continuous rocker. Advanced riders choose different rockers to suit their riding style.
Most beginners will use a board with a continuous (curved) rocker that is not too dramatic. This ensures you have good contact with the water and can roll into turns smoothly.
A fin acts like a bicycle tyre, it provides contact with the water, and gives you grip even when you are turning. A fin creates stability by increasing the drag your board experiences moving through the water. A bigger fin will create more drag, and thus make your board more stable.
Smaller fins are suited to calm water, when your board’s base provides most of the stability. Different fin configurations will affect the way your board handles in different conditions and so some riders will change up with their fins to suit the day’s riding.
Most wakeboards come with at least two fins. Fins are either moulded into the fabric of the board itself, or are removable allowing you to change your fin configuration depending on the water conditions or your riding style.
Twin tips feature two fins, one on each end. No matter which way you are riding, you have good stability on the water.
Quad tips feature two fins at either end of your board, allowing for quick sharp turns, but can be a little bit slower than twin tips.
Six fins are great for rough conditions, ensuring that you have good contact with the water even when you are bouncing around.
Many boards come standard with twin tips and additional holes for bolting removable fins to change your board’s performance.
Fin Materials and Construction
Moulded fins are made from the same material as your board, and therefore hold up well during certain advanced manoeuvres such as grinds and lip slides. But if they chip, you will either need to sand them down or take your board in for repair. Some removable fins are constructed in strong lightweight materials such as aluminium.
If you use removable fins, make sure that you check your bolts often. If they fall out while you are riding you won’t get them back.
Boots / Bindings
It can be a bit confusing talking about wakeboarding boots and bindings, because they are essentially the same thing. Your boot is connected to your binding, constructed as a single solid piece, designed to stay attached to your board at all times, even if you crash and your feet slide out.
There are two main types of wakeboard binding: open-toe, and closed-toe.
Beginners will usually start in an open-toe configuration, allowing for a more flexible feel, accommodating a greater range of foot sizes. Closed-toe boots are more comfortable, fit snuggly and provide greater control (not to mention the added warmth). They are better suited to intermediate and advanced riders who require a higher level of performance.
The main thing to look for when choosing your wakeboard boots/bindings is obviously a comfortable fit. Your boots should be snug and secure, but also allow enough give that if you have a really hard crash, your feet can slide out. Most boots allow for a couple of different foot sizes, but ideally, you want something that is fitted specifically to your shoe size for the best control over your board.
More advanced riders may choose to wear their boots tighter as this will ensure the board doesn’t hit them if they get ejected while performing aerial tricks.
Wakeboard and Boot combinations are common. It’s a good idea if you are new to the sport to purchase a package that has been made up for you. Manufacturers and retailers create combinations that work well together, so you can be sure of a smooth ride.
See also: A foodie's sailing adventure...
Setting up your Bindings
If you choose to purchase your bindings separately from your board, you will need to fit them to your board. If you do go down this path, we strongly recommend that you first make sure they are compatible.
To work out your ideal foot position think duck stance! Try jumping in the air and landing comfortably with your feet slightly out-turned. Squatting is another way to see how much your feet naturally spread. The main thing is to make sure that your bindings are set up symmetrically providing you with even weight distribution across the board.
Now that you've got an idea of what to look for, get out there and ride that wake!