As their name suggests, bindings secure a rider to his wakeboard. It's important that they're tight enough to keep you affixed to the board so you can safely perform jumps and spins, but also loose enough in the right places so you have the flexibility and maneuverability needed to attempt those awesome tricks.
There are many different elements that make up the binding/boot interface. Unlike bindings on snow skis, which are screwed into the skis and separate from the boots that users wear, wakeboarding bindings and boots are one, interconnected apparatus. Each part of a wakeboard binding has an important role:
- The overlay secures the toe and the heel in place. It also provides some secondary ankle support. The overlay is most often made of thick, molded plastic which provides stability, but should move just enough to allow the rider some give.
- The underlay holds in and covers the top of the foot and Achilles tendon. (Just to reiterate -- the overlay goes on the heel, which is underneath part of the foot, and the underlay goes over the top of the foot. Confusing, but true.) The underlay is most commonly constructed of ethylene vinyl acetate [source: Dick's Sporting Goods]. A stiffer underlay, though it can be difficult to get on and off, offers more security and support to the foot. This type of underlay is usually recommended for beginners.
- Hardware keeps all of the other pieces of binding together. Cupping around the heel and curving into the natural arch of the foot, hardware also provides additional support to the sides of the foot. This part of the bindings should offer the least amount of give and freedom -- if the foot slides on top of the hardware while you're out there cresting waves, you'll come down hard on the hardware and probably bruise your feet pretty badly.
- The footbed is where the feet should properly rest. This is the shoe- or boot-like part of the binding, and likewise, should feel about as comfortable as a high-top athletic shoe. One major difference from a shoe, however, is that the heel should sit higher than the ball of the foot to provide proper security and the necessary stance to get airborne.
- The baseplate is where the binding screws into the board.
Now that your bindings are squared away, it's time to look at the other parts of the board. On the next page, learn what you should consider when looking at a wakeboard's fins.