How Wakeboarding Works

The Wakeboard

This wakeboarder shows us just how to master the wakeboard.
This wakeboarder shows us just how to master the wakeboard.
Paul Kane/Stringer/Getty

The first wakeboard, the Skurfer developed by Tony Finn, was first marketed in 1985. Shaped like a surfboard, it had a pointed nose, rounded tail, and surfboard-like fin. The Skurfer took off in popularity, and others in the watersports industry began to take notice of this quickly growing sport. Herb O'Brien, owner of H.O. sports, a water ski manufacturer, designed a wakeboard called the Hyperlite. The design of this board made maneuvering easier and allowed the sport to become more accessible to all sorts of people.

Boards are now about five feet long and two feet wide at the center, with a blunt nose and tail. A fin or several fins allow them to be more easily maneuvered. Most wakeboards are made from fiberglass and graphite, and they feature bindings that are attached to the board to hold the boarder's feet. Most recently, manufacturers have included a twin-tipped design that allows for easiest movement in all directions.

While wakeboards may look alike, they vary greatly in performance. It's important to consider the pop a board can get, the edge it keeps, its landing ability, and maneuverability in the air, which we'll discuss later. When considering a wakeboard purchase, you should request to take a demo ride in order to find one that is right for you. You can buy a wakeboard at most boat, ski, and skateboard shops. In general, wakeboards range in price from just under $200 to around $800.

As you get the hang of things, you may also be interested in a ballast, or additional weight on the boat. This can make your wake -- the wave created behind the boat-- bigger. You'll probably also use a kicker -- a ramp you use to catch air, similar to a skateboard ramp.­

As you learn about the wakeboard, you'll want to know more of the lingo, too. When you hold the board in your hand, it's called a grab. When you bone out, your legs are fully straightened. Sometimes you'll case, which means you land directly on top of the wake. When the water is calm and smooth, it's called glass. If you fall on your wakeboard, you can say you bailed. Speaking of falling -- digger, faceplant, wipeout and stack all refer to a bad wreck. You may even do a butt check -- a sloppy landing, where your butt slaps or drags along the water. If you experience a bumpy or turbulent wake, you can call that a ­washy wake. You may be either a goofy foot -- if you ride with your right foot forward -- or a regular foot -- if you ride with your left foot forward.

Now that we know the basics of the wakeboard, let's take a ride.