Surf, Board, Skate — All On The Water
By Chris Cameron, president
Arizona Wakeboard Association
Wake what? If you have spent time at any lake within the past few years, you have probably noticed an increasingly large number of people participating in sports other than waterskiing, fishing, or tubing.
Chances are those people are participating in a wake-related sport. There are three gaining popularity today: wakesurfing, wakeboarding and wakeskating.
Wakesurfing Is Oldest
By Jeff Walker
Wakesurfing is the oldest of the three wake sports. Its origins date back to the mid 1940s when all redwood longboards were pulled behind boats in the Hawaiian Islands.
Correct Craft produced a brochure in 1966 that showed a longboard being pulled behind a CC San Juan. This was the first recorded instance of wakesurfing in an advertising medium.
It was in the early 1960s at Cypress Gardens where longboard riders free-surfed behind a boat and amazed spectators, this being the first recorded instance of public wakesurfing.
As the sport gained popularity, companies began designing new boards specifically made for wakesurfing. These boards are thinner, smaller and heavier — allowing them to stay in the wake much easier than a traditional surfboard.
With much experimentation, watersports enthusiasts began to weight their boats down with water sacs in order to create larger wakes on one side of the boat, thus creating a monstrous wake on which to surf.
Wakesurfers get up, using the traditional means of a rope, as the boat would pull them into the wave. When the rider is in the pocket, he or she throws the rope into the boat and surf on the wave rope-less, commonly called “free surfing.”
Wakesurfing is proving to be a great family sport. There is less potential for injury for mature watersports enthusiasts and younger folks can ride aggressively up the face of the wakes, performing many tricks associated with skateboarding.
Wakeboarding’s history can be easily traced back to 1985 when Tony Finn, a San Diego surfer, developed the Skurfer, a hybrid of a ski and a surfboard. The Skurfer looked like a small surf board.
The rider stood on the board and was pulled behind a boat while performing surfing-like moves on the boat’s wake. During the summer of ’85, Finn added straps to his Skurfer, which gave riders the ability to get big air and progressed the sport beyond surfing behind a boat.
Over the next several years, Finn promoted, popularized and marketed the board, and the sport of skiboarding was born. In 1990 ESPN broadcasted the first Skurfer championships.
Despite Finn’s efforts, the sport did not take off. The size, shape and weight of the boards made it extremely difficult for the general public to get up and use the Skurfer.
However, that would quickly change. In 1990, Herb O’Brien, president of H.O. Sports, started tinkering with designs and, with the help of the best surfboard shapers in Hawaii, developed the first compression-molded, neutral-buoyancy wakeboard, the Hyperlite Pro.
Neutral buoyancy allowed riders to submerge the board for easy deepwater starts. This innovation sparked the growth of what became known as wakeboarding. Many changes and improvements have been made to wakeboards since the Hyperlite Pro model, allowing riders to take the sport to new heights.
Wakeboarding Is A Combination
Now that the history lesson is done, you are probably still wondering, “What is wakeboarding?” Wakeboarding combines water skiing, surfing, and snowboarding into one sport.
As with waterskiing, wakeboarders are towed behind a boat. The speeds are typically much slower (16 – 24 mph) and the ropes are longer (55 to 80 feet) and do not stretch.
The rider uses the boat’s wake to perform tricks. Wakeboarding is considered a freestyle sport, much like snowboarding, where the rider has the freedom to add his own style to a trick. Observers will find many similarities between wakeboarding and snowboarding tricks.
The easiest way to describe wakeboarding is that it similar to snowboarding behind a boat.
And Then There’s Wakeskating
Wakeskating came onto the scene about 10 years ago, gaining popularity over the past five years. Wakeskating is an adaptation of wakeboarding and skateboarding.
Unlike wakeboarding, the rider is not bound to the board when wakeskating. A wakeskate is shorter and narrower than a wakeboard; the top is typically covered with grip-tape, and the riders wear shoes.
In general, a wakeskating setup is very similar to a skateboard setup. As the name implies, wakeskating is squarely rooted in skateboarding, and the advanced tricks that are performed can be found at the skate park as well as at the lake.