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Waterski Pioneer Evie Wolford on a Monowaterski, ca. 1950 Evie Wolford, Monowaterski, ca. 1950.jpg
Waterski Pioneer Evie Wolford on a Monowaterski, ca. 1950
Monowaterski Slalom Course, Cypress Gardens, Florida, ca. 1950 Mono Waterski Slalom-course, Cypress Gardens, ca. 1950.webp
Monowaterski Slalom Course, Cypress Gardens, Florida, ca. 1950
An athlete practicing the sport of wakeboarding. Wakeboard logan.jpg
An athlete practicing the sport of wakeboarding.

Wakeboarding is a water sport in which the rider, standing on a wakeboard (a board with foot bindings), is towed behind a motorboat across its wake and especially up off the crest in order to perform aerial maneuvers. [1] A hallmark of wakeboarding is the attempted performance of midair tricks. Wakeboarding was developed from a combination of water skiing, snowboarding and surfing techniques.


A woman wakeboarding on the Arakawa river in Tokyo, 2018

The rider is usually towed by a rope behind a boat, but can also be towed by cable systems and winches, and be pulled by other motorized vehicles like personal watercraft, cars, trucks, and all-terrain vehicles. The gear and wakeboard boat used are often personalized to each rider's liking.

Though natural watercourses such as rivers, lakes and areas of open water are generally used in wakeboarding, it is possible to wakeboard in unconventional locations, such as flooded roads and car parks, using a car as the towing vehicle. [2] [3] [4]

Wakeboarding is done for pleasure and competition, ranging from freestyle wakeboarding and wakeboard parks to wakeboard competitions at the X Games, WWA Wakeboard World Championships, or similar events. [5] Though it had an obscure start, it is now the world's fastest growing water sport. [6]



The sport that would later become wakeboarding began as water-skiing with monowaterskis (single waterskis) in the USA around 1950. The main difference between monowaterskis and contemporary wakeboards is the shape of the board and the stance.

Surfboards as Monoski

Wakesurfing - using surfboards as monowaterskis - began picking up traction around 1964, where it was seen as an "exciting new sport that's soon going to sweep the waterways." [7] Although surfboards were originally used, boards without straps or bindings were first seen in New Zealand with boards called "skurfboards".[ citation needed ] Eventually, wakeboards with bindings or straps were sold in Australia under the name "McSkis". Later, another company called "Skurfer" was founded by Tony Finn in 1985, [8] named as such due to the board being a cross of a surfboard and a water ski. [9] The first board made in the early 1990s was the Hyperlite board by the O’Brien company, [10] a water ski manufacturer who marketed the board as a “compression-molded neutral-buoyancy wakeboard.” [11] This was followed by a variety of boards that are curvier and more compact, creating a smoother ride. [11]

The wakeboard rope has advanced over the years with improvements in the material makeup. When wakeboarding first started, wakeboarders used ski rope, which was made with stretchy cloth or plastic ropes. The latter soon grew in popularity, and a braided rope made out of polypropylene was eventually introduced. A few years later[ when? ], a rope that was less stretchy was invented that gave the rider a more consistent pull on the rope, though they were heavier and larger in diameter. Modern ropes are coated with Spectra and Dyneema, which decrease the stretch and drag of the rope.


Wakeboarding - Box End Park September 2009 Wakeboarding - Box End Park September 2009 (3916745528).jpg
Wakeboarding - Box End Park September 2009

When wakeboarding, a wide variety of safety equipment is used. These include life vests or other buoyancy aids which prevent water-related injuries and deaths, as they keep the wearer buoyant until they are picked up. These vests especially help in situations where the rider is knocked unconscious or cannot tread water. [12] Furthermore, wakeboarders use water-resistant helmets that are able to ventilate water so that the helmets do not fill up with water. [12] Even the length of a wakeboarder's rope is important in providing safety; if the rope is too long, a wakeboarder will land on the flat part of the wake instead of the downside, and their knees will buckle.

Wakeboards themselves are also important to consider when preparing to ride. Four of the most common wakeboard styles include the continuous rocker, the three-stage rocker, the five-stage rocker, and the hybrid rocker. [13] Rocker refers to the curve of the board from head to tail and each type of board has a different placement and amount of curve that works best for different types of rides. The presence or absence of fins on the bottom of a board can also make a drastic difference in how it rides. Beginning riders are usually better off with deeper fins. Another part of the wakeboard itself to consider is the size of the board and the material, which are usually a wood or foam core with a fiber glass coating. [14]

Guy Robinson - Wakeboarding Method grab Wakeboarding.jpg
Guy Robinson - Wakeboarding Method grab
Wakeboarding Jump Wakeboarding Jump (Unsplash).jpg
Wakeboarding Jump

At the same time, the length of a wakeboarding rope will vary based on the rider's preferences. A longer rope may allow for more preparation and momentum before performing tricks, [15] whereas a shorter rope may require less speed and height to travel between wakes. [15] In addition to this, the material of the rope being used can make a significant difference in ride experience. The less stretch in the rope, the better it is for the rider to learn how to ride and do various tricks. Some of the best rope materials include Dyneema, Poly E, and Spectra. Each of these is known for its abrasion resistance, affordability and absorption, and durability respectively. [16]


When wakeboarding, a variety of tricks may be attempted. Most of these stem from the wakeboarder adjusting their posture, edge, and distribution of weight so as to fly into the air upon hitting the wake. [17] Various tricks include the toeside edge, [17] the heelside edge, [18] the ride switch, [19] and the 180° spin. [20]

More advanced tricks call for what is known as inversion or “inverts”. An invert is considered any action where the board is above the head of the rider. This does not necessarily mean the rider is fully upside down, as evidenced by the Raley, a trick where the rider extends their body parallel to the water bending at the knees to achieve inversion. [21] The heel side backflip, otherwise known as a tantrum, is often regarded as the first and easiest invert to learn as an intermediate level rider. This is because the shape of the wake or the “kicker” (a type of floating ramp, used primarily at cable parks, that mimics the shape of a wake) naturally initiates the sequence of motions that are necessary to complete the trick. [22]

Female wakeboarder doing a front roll rotation at Lake Powell, UT Female wakeboarder front roll on Lake Powell.jpg
Female wakeboarder doing a front roll rotation at Lake Powell, UT


There are many different ways that people are engaged in this sport. Popular brands like Byerly, Hyperlight, O'Brien and Ronix provide ever evolving technology and equipment as well as quality advice for new and seasoned riders alike. Some of these brands also have active social media presence to reach more people and get them into the sport. [23]

Relationship to Kitesurfing

Many movements and tricks in wakeboarding bear close resemblance to moves also found in kitesurfing. This is reflected in close similarities between wakeboards and twin-tip kitesurf-boards. Wakeboarding in wake- and waterski parks is thus often considered a more approachable wind-condition independent alternative to kitesurfing and has seen a surge in popularity in parallel to kitesurfing, especially in densely populated areas in Europe, such as Germany.

See also

Related Research Articles

Boardsports are sports that are played with some sort of board as the primary equipment. These sports take place on a variety of terrain, from paved flat-ground and snow-covered hills to water and air. Most boardsports are considered action sports or extreme sports, and thus often appeal to youth. A large proportion of youth partaking in these sports, together with aesthetic damage to property from sports like skateboarding, has led to many board sports being marginalized by the greater world of sports in the past. However, many board sports are gaining mainstream recognition, and with this recognition have enjoyed wider broadcast, sponsorship and inclusion in institutional sporting events, including the Olympic Games.

Water skiing Surface water sport

Water skiing is a surface water sport in which an individual is pulled behind a boat or a cable ski installation over a body of water, skimming the surface on two skis or one ski. The sport requires sufficient area on a stretch of water, one or two skis, a tow boat with tow rope, two or three people, and a personal flotation device. In addition, the skier must have adequate upper and lower body strength, muscular endurance, and good balance.

Kiteboarding Extreme sport

Kiteboarding or kitesurfing is a sport that involves using wind power with a large power kite to pull a rider across a water, land, or snow surface. It combines aspects of paragliding, surfing, windsurfing, skateboarding, snowboarding, and wakeboarding. Kiteboarding is among the less expensive and the more convenient of the sailing sports.

Kneeboarding (towsport) Water sport

Kneeboarding is an aquatic sport where the participant is towed on a buoyant, convex, and hydrodynamically shaped board at a planing speed, most often behind a motorboat. Kneeboarding on a surf style board with fin(s) is also done in waves at the beach. In the usual configuration of a tow-sport kneeboard, riders kneel on their heels on the board, and secure themselves to the deck with an adjustable Velcro strap over their thighs. Most water ski kneeboards do not have fins to allow for easier surface spins. As in wakeboarding or water skiing, the rider hangs onto a tow-rope. The advantages of kneeboarding versus other tow-sports seems to be an easier learning curve and a sense of being closer to the water when falls occur.


A foilboard or hydrofoil board is a surfboard with a hydrofoil that extends below the board into the water. This design causes the board to leave the surface of the water at various speeds.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">International Waterski & Wakeboard Federation</span> International sport governing body

The International Waterski & Wakeboard Federation (IWWF) is the world governing body for all towed water sports. Founded in Geneva, Switzerland in 1946, it is recognized by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) as the sole authority governing all towed water sports and has 91 affiliated member federations worldwide. The IWWF is also an affiliate member of the Global Association of International Sports Federations (GAISF) and is one of the seven founding sports of the World Games.

Hyperlite Wake Mfg. is a manufacturing company that was established in 1991 in Redmond, Washington. The company manufactures a variety of water sports equipment including wakeboards, wakesurfs, vest, paddleboards and more.

Darin Shapiro

Darin Fane Shapiro, nicknamed "The Scud" is an American professional wakeboarder from Orlando, Florida and the most successful rider in the history of the sport. Shapiro is well known for landing the first ever Double-flip on a wakeboard, which he named the "Speedball" as well as many other tricks which laid the foundation for what wakeboarding is today. After a 10-year retirement from wakeboarding, Shapiro returned to competition at age 40, at the 2014 Wake Games contest at Orlando Watersports Complex in Orlando, Florida.

Kite landboarding

Kite landboarding, also known as land kiteboarding or flyboarding, is based on the sport of kitesurfing, where a rider on a surf-style board is pulled over water by a kite. Kite landboarding involves the use of a mountain board or landboard, which is essentially an oversized skateboard with large pneumatic wheels and foot-straps. Kite landboarding is a growing sport, and there are several competitions. Kite landboarding is attracting growing publicity although it is not yet as popular or as well known as kitesurfing.

Cable skiing

Cable skiing is a way to water ski, in which the skier's rope and handle are pulled by an electrically-driven cable, whereas traditionally a waterskier is pulled by a motorboat. The mechanism consists of two cables running parallel to one another with carriers between them every 80 metres. The carriers are metal tubes that can hook up tow ropes with riders. Tow ropes are detached and attached at the same time without slowing the system down, which is a main reason for its high efficiency. With a main cable of 800 metres long, 10 riders can waterski or wakeboard at the same time. The speed of the main cable can be up to 38 mph (61 km/h), and slalom skiers can reach much higher speeds. The most common speed is 19 mph (31 km/h), which suits wakeboarders best.

Skurfing is a towed water sport similar to waterskiing, in that an individual is pulled behind a boat on a tow rope. However, instead of water skis, the sport uses a skurfboard which is a floating platform the user balances on, similar to a surfboard, but typically much shorter, with two foot-straps that prevent falling off the board and three fins positioned on the bottom that make it easier to maneuver when the board is being towed. The word itself is a portmanteau of skiing and surfing. Skurfing is often considered the precursor to wakeboarding.

Wakesurfing Water sport

Wakesurfing is a water sport in which a rider trails behind a boat, riding the boat's wake without being directly pulled by the boat. After getting up on the wake, typically by use of a tow rope, the wakesurfers will drop the rope, and ride the steep face below the wave's peak in a fashion reminiscent of surfing. Wakesurfers generally use special boards, designed specifically for wakes.

Sit-down hydrofoil

The sit-down hydrofoil, first developed in the late 1980s, is a variation on water skiing, a popular water sport. When towed at speed, by a powerful boat or some other device, the board of the hydrofoil 'flies' above the water surface and generally avoids contact with it, so the ride is largely unaffected by the wake or chop of the water and is relatively smooth. The air board is a modified hydrofoil where the skier stands up.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Wakeboard boat</span>

Wakeboard boats also known as wakeboats, surfboats or tow boats are designed to create a large, specially shaped wake, for a wakeboarder to jump the wakes from side to side doing aerial tricks. They developed from the Runabout type.

Zane Schwenk is a professional Wakeboarder. He now lives in Winter Haven, Florida. He started professional wakeboarding in 1993 and is still active in the sport today. 2008 marked his 15th year as a Professional, he has also competed in the X Games. He is host of the MasterCraft Video series Rewind. Schwenk also has his own line of CWB wakeboards, the Absolute. Schwenk's sponsors include: CWB Wakeboards, Proline Ropes & Handles, MasterCraft Boats, Spy Optics, Rusty Clothing.

Liquid Force is a manufacturer of wakeboard and kiteboarding related products, gear, and clothing, based in the United States. The company also has a wakeskating and wakesurfing division besides the wakeboarding and kiteboarding focus. Liquid Force now counts as one of the leading manufacturers in the wakeboard related products and clothing market. Besides manufacturing wakeboard related products and clothing, the company sponsors numerous events and athletes to promote the sport. Liquid Force was founded in 1995 by Tony Finn and Jimmy Redmon, both pioneers in the sport of wakeboarding. Its headquarters are located in Encinitas, California.

Danny Harf is an American professional wakeboarder and sports video producer.

Horse surfing is an extreme sport invented in 2005. It requires two people, a horse, and a board. Horse surfing involves one person riding either a kite-board, surfboard, wake-board, or skim-board, while being towed behind a horse, ridden by a second person, through shallow water, at speeds up to 40 miles per hour (64 km/h). After originating in England the first official horse surfing competition was held in 2006 in La Baule, France, and over the last 14 years the sport has continued to spread internationally. Today there are several international competitions with globally established rules and categories.


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