So you’re looking to purchase a wakeboard. If you’re just starting out it can be a daunting task. Here we breakdown what you’ll need to know to make an informed purchasing decision. All wakeboards may look very much alike, but there will be differentiating features to each board. These features include, length, width, rocker pattern, hull/base shape and design, fins, edges and materials.
When choosing the proper length wakeboard you’ll need to ask yourself who will be using the board? Just for me? A set up the whole family can enjoy? Finding the correct size board is based solely on weight. Below is our wakeboard sizing wizard. Just type in your weight and you’ll be given the ideal board size range. Choosing a board at the smaller end of your size range will make the board feel lighter, spin faster, flip faster, and be quicker edge-to-edge. A smaller board will have less surface area so it will ride lower in the water, making starts more fatiguing and landings a bit stiffer. On the flip side, a larger board will provide a larger more stable platform and will have you sitting higher in the water helping to generate speed when cutting into the wake and helping to pop you out of the water when starting. This larger surface area will also allow the board to pop higher off the wake, but land softer. If purchasing a board for the whole family you’ll want to take each riders weight into consideration. In some cases it’s not possible to buy just one board for everyone to use. For example dad weighs 215lbs and son weighs 90lbs. A board that will work well for dad will be much to large for son to handle, and a board sized for son will be much too small for dad. If you’re in between board sizes always err on the side of too big.
The width of a wakeboard plays a large role in how it sits in the water. A board with a wider midsection, tip and tail will sit higher in the water creating a more stable riding platform helping to generate speed when cutting into the wake. Having a board with a narrower tip/tail will have a lower swing weight, ideal for spins, inverts and other tricks as well as being quicker edge-to-edge. Many board companies will provide the length and waist measurements, not all provide tip/tail measurements.
Let's make is simple. When you lay a wakeboard on the ground, the rocker is the bend you see. A 2x4 piece of wood has zero rocker, a skate deck has a 3-stage rocker, and your grandma's rocking chair has a huge continuous rocker. The two main rocker setups you need to know are 3-stage and continuous. The 3-stage rocker has a main flat spot with an upward bend at the tip and tail. A 3-stage rocker is a little slower because the bend causes it to push more water. The continuous rocker has a smoother feel because it doesn't have a large flat spot. A continuous rocker allows the water to flow without disruption across the base and out the tail. This makes a continuous rocker faster and smoother edge-to-edge, however it lacks the vertical pop of a 3-stage. A new style of rocker has emerged and combines these two styles. Different brands may use a different terms such as: progressive, hybrid, blended 3-stage, and continuous hybrid. Each company has their own way of building these, but the ultimate goal is combining the benefits of each rocker-type by giving you the smooth ride and feel of a continuous rocker, while providing the extra kick of the 3-stage.
The more rocker your board has the slower, looser, and less edgy the wakeboard (bigger vertical pop). At the other end, less rocker allows the board to move faster and edge more aggressively (less vertical pop, more distance).
Each board is designed to have a specific feel. The people who shape these boards work very closely with their riders to make the board sit, edge and pop exactly the way the riders want.
A board with concaves will reduce suction from the water increasing speed. Spines or v-shaped hulls will help break the plane of the water which helps reduce the impact from landings. Higher end boards have started to incorporate channels at the tip/tail. This has the same result as when you put your thumb over the garden hose. It forces the water traveling under the board into a smaller space helping to propel the board forward. The more channels and/or fins you add to a board the more aggressive it becomes. The following describes how boards range from mellow to more aggressive designs. Ultimately it's all about what style you ride!
The shape and design of the tip and tail will also play a role in how a wakeboard will perform. A board with a more squared off tip/tail will provide more pop and vertical lift than a more rounded shape. Pro-model and higher end boards will tend to feature a more squared off tip/tail for this reason.
On an entry-level board you'll most likely see a single fin in the center (of the tail). These boards are usually very smooth on the water and pretty basic. Board shapers have then taken the next step in making these boards hold a better edge (and become slightly more aggressive) by adding molded fins to the outside edges of the board. Boards with molded fins give you the option to remove the center fin. When you do this the board has a looser feel and quicker response.
An even more aggressive board would have four actual fins (not molded fins) on each corner of the board. The closer the fins are to the edge of the board, the more aggressive the board because it is quicker edge-to-edge. However fins placed close to the edge of a board will not release as cleanly from wake. But this style does allow for smaller fins which means that it will release off the water quicker (for spins and inverts).
Today almost all of the boards on the market come with fins that are designed specifically for that board. You shouldn't have to worry about changing your fins, but if you want to, this may help you decide what to look for...
Simple one-fin-style boards have fins that tend to be a little larger (1.5-2.5 inches), which helps entry-level riders keep the board on track. These fins don't have the quick release of smaller fins, but are much more predictable. Smaller fins (1.2 inches or smaller) are usually used for more advanced boards. These fins are generally longer in length to help keep the board on track when on edge, but are also shorter in height to release quicker out of the wake.
The sharper the edge the more aggressively the wakeboard will track, resulting in more speed. Beginners and riders who like surface tricks will enjoy a more rounded edge as it will be more forgiving and less prone to "catch an edge". More advanced riders will prefer a sharper edge as it will help with acceleration cutting into the wake.
As with rocker patterns many manufacturers create boards with a blend of both types of edges. This type of edge is known as a variable edge. A variable edge shape will be more rounded in the middle of the board and sharper towards the tip/tail. The variable edge pattern helps create pop toward center of board and the sharper edges toward the tip/tail make the wakeboard faster and quicker edge-to-edge.
New to the wakeboard scene are boards made with sidewalls. This type of construction adds strength and durability to the board as the sidewall material absorbs shocks and vibrations.
Many wakeboards today are made with a compressed poly-urethane or foam core wrapped in fiberglass. Higher end and pro-model boards can come with wood and PVC cores, which helps reduce weight without sacrificing strength. With the rise of cable parks and more on-water park features wakeboard manufactures have started making boards with base materials that can absorb the punishment. Examples are Ronix’s sintered base and Liquid Force’s grind base. The use of these types of materials will increase the wakeboards price but can definitely help extend the life of the board.