Wakeboarding is an extreme water sport that combines surfing, water skiing, and snowboarding techniques. It evolved from skurfing and became more accessible with the creation of the Hyperlite wakeboard. Wakeboarding has become an international and competitive sport with various competitions for both professionals and amateurs. Wakeboards are available for purchase, but the sport requires towing by boat or jet ski, making it more upscale than surfing or snowboarding.
Wakeboarding is an extreme water sport that combines surfing, water skiing and snowboarding techniques. A wakeboard is typically pulled behind a boat or jet ski, has thin bottom fins, fixed boot-style attachments, and is ridden sideways like a snowboard or skateboard.
Wakeboards are designed to skim the surface of the water, jump wakes, and back up so the rider can ride it backwards (called a “fakie”). Experienced riders can also “catch air” or leave the water by shooting the wake to flip the board tail over nose, or roll it toes over heels.
Wakeboarding evolved from several sports, but basically grew out of skurfing (water skiing + surfing), a sport popularized in the 1980s in which a boat drags a rider on a surfboard. In 1984 Tony Finn of San Diego and partner John Hamilton began designing smaller boards for the sport and mass-produced them through their company Skurfer, Incorporated.
While skurfing has become wildly popular, it hasn’t exactly caught fire. Skurfs, thick and buoyant, were difficult for the average person to ride, and the sport required significant skill and strength just to get the skurfboard to plane.
Jimmy Redmond, an avid enthusiast from Austin, Texas, decided that skurfing would be more fun if skurfing boards had bindings for more control. In 1990 this innovation was followed by the serendipitous interest of the legendary Herb O’Brien, founder of several successful water ski companies. O’Brien teamed up with Hawaiian surfboard designers to create the very first commercial wakeboard, the Hyperlite.
With the production of the Hyperlite, wakeboarding has become practically accessible to everyone. The compression molded board incorporated many special features which not only made it easy to use for deep water and dockside starts, but also highly manoeuvrable. Neutrally buoyant with a slim profile and sharp edges to carve a wake, the Hyperlite set the standard for wakeboards to come. And they came from leading water sports manufacturers and entrepreneurs.
While early wakeboards had narrow tips and tails that were somewhat reminiscent of a surfboard, the evolution of the sport has resulted in blunter designs with “double tails” and a fin at both ends. This design allowed the rider to maintain a centered position and ride the board forward or fakie with equal ease. Other innovations such as grooved bottoms and improved bindings ensured that wakeboarding would quickly grow into an international and competitive sport.
In 1990 Jimmy Redmon founded the World Wakeboard Association and by 1992 major sporting event organizers were holding professional wakeboarding events. WakeBoarding magazine was launched in 1993 and there are various competitions for both professionals and amateurs, including the Wakeboarding World Championships and Hyperlite Amateur Tournaments. In 1996 ESPN televised the X-Games to showcase wakeboarding.
Wakeboards are available wherever water sports equipment is sold. Wakeboard boards are priced from around $300 US Dollars (USD) and bindings are sold separately. Because wakeboarding also requires towing by boat or jet ski, it is considered a more upscale sport than surfing or snowboarding.