Outdoor, Water Sports

Beginner Guide To Wakeboarding

Last updated on August 23, 2022 by Ben Snatler

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Learning to wakeboard is incredibly fun - and once you've figured out the basics, a whole world of water sports opens up to you! Similar techniques are used for kitesurfing, water skiing, and even snowboarding. However, doing anything for the first time can be intimidating, so we're here to help you.

In this beginner wakeboard guide, we will explain everything you need to know.

What Is Wakeboarding?

In wakeboarding, you're fastened to a board (or simply standing on it) and towed behind a motorboat. You'll surf in the "wake" of the boat on what seems like an endless succession of waves! Because there are so many variables - such as boat riding speed, the length of a tow rope, and what angle you approach the waves generated in the wake of the boat - wakeboarding is a sport that suits a wide range of people. It can be as hard or as easy as you need it to be!

How To Wakeboard

The hardest part of wakeboarding isn't the riding - it's the standing up! Once you've gotten upright, the rest is straightforward; all it takes is practice.

The first step is to decide how you want to stand on your board. While you can choose between standing with your right foot forward or left, you will likely have a natural inclination towards one or the other. It's similar to how you naturally throw a ball with either your right hand or your left. In the board sports world, leading with your left foot forward is called the "regular" stance, and leading with your right foot is called a "goofy" stance. 

Now, while you're on the back end of the motorboat, get your rope situated. It's easiest to wakeboard with a shorter rope and with the tow handle held down low on your torso. This increases the amount of upward pull that the boat generates on your body, helping you to stand up on your feet! Then set your feet on your board, shoulder-width apart and with the toes of your feet slightly turned out - for stability. Your feet should be square with each other. No regular or goofy stance yet!

So, you've got your rope ready, your stance set, and you're situated on the boat's back end. Slowly scoot your way off the boat and into the water. Get lined up with the boat. It would help if your arms were straight ahead, resting on your slightly bent knees.

As the boat takes off, take your knees into a deeper bend. You want to squat down as low as you can, with your rear end nearly touching your wakeboard. As momentum picks up, you'll feel your body pull forward so that you're situated over the top of your board instead of leaning back. Yay! Now you just need to stand up! Do it - slowly. Then, shift into your natural stance, and that's it! You're wakeboarding!

Wakeboarding

Source: Unsplash

Equipment Needed For Wakeboarding

You don't need to go drop lots of dollars on wakeboarding equipment. If you're just starting, take advantage of the many rental companies offering equipment for water sports! If you want to make sure you've got all that you need - and the right style of each of these things - then let's get into it.

Wakeboard

This is perhaps the most important piece of wakeboarding equipment, and boy, do you have options! Wakeboards can be grouped into two large categories - wake park wakeboards (also known as cable park wakeboards) and boat wakeboards. Both are made from fiberglass but are suited to very different water conditions.

Cable park wakeboards aren't designed to be pulled behind a boat. They're specifically for use in wake parks, where the tricks require more sliding and gliding maneuvers. To facilitate this, they have built-in fins that can handle the grinding force and a stronger fiberglass body that slides over the water better at an incredibly fast speed.

Boat boards have long fins and a "rocker" shape, so you can easily cut through the water. These boards are further divided by the rocker design. For example, a continuous rocker board has a smooth curve from one end of the board to the other, which allows for softer flex and more tricks. A three-stage rocker boat board is perfect for use behind a boat - it's stiff and can handle popping up off the water at great speeds.

Then, of course, hybrid boards attempt to combine the best of both worlds. A hybrid rocker mixes the two and has a removable center fin, and it allows for the smooth lands of a cable park board and the big wake hits of the three-stage rocker.

So, of all the different types of wakeboards, what type is right for a beginner? Here are some rules of thumb:

Hybrid boards

You may want to avoid hybrid boards. Know if you'll be wakeboarding in a cable park or a lake, and choose a board to match. Likely, you'll be wakeboarding behind a boat in a lake, as beginners rarely frequent the cable parks. A continuous rocker or three-stage rocker are the curves for you.

Height And Weight

Know your height and weight. Wakeboarding is all about balance.

All about the fins

The fins beneath the wakeboard help you control it. The deeper the fins, the more stability you'll have on your ride. However, this also limits the pops and jumps you can do. As you get better and better, you may want shallower fins to show off your tricks!

Wider Shape Boards For Beginners

If choosing between two boards, a beginner should opt for the wider shape. Beginner wakeboards are wider with a squared edge is another push toward stability.

Selection the right binding for your wakeboard

Bindings are where your feet connect to the board. Know if you'll be wakeboarding regular or goofy style, and then look for a board labeled with "recreational stance" bindings. Some bindings set-ups are suited for advanced tricks, but recreational bindings configuration is meant for basic beginner boarding.

Bindings

There are three types of bindings: velcro, adjustable, and high-back boot binding. Velcro binding is recommended for beginners as it can be easily adjusted. Adjustable bindings offer more support, and high-back boot bindings offer even more support, and it's perfect for doing tricks.

Wakeboard Boat

While you likely aren't going to go out and buy a wakeboarding boat as you're gathering your equipment, it's important to list because, well, you can only wakeboard with a boat.

Wetsuit

Wetsuits are used to keep your body warm in cold water. Even if the water doesn't feel particularly cool, keep in mind that you'll be getting drenched and then being up in the air moving at 50 miles per hour or faster. You'll get chilly!

Life jackets

Whether you opt for a life vest or a life jacket is a matter of personal preference. However, absolutely wear a life vest for your own safety. You'll probably fall off your wakeboard a lot and don't want to drown!

Wakeboard Rope

This is the line that connects you to the boat. Very necessary. Beginners should use thin ropes that are non-stretch, and the shorter, the better, as it will give you more control during the learning process.

Helmet

A helmet is perhaps the most important piece of safety equipment! You'll be going at high speeds, and whacking your head on your board can do significant damage.

Best Beginner Wakeboard Tips

  • Don't fight it! A common rookie error is, honestly, trying too hard. The boat and the water will do more work to get you up than you think! You'll succeed more if you lean into what you feel is natural rather than fight against it. You'll wind up less tired that way, too!

  • If you feel like your arms are being yanked forward, you need to bend your knees more. This will help center your gravity over the center of the board.

  • To move slightly to one side or the other from behind the boat, don't lean your body in the direction you want to go! Instead, lean back on your heels or forwards into your toes. This will cause either the back or front of the board to cut into the wake you're riding and follow it out to the side.

Best Places To Wakeboard In The United States

The United States is a big country with many locations perfect for wakeboarding!

Lake Powell

Located between Utah and Arizona, Lake Powell is the second largest man-made lake in the US, with 190 miles of water for you to enjoy! It's a popular spot, but it's large enough that it doesn't feel crowded.

Lake Shasta

This California lake has many coves and inlets to explore along the edges. It's a great spot to wakeboard because there's so much to see! It's easiest for beginner wakeboarders to practice here in the evening when the water calms down from all of the visitors.

Blue Lake

Blue Lake is a great wakeboarding location, and many X Games contenders head here to practice. The water is almost the same turquoise color as the Caribbean! However, its location has yet to be widely known, and it's on privately owned land.

Table Rock Lake

The Ozarks in Missouri is the place to go for all sorts of water sports - wakeboarding included. If you visit during the summer, don't bother with a wetsuit - the water gets plenty warm!

About the Author

Ben Snatler

Ben is a veteran boat captain, scuba instructor and sailing instructor. He grew up on boats and spent nearly the past 20 years working on all types of boats, yachts and even cruises doing all sorts of jobs, from maintenance to safety. He is fully certified with the american sailing association.