WAKEBOARDS ARE BUILT WITH
SO many features and come in such a wide variety of shapes and sizes that finding the right one seems like a daunting task. Things can get confusing pretty quickly. Over the course of my 12 years as a pro rider for O’Brien Watersports, I’ve noticed that if you simply pay attention to a few key elements, you can narrow the options down to a few boards that will work well.
Wakeboards currently have a size range between 110cm and 160cm, to fit the needs of every body type — from little four-year old shredders to professional football players. Given the wide variety of participants, it is important to figure out an appropriate size range to suit your needs. Use this chart for a general idea of board sizing.
This is not a fixed scale. For example, if you weigh 120 pounds, you don’t have to be on a 130cm board. You can go up or down a few centimeters and be just fine. That said, beginners tend to benefit from the added stability of a slightly larger board, so don’t be afraid to go up a little in size.
Rocker is the curvature of the base of the wakeboard, and it has a drastic impact on how the board rides on the water and releases off the wake. The two factors you should consider when looking at a board’s rocker are the type of rocker and the amount of rocker.
Types of Rocker
• Continuous: A consistent curvature runs the entire length of the board.
A continuous rocker gives the board a very smooth and predictable feel both on the water and while launching off the wake, making it a great rocker line for beginners.
• 3-stage: Two abrupt changes in the curvature of the board break the running surface into three segments.
Such a rocker gives the board a more explosive, vertical pop off the wake. However, for beginners, harnessing that pop can be a challenging skill and riding can feel inconsistent.
A variety of blended rocker lines fall between these two extremes, so as you improve you can find something more suitable to your riding style without having to jump from one extreme to another.
Amount of rocker
Wakeboards typically have anywhere between two and three and a half inches of rocker. Beginners should choose a board on the lower end of the rocker spectrum. This allows the board to ride higher in the water, reducing drag and allowing riders to spend more quality time on the water improving their skills. Boards with more rocker sit deeper in the water and create more drag, which can help generate more pop off the wake, but it comes at the expense of the rider’s endurance.
BOAT OR CABLE
In the early days of wakeboarding, everybody rode behind a boat and all of the boards used a similar compression-molded construction. Over the past several years, there has been a significant emergence in cable-park riding, where instead of launching off wakes, riders hit kickers, rails and other features similar to those found in snowboard parks. Due to this growth, manufacturers have implemented construction techniques that make boards more flexible and durable, since riders are no longer just skimming across water. The majority of “park riders” tend to prefer boards that flex, because of their snappy, responsive feel underfoot and the improved performance on the park features. “Boat riders,” on the other hand, tend to prefer the traditional compression-molded boards, because the added stiffness makes the board more predictable, especially when hitting a wake. This doesn’t mean you can’t ride a flex board behind the boat (which is what I do) or a boat board on the cable; these are the trends, and if you are just getting started it’s probably a safer bet to follow the guidelines.
Choose a board with either four molded-in fins (with or without a removable center fin) or a board with a total of four removable fins. Boards with only two large removable center fins can still do the job but will end up being somewhat restrictive as you progress.
After figuring out your preferred board size, rocker line and construction, you should be down to only a few options. Sure, there will be some variety with these boards, but all of them should be able to suit your needs. Talk to someone at your local dealer about those options to see what he recommends and ask if the dealer offers a demo program so you can test the boards out side by side. Even if the dealer doesn’t have that available, you should feel confident in your options, so go pick one out and start riding.