If catching some air and breaking out some aerial tricks on your wakeboard sounds like your kind of watersport, but you’re just getting your feet wet and you’re not sure where to start, then look no further because we’re here to help! Learning how to wakeboard can be tricky, so if you plan to be popping out ollies the second you get going you might find yourself in the water more often than not. When you’re first learning how to wakeboard there are a couple things about wakeboards you should know to get prepared to take on that wake and start working on those tricks.
First, there’s a difference between a wake park (or cable park) wakeboard and a boat wakeboard. Wakeboards intended for the cable park are not constructed the same as wakeboards that get towed behind a boat. The fins are different, since you won't do the same tricks at the cable park and on the lake. Cable park wakeboards have a built in fin, so they don’t break off while doing tricks that require sliding or grinding. Cable park boards are constructed with a stronger, fiberglass compound which makes it easier for the rider glide and slide. Boat wakeboards have longer fins and a deeper rocker shape so the rider can cut through the water with more ease. There are some hybrid wakeboards that have removable fins, so the rider can get the best of both worlds, but if you are going to spend all of your time on the lake or at the cable park you will want to get a wakeboard that will help you get the best performance.Here we’re going to focus on boat wakeboards, which are attached by a tow rope to wakeboard towers and pulled by wakeboard boats.
A hybrid wakeboard that is designed to work for both wake parks and boat isn’t going to be ideal for either one. If you know where you’re going to use your wakeboard, be sure to make your selection accordingly.
Second, aside from having a reliable life jacket for when getting air turns into wiping out, the first thing you want to do is to make sure you pick out a good wakeboard. But what does that really mean? If you’re just starting out, a good beginner wakeboard is matched to the rider’s weight and height, has the right rocker, fins and shape and has a binding setup that’s both stable and comfortable.
How to Select the Size of Your Wakeboard
Talk to any wakeboarder and they will tell you: when picking out a wakeboard, the first and most important step is figuring out what size you need. Thankfully, picking out your wakeboard size is as easy as knowing how much you weigh and how tall you are. So, the first thing you need to do is hop on a scale and get your weight, then find a measuring tape to get that height before you hit the store to buy your first wakeboard. Some may say that your height isn’t as important as your weight, and while that may be true, if you’re unusually tall for your weight then you should definitely keep balance in mind. If you are taller than average for your weight, consider getting a slightly larger wakeboard to take a wider stance while wakeboarding - it will help you keep your balance. Choosing a larger wakeboard is also popular for beginners, as it helps you keep your balance while keeping the board slower and steadier.
If it’s possible that multiple riders might use the same wakeboard, a good rule of thumb is to go with the size measurements of the largest possible rider. Adapting to riding a wakeboard that’s too big for you is much easier than trying to ride the wake on one that’s too small.
What Makes One Wakeboard Different from Another?
We mentioned there are wake park, boat, and hybrid wakeboards, but the differences don’t stop there. Boat wakeboards have three features that will be different depending on their intended user, which in turn cater to rider styles (more on that later): the rocker, the fins, and the shape.
- The Rocker: If you put the wakeboard on a flat surface, you’ll notice that it curves up on either side outward from the middle of the board. This curve is the rocker, and it comes in two categories: continuous and three-stage. A three-stage rocker board is going to be better for beginners to make it easier to land jumps.
- The Fins: Fins keep your wakeboard going in the direction you want it to, rather than taking on a mind of its own. When choosing a wakeboard, you’ll find that there are all sorts of fins you can choose from, but as a beginner you should look for deeper fins on your wakeboard. The deeper the fins are, the more stable your ride will be, but keep in mind this also means they won’t be able to break free from the water as easily.
- The Shape: Remember that wider wakeboards are going to help with stability, while narrower ones will allow you to perform bigger tricks. When you’re first learning, grab a beginner wakeboard with a wider shape and squared edges. This style of edge will help with tracking or riding over the surface of the water.
The Best Wakeboard Style for Beginners
There are a lot of different styles of wakeboard to choose from, and as you become a seasoned, experienced wakeboarder you’ll want to learn even more about the rocker, fins, shapes, and other features that can vary from wakeboard to wakeboard. For now, as a beginner, you’re going to want to keep it simple so you can get a feel for being on the water before you take it on with everything you’ve got. There are a few key differences between beginner and professional wakeboards that you'll want to note. Beginner wakeboards have duller edges, so you can gradually learn to do tricks and cut from wake to wake. Intermediate and professional wakeboards have sharp edges that allow riders to cut hard and fast.
Every wakeboarder is going to have their own style of wakeboard, and you won’t be any different once you learn your own way of riding the water! Until then, here are some general guidelines for choosing the best beginner wakeboard:
- Know your size and height to pick the right size wakeboard.
- Pick a three-stage rocker board to make it easier to land jumps.
- Look for deeper fins for a more stable ride.
- Choose a board that is wider for better stability.
- Pay attention to your binding setup (more below).
Wakeboards are all made of fiberglass, but the core of the board varies. Cheaper wakeboards are going to have a completely foam center, which may work with your budget, but they won't get you as much pop as other boards. If you are looking to get a wakeboard that has more of a snap, look for boards that have a wooden center. THis added reinforcement gives the rider more energy to perform tricks, which can be well worth the higher price point.
Wakeboard Binding Setup for Beginners
Once you’ve picked out your wakeboard, you might notice that the board comes with some pre-drilled holes. These holes allow you to position the bindings, or boot-like devices that attach your feet to the wakeboard, into your desired stance. The stance you choose will largely depend on preference, tricks you want to perform, and experience level. As a beginner, you may want to consider starting with a simple, recreational stance.
With this stance, most of your weight it going to be on the rear of the wakeboard to make it easier for you to control and navigate. In terms of degrees, your bindings should look like this: zero degrees (vertical) for the back binding and two to three holes from the center of the binding plate for the front binding. Also, be sure to place the front binding at a natural, comfortable distance from the back binding. When your bindings are in place, it should feel like you’re preparing to jump while still being able to maintain your balance. This way you’ll be set for learning some basic maneuvers out on the water, like carving and hops.
Storing and Protecting your Wakeboard
When your wakeboard is not in use, you’ll want to find a spot to store it. Although it might seem easiest to stow it on the boat’s deck, there are better wakeboard storage solutions available to free up your deck space and keep your board protected from harm. Adding a Monster Tower wakeboard rack to your tower allows you to store racks out of the way and features thick rubber bumpers and a bungee cord to keep your board(s) safely in place as you cruise down the lake.
How Much Should You Spend on a Beginner Wakeboard?
Short answer: it depends! The amount you spend on a beginner wakeboard is really dependent on a number of different factors, including your needs as a rider, the style of wakeboard you decide to get, and the brand you choose. As a general rule for all beginners, however, we recommend keeping your investment as minimal as possible. That said, when you’re learning how to wakeboard you do want to make sure that you have the right wakeboard, or your experience could be more of a wipeout than anything. Always check with a representative and ask any and all questions you have about wakeboards before you buy to make sure you’re getting exactly what you need.
Choosing the right wakeboard is the first step to becoming a wakeboarding pro! For more tips and information on choosing the right gear to get started, be sure to check out our beginner's guide to choosing wakeboarding gear.