What is Wakeboarding?
A wakeboard somewhat resembles a snowboard but is used to ride on water, like water skiing. The boards are shorter in length than snowboards and slightly wider. Riders are towed either behind a boat or a more recent addition, the cable ski.
Wakeboarding is about personal expression. Riders are generally innovative and creative; as a result they have created a sport that is exciting to watch and more fun to perform.
Wakeboarding comprises a wide range of ages and skill levels. However, most competitive boarders are quite young, in their teens to early 20’s. Their style and attitudes are laid back, similar to the skateboarding or snowboarding but a bit more upscale, as it requires quite a bit of money to buy a boat. However, cable parks have recently started to emerge in North America making it more affordable to get on the water.
A wakeboarding boat is similar to a water ski boat and just as expensive, with high-end boats costing over $100,000. Wakeboard boats tend to be heavier than water ski boats and have a different shape (to create a larger wake) with a tower or pole to which the rope is normally mounted. For those that cannot afford wakeboard-specific boats, large sacks filled with water are used to increase the size of the wake and create a superior ride.
Generally at competitions riders are allowed two passes through the wakeboard course during which he/she may perform any routine they wish, this is known as Freeride. Riders are judged on three categories – execution, intensity and composition.
Execution reflects the level of flawlessness to which each maneuver is performed, as well as the completion of the routine with minimum number of falls. Intensity represents the technical difficulty of the tricks and how big the moves are performed. Composition reflects the structure of the routine in terms of the rider’s ability to a variety of tricks in a flowing, creative sequence.
It is not entirely certain where wakeboarding came from. It progressed from many different sports during the 1980’s but there are a few key sports and individuals that stick out as contributors to wakeboarding.
Surfing is one of wakeboarding’s closest relatives and one of the main contributors to the sport. One of the earliest forms started by surfers getting pulled out to sea by boats to catch waves or being pulled by a truck along the shoreline. A surfer named Tony Finn developed one of the first wakeboards called the Skurfer. In the early 1980’s he and his partner John Hamilton started mass-producing the Skurfer, which looked much like a mini surfboard. Later straps were added to allow riders to perform additional tricks.
Throughout the 1980’s the sport was known as either skurfing or skiboarding. One of the problems the sport first encountered was the inability to draw big crowds to competitions. The boards and boat wakes were modified to allow riders to perform more spectacular tricks and gradually crowds increased. Another problem was that the early wakeboards were difficult to get up with because of their high buoyancy.
The next person to help in the evolution of the sport was a surfboard and water ski producer named Herb O’Brien. He helped develop the first neutral-buoyancy wakeboard, the Hyperlite Pro. With an innovative rider, Darin Shapiro, promoting and riding the new board the sport took off. Darin was known for getting huge air while being pulled behind a helicopter.
Wakeboards continued to get better and better throughout the 1980’s. They were made thinner with sharper edges. Jimmy Redmon was responsible for changing the shape from a surfboard shape to twin-tipped, so that riders could ride regular or fakie.
In 1990 Jimmy Redmon founded the World Wakeboard Association and also produced many of the sports rules and regulations. He went on to develop boards for Liquid Force and helped get the sport into the X-Games.
Wakeboarding was originally an event at water ski competitions. It was finally recognized with its own competitions in the U.S. in 1992. The first wakeboard tournament in Canada was held in Brooks, Alberta during the “Source Series” Recreational Tour in 1994. Two years later the first Canadian National Wakeboard Championship was held in Huntsville, Ontario.