We know how hard it is to choose the right wakesurf board. With all of the options available it is easy to become overwhelmed, not just for beginners, but experienced riders alike. There is a seemingly endless variety of sizes, shapes, features, and styles of wakesurf boards. It is intimidating, especially if you’re wakesurfing for the first time.
Not to add more pressure, but finding the right wakesurf board is important because you don’t want to buy something that you’ll outgrow right away or something that is so advanced you can’t seem to have any fun. Beginners will want a board that has a large enough volume (buoyancy) to help them keep afloat while they’re still learning the ropes, where a board that is too small for your size and ability will make you struggle.
If all of this sounds confusing and you’re looking for information on how to choose a wakesurf board, you’ve come to the right place! In this article we will give you tips on how to choose the best board for you. We will give you the general breakdown of a wakesurf board, what details are most important, and some suggestions based on skill level and riding style. With our help you will be able to make an informed decision when you buy a wakesurf board.
The Design Features of a Wakesurf Board
The shape of your wakesurf board can greatly impact your enjoyment of the sport. Not all boards are made the same and there are boards suited for laid back surfing, high-speed aerial tricks, or maybe just really easy to spin. Considering the features of your wakesurf board is important especially if you want to surf a certain way. We will go over a few key pieces that will do things like: separate a beginner board from an advanced board, entry level manufacturing from top-tier construction, and what makes a board more stable or looser.
Here are some features to keep in mind before purchasing a board.
The Rails, or edges of your surfboard, affect the amount of water that flows past the board. What that means is when you lean your board, pushing the edge into the water, the edges will react differently. A thinner rail will be more responsive and provide a quicker turn and more speed, while a thicker rail will be more stable requiring more pressure to initiate turns and providing a more consistent feel. A thicker rail / board will require more edge pressure but will general have more volume and be more buoyant.
- Full Rail / Soft Rail – Full rail is considered a soft rail and gives the wakesurf board a more consistent and stable feel, making it great for beginners. Expect smooth and drawn out turns when riding with a full rail.
- Hard Rail – Hard rails respond to smaller changes in balance, making them suited for riders looking for maximum performance. The hard edge bites through the water resulting in increased speed and responsiveness.
- Blended Rail – Blended rails are the cross between the first two types of rail design. This rail will give you a stable feel, fast speed and quicker turns. This is best suited for advanced riders.
Rocker lines are another important feature of wakesurf board. When you set a wakesurf board on a surface you will immediately notice that it’s not flat, this is the rocker. This curvature determines how much surface area of the board is touching the water. Rockers can be continuous through the whole board or broken up into stages with nose (front) rocker, centre, and tail (rear) rocker. As a general rule of thumb: Less Rocker for small, mushy, and weak waves. More Rocker for large, powerful, and steep waves.
- Relaxed Rocker (less curve) – this type of board has less curvature, so it has more surface area in the water resulting in better stability and sustained speed. Boards with a relaxed rocker are easiest to learn on and work great on smaller waves. Because of the stability of these boards it is more difficult to perform quick turns.
- Heavy Rocker (more curve)– it has less contact points in the water. Less contact points mean easier to execute turns and a more nimble feel. With less contact points your weight is pushing down on a smaller area creating drag, these boards are best used when you are going edge to edge (rail to rail) to keep the rocker from slowing you down. This is a great option for riding large steep waves.
The tail isn’t just about the overall look of the wakesurf board. Different shapes impact the feel of your ride. Some tail shapes are best for small waves while others are designed specifically for huge waves.
- Pin Tail – this is narrow in shape and creates a board with less surface causing it to sink lower in the water and creating a lot of traction. This type of tail is difficult to manoeuvre in small waves and best suited for big ones.
- Square Tail – more wakesurfers prefer the square tail nowadays, because it creates more float. An increase in floatation causes more push, quicker acceleration and more explosive rides.
- Swallow Tail – is wider than most shapes offering great planning speed, it is like two connected pin tails. It has the hold of a pin tail and the swiftness of a square. This tail is speedy, stable, and a good option for riders who are looking for a performance board on smaller waves.
- Squash Tail – is responsive, versatile, and user friendly. The ride feels similar to a square tail, but it feels more nimble and swift. Optimal for quick, sharp turns with a fast and loose feel. This shape is versatile for use riding on waves of all shapes and sizes.
- Round Tail – is a compromise between a pin tail and a squash tail, it has the same grip feel of a pin tail, it also feels faster due to the increase in surface area. It can maintain speed well and turns feel more stylish and smooth. This is an “all around shape” that can be ridden in most conditions.
- Diamond Tail – you can say that this is a crossover between the pin tail and a squash tail. It can handle speed and makes turns look easy. It makes your board look great and rides feel good.
The fins of a wakesurf board are often overlooked by buyers. However, fins have a big impact on the overall feel and ride of the board. Fins can increase your control of the board, maintain lift and affect drag. The right fin can make it harder or easier for you to control or stay stable on your wakesurf board.
When looking for a good fin setup, consider your size, ability level, riding style, and wave size. The fin set up can affect how you ride behind a boat. Different types of fins also connect differently, some are screwed in with a long Phillips head screw, held in with hex bolts, snap-in, etc.
- Single fin – this fin acts like a rudder and gives riders stability, control and hold. However, unlike multiple fin setups, a single fin cannot give riders speed and makes quick or sharp turns difficult. Riders that want to go fast have to harness the power of the wave. Ideal for big waves where high speed turns require extra hold from a large fin.
- Twin fin – riding a twin fin wakesurf board is like riding a skateboard. Its fun, has a lot of hold. It is more stable than a single fin but can feel loose and make big turns at high speeds difficult. This board is ideal for performing in small waves.
- Thruster – this option is one of the most popular and for good reason. The outermost fins are for speed while the middle fin is for stability and control. Very easy to manoeuvre and allows for impressive control, but the extra fins add more drag to slow you down.
- Quad – the riding feel of this setup is fast and loose. The quad is all about zipping down the line and riding big waves. Allows the control of a thruster setup but with more speed than having a centre fin. Works in smaller waves because of lower drag and steeper waves because the fin are closer to the edge.
- Five Fin – if you can’t choose between the thruster, twin or quad the five fins should give you the best of all three worlds. However, riding on all 5 fins is not recommended since it will slow down the board by causing a lot of drag. You would need a really big wave for this to work.
The two most common types of construction are compression moulding and composite / epoxy construction.
- Compression Molding – Compression molding has been used for years by companies like Hyperlite to make wakeboards. They are going to be more durable than a composite board, but at the cost of weight. Compression molded boards tend to be thinner and heavier. These are ideal for beginner to intermediate surfers because they tend to be less expensive and will last long enough for you to learn and for you to teach all your friends and family.
- Composite Construction – Made the same way as ocean surf boards, typically a foam core is wrapped with a carbon or fiberglass weave and coated with a resin or epoxy. This type of construction can make extremely light boards that are very buoyant, but they are going to be much more fragile than a compression molded board. Because they have a ton of float they work really well on smaller waves and can help you get that extra pop off the wave.
The 3 Board Styles:
Surf, Skim, and Hybrid
Generally, there are 3 types of wakesurf board: skim, surf and hybrid. The type of wakesurf board you choose will let you be able to do tricks, surf or both.
Surf style boards are the easiest to learn on because they tend to be very stable and buoyant. Beginners will find it easier to learn on this type of board while advanced surfers will love and enjoy its manageability and high-speed style surfing. Advanced riders will like the ability to make huge slashes and get lots of air for Ollies and aerials. Below you will find some suggestions based on the skill level of riders.
Skim boards are a popular choice among surfers who want to do spins and tricks. This type of board is ideal for performing or learning how to do tricks. This type of board is best suited for intermediate to advanced surfers. These boards are usually less buoyant and thinner, often compression moulded, all of this combines to make boards that are extremely manoeuvrable. The fins on these boards will be significantly shorter and often longer than surf style fins, some boards even have a nose fins to allow control when riding the board switch. For those looking to do surface or continual spins, pop shove its or these style tricks this is the board you will want.
For those that can’t decide between the two styles or want to have the ability to do aerials and spin the hybrid is a good choice. You can do tricks and surf on this board. This board was made so that surfers can enjoy the best of both worlds. It combines the playfulness of a skim board and the manoeuvrability of the surf style board. Not the best choice for beginners as these boards will not excel at any particular aspect of surfing and will be more difficult to learn on then a surf style board.
Most wakesurf boards are going to be too buoyant for kids with less mass to control, which is why manufacturers are making smaller boards to match. These boards are often just smaller version of a manufacturer’s bestselling boards.
The right accessories can make your experience safer and can help you keep your wakesurf gear neat and orderly. For example:
- Wakesurf rope – it is best to buy and use a wakesurf-specific rope for safety reasons. They are usually 20 – 25 feet in length and can get you in the right spots of the wave. Compared to other surfing ropes, this type has a smaller handle since both hands are not needed to grip the handle. Larger handles can be dangerous because it is body parts can easily become tangled. Look for a rope with a nice thick braid or wider rope where you can pull yourself into the sweet spot after getting up.
- Board Bags and Sleeves – wakesurf boards are more fragile compared to surfing boards so protecting and storing them correctly is important. Buy something that is easy to clean and use. This should be durable enough to prevent dings, cracks and harmful UV rays. Bags and sleeves also make it easier for you to transport your board thanks to handles and straps attached to the bag. They are also useful as storage for extra fins, life jackets, board shorts, sunblock and other small stuff that you need to carry or store on the way to the water.
Whether you’re an expert surfer or new to the sport, choosing the right board will vastly increase the level of enjoyment. Now that you have the information you need to make an informed decision, you can rest easy knowing you are getting exactly what you needed. You will hear people refer to their “quiver” of boards, meaning their collection, your board envy will grow, and you will want that skim board to compliment your surf style board… or that new hybrid for days where you just want to mess around… after a few surf sessions you will understand why there is an entire sub-culture of surf bums. Now get your board, get on the water, and Happy Surfing!