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How To Buy A Wakeboard

Wakeboarding offers a different set of thrills and requires a different set of skills than traditional waterskiing. As the sport has grown in popularity, the variety and sophistication of the products has increased.

Choosing the Right Wakeboard

There are two main factors involved in determining which type of wakeboard is right for you:

Riding Style

  • If you come from a surfing or water/snow skiing background, you will probably prefer a single-tip board. This design has a more pointed front and a square back, much like the design of a surfboard.
  • If your experience has been primarily in snowboarding or skateboarding, you will be more comfortable with a twin-tip board. Twin-tips are more rounded in both the front and back, like a snowboard or a skateboard.

Level of Ability

  • Beginners
    • Beginners should opt for a square railed board that offers control, stability and the ability for long, sweeping cuts outside the wake
    • This version is generally less expensive because they do not include many of the high-tech additions of more advanced boards
    • Square rails, however, make it more difficult to make landings from air tricks because the edges are sharper (less rounded) and make it easier to catch an edge
  • Advanced
    • Advanced riders will prefer a board with round rails
    • Tricks are easier and softer to land because there is less of a chance of catching an edge
    • Round rails also enable the board to go faster and provide a quicker lift on jumps

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Wakeboard construction

Again, it is your ability level and style of riding that will determine which type of wakeboard to buy.

Materials

  • Wakeboards are comprised of generally the same materials as water skis
  • A polyurethane or foam core is wrapped by a fiberglass or fiberglass/graphite (on advanced boards) composite exterior

Dimensions

  • Most wakeboards are made between 120-150 centimeters in length
  • Most boards will come with an indication of the proper size and weight of the rider
  • If in doubt, choose the longer board because a shorter board will not perform well if the rider is too large or heavy for it
  • In general, the shorter the board the less stability in starts and turns, so beginners should also choose a slightly longer board to make learning easier
  • Wakeboard widths generally range from 39 to 43 centimeters. The width is made in conjunction with the length of the board.

Rocker

The amount of rocker describes a wakeboard's bottom profile using the angles where the board curves at either end. Wakeboard rockers have three major categories: continuous, continuous/progressive and three-stage.

  • Continuous rocker offers predictable performance with a smooth curve from tip to tail. It accelerates smoothly and generates a comfortable pop off the wake.
  • Continuous/progressive rockers are They have a continuous rocker through the belly and then become gradually more angled around the area under the feet.
  • Three-stage rockers are also designed for enhanced acceleration and an agressive lift off the wake. They typically have a significant flat spot in the middle of the board and then kink or curve abruptly under the feet and flatten out off the tip and tail.
  • Wakeboards generally come with rockers between 5-6 centimeters
  • A higher rocker--a more rounded bottom-- makes it easier to land jumps
  • A lower rocker--a flatter bottom-- is easier to control when going straight and accelerates better

Fins

Function

Fins keep the board traveling in the direction in which you point it and prevent it from freely rotating on the water. It does this using vertical depth and the shape of the foil, or profile, of the fin from front to back.

  • Wider foils move more water and create drag and lift under your feet
  • Thinner foils push less water and let the fin guide your board without resistance

Depth and Base

Rocker and fin hole placement should be considered when selecting a fin depth.

  • Extra rocker pulls the fin up out of the water and compromises hold, as will a wider fin setting
  • Elongated bases address rocker problems, giving the water a snowy feel and giving shallow fins more surface area for effective cutting and tracking
  • Measure the rocker and fin holes in a complete board that feels comfortable to you and compare it to those in a new board you're thinking about buying.

Conditions

  • Rough conditions call for a larger fin that will provide hold and control while you're bouncing around in the chop
  • For smooth, clear conditions, the maneuverability of a smaller, thinner fin is preferred by most boarders

Styles

In general, a ramp style fin is a good place to start. It is considered the most universal of shapes, and seems to work for a lot of different riding styles. Having a few sets of fins can give you almost as much versatility as owning a collection of complete boards. A long base shape with different depths and foils offer a great deal of riding variety.

  • Sharper and deeper for choppy conditions or extra control in new maneuvers
  • Rampy and shallow for smooth, free-riding conditions

Bindings

Overlay

The overlay provides the majority of foot support by pulling the toe and heel pieces together, and creating a snug, secure attachment for your board. They should be cut or molded thick enough to offer support, but not so thick that they don't stretch.

  • The standard system has two overlays that criss-cross behind and in front of the foot and lock down to the hardware around the ankle and fore foot.
  • Overlays are designed to offer ankle support without binding.
  • Overlays work effectively by pushing your heel down; many newer bindings have adjustable straps, laces or buckles in the overlay package to accomplish this.
  • These closures range from firm plastic with a ratcheting buckle to systems with a lace-up closure connected to a rubber or cordura overlay. Closures must be cinched down enough for consistent, all-over, non-binding pressure.

Underlay

The underlay makes contact with the top of your foot and the Achilles tendon area. Today's underlays are usually made from some form of EVA (Ethylene Vinyl Acetate, a foam and rubber hybrid). EVA is much lighter than rubber and allows for vibrant, contemporary colors.

  • EVA underlays vary from very flexible to very stiff.
  • A stiffer underlay offers more support, but may impede comfort and easy on-and-off. Softer underlays will be comfortable but may not offer all the structure you desire.
  • Make sure that when you wear the boot, there aren't any areas that pinch or bind your foot. There are also variations in the type of rubber/neoprene laminated to the EVA for comfort and grip on the skin. Ensure that there is a bond between the rubber and EVA, and that anything sewn or cut on the underlay is clean and sturdy looking.

Hardware

Hardware is usually made from metal or nylon. The hardware functions to hold the binding pieces together and support to the side of the foot.

  • Good hardware should be ergonomically designed, curving into the arch and out at the toes. The heel piece should sit like a fitted cup and offer support all the way around the heel.
  • Make sure that your foot can't slide on top of any of the hardware pieces; landing in that position will cause bruises on your foot.
  • There are a number of companies that make aftermarket bolts and accessories for your bindings. The most important is a good set of bolts to lock the baseplates down. Most of these sets come with a set of countersunk washers that spread the load of the bolt and add a custom look.

Baseplate

A wakeboard binding baseplate may look fairly straightforward, but start assembling them with various boards and you'll begin to understand the differences among them.

  • A baseplate must be strong and stiff; a flexible baseplate will reduce the feel and control you have over your board.
  • The strength and stiffness of a plate is based on the quality and thickness of aluminum.
  • Your baseplate also needs to offer you plenty of stance options. You should be able to get within a fraction of an inch of your ideal stance, including stance width and angles from the middle (rail to rail) of the board.

Footbed

Footbeds should offer not only a lot of support, but also a comfortable resting place for your feet. Support feel in footbeds is similar to that in skates, or basketball or running shoes.

  • The heel should sit a little higher than the ball of the foot to accommodate the ankles and knees. The bed should also have a nice heel cup to hold you firmly in place.
  • On the surface of the footbeds, look for a comfortable form of traction to keep your soles from sliding around when they get wet.
  • A raise under the toes and an arch support are typical for most bindings, giving you leverage on your toeside edge and keeping you from sliding out the toe hole.
  • For shock absorption, make sure the foot bed isn't too soft. Some manufacturers use two different densities of foam for a combination of comfort and shock absorption. Others have gone to air and gel pockets under the heel for added shock absorption.

Entrance / Adjustment

Bindings with some flexibility, adjustability and good finger holes make for easy on-and-off. If you like to ride with a boot that is really snug or tight, then your boots are going to be a little hard to get into. If you're using lots of force and soap, then you should consider something bigger or more adjustable. Adjustability can mean one of two things:

  • You can tighten the boot around your foot with straps, buckles, ties and closures
  • You can take the boot apart and tighten the overlays. With some adjustment in the overlays, you can buy a boot that you will be able to adjust to keep snug even after it is broken-in.

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Choosing the Right Rope

Wakeboarders require a stiffer rope than water skiers to help perform tricks. A tighter, stiffer rope that does not stretch helps you get more air and be able to pull yourself through flips and spins.

Types

Low stretch

  • Low stretch ropes are generally constructed of polyethylene or some blend of it
  • These generally stretch around 1 percent in length when under a normal wakeboarding load

No-stretch

  • No-stretch ropes are constructed using a material called Spectra
  • Spectra rope is very strong and has almost no elastic properties. They stretch less than half a percent when under load.

Multi-purpose

  • If most or all of your time is spent water skiing, a ski rope should be your choice even if you are wakeboarding
  • If you mainly wakeboard or are trying to improve your skills and learn tricks, a stiffer rope is your best bet
  • If you spend equal amounts of time skiing and wakeboarding, and you are an occasional or recreational user, a low-stretch rope will do the job. This gives you some stretch for recreational water skiing, but also offers enough stiffness to pull against when wakeboarding.

Length

  • Wakeboard ropes vary in length, but most are sixty to seventy feet long
  • Some are one piece with no length adjustment, while others offer multiple adjustment loops

Handles

  • Wakeboard handles tend to be more specialized than water-ski handles because they offer more features that make tricks and aerial maneuvers easier
  • Most wakeboard handles have a wider grip than water ski handles
    • Wakeboard handles commonly have grips that are 13-15 inches wide, whereas ski handles are generally 11-12 inches wide
    • The increased grip width makes it easier to perform tricks requiring the handle to be passed behind the rider's back
  • Wakeboard handles usually have a rope braid for the rider to hold onto; or offer a second, smaller handle grip built into the rope for a stronger hold
  • Most wakeboard handles have neoprene foam floats on them to keep the handle floating

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