Not everyone is fortunate enough to live on a coast where hopping a wave means grabbing a surfboard and heading down to where the ocean meets the sand. Some people wouldn’t want to even if they could. For those who prefer lakes and want to get a rush even when the waters are calm, there’s the wakeboard. A combination of water skiing, snowboarding, and jet skiing, riding the wake of a boat is a fun and challenging sport that anyone with a boat and a hunk of cable can do.
Picking the right wakeboard for you begins with choosing the correct size. Too small, and it will sink. Too large and you won’t be able to really hop along. You’ll also want to pick one that is built for your riding style. Single tips always keep the same foot forward, which is best for slalom-style water skiers. Double tips are preferable if you have a snowboarding background and sometimes lead with your off foot. You’ll also need to consider rocker, fins, material, and shape, as each one changes the way the board works. When you’re ready to ride the wake, let one of the 7 best wakeboards carry you.
AirHead Bonehead II
Pro: Light with excellent pop for simple tricks
Con: Too small for larger riders
Small Fryer: Kids are one of the biggest buyers in the wakeboard market, as old pros bring in more young blood to take up the torch. Sadly, this means that many manufacturers have started making boards for smaller bodies that are grossly inferior. The Bonehead II brings all the quality of the AirHead brand, but compacted for anyone under 130 lbs. Only 124cm long, it doesn’t need a wide stance to keep both ends flattened and in contact with the surface of the water. A consistent rocker allows the whole body to roll more easily and adapt to changing conditions without throwing in too many curves. A pair of fiberglass fins for additional control can be strapped on or taken off as the youngster improves.
Pro: True step down edges enhance speed
Con: Narrow and light
Pro Inspired: Made to emulate the wakeboards of Rusty Malinoski and Shaun Murray, the Machete is a revamped, redesigned model with a mediocre past that is now a must have for serious riders. 4 removable finds provide a high degree of control and can take the tightest turns without dumping you into the drink. You’ll get a triple stage rocker that is harder to keep a handle on if you don’t know what you’re doing, but will let you explode out of the wake at maximum velocity for more tricks and an added jolt of adrenaline. The board width is the bare minimum, so balance is key, but once you find your center of gravity, prepare to shred like a surfer from an 80’s flick.
Pro: Highly stable and easy to land on
Con: Limited room for growth
For New Meat: Even if a wakeboard’s tag says it is made for beginners, there’s a wide range of basic boards out there. Get the wrong one, and you’ll still feel as if you’re chumming the waters like meat on a hook. The Sol has a forgiving soft flex body pattern, a wide, stable build, and a 4-channel bottom that assists in tracking. All that breaks down to a board that’s easy to mount, easy to stay on, easy to learn, and will forgive a multitude of mistakes. You’ll outgrow it after a serious season or two, but it’s the training wheels choice to ignite your passion for wakeboarding. It handles all the control so you can focus on learning the basics. Like standing up.
Pro: Sintered base reduces drag and increases speed
Con: Differentiated edges take practice to master
Room to Grow: The worst part about getting a beginner’s wakeboard is knowing that you’ll quickly get bored with it and need to upgrade. Such is not the case with the Vault. It’s wide and steady enough that any greenhorn can make it work, but not such a brute that only a rookie would want it in their quiver. It allows for a smooth wake attack that will still produce speed and height without needing to add hairpin turns into your repertoire. The rocker is smooth and continuous which starts out feeling mellow but packs a surprising punch. You can work it toe-side where a more aggressive edge adds speed, or take to your heels when you want to go easy.
Liquid Force Harley
Pro: Excellent wake to wake popping power
Con: Loose tracking due to wide fin mounting
Pop and Consistency: Liquid Force has one of the most tight and impenetrable wakeboard lines in the business, but if you’re looking for something that has the broadest reach, there’s little that can compete with the Harley classic. It’s a speed demon with enough flex that it comes off the wake like a force of nature. Despite it’s tendency toward quickness, it lands with a surprisingly gentle amount of grace for a reduced impact. Low volume rails on both sides keep it sitting deep in the water for more apt edging and more cutting turns, though it never feels out of control. Quad V channels on the underside move water adroitly and track like you’re riding on air; soft and loose.
Pro: Works just as well on a cable as behind a boat
Con: Experienced riders only need apply
Going Pro: Slingshot spared no expense and left nothing on the table when they set out to make the Oli board for Mr. Oli Derome, wakeboarder extraordinaire. Running toward the looser end of the spectrum, you might want to add fins if stability is what you seek, but for pure fun that is meant for the experienced rider, few things are as enjoyable underfoot as the Oli. Deceptively simple, it’s design is meant to trim the fat from the experience so that no inch is wasted on drag. Equally able to handle being drug behind a boat as riding a cable at a park, it has a lively flex that begs to hop and leap like a frisky puppy when released into the waves. One of the few quiver killer boards that works under any conditions, it’s hard not to fall for it.
Radinn Electric Wakeboard
Pro: Battery powered
Con: Only provides about an hour or less of entertainment before needing a charge
Self-Propelled: The trouble with a wakeboard is you need a boat to pull you along or a cable to give you anything to do. Unless you want to ride it like the world’s worst stand-up paddleboard, there’s no propulsion inherent in the setup. That is, unless you have a Radinn. Made from a pair of brilliant Swedish designers, this is part jet ski, part wakeboard that acts as its own engine. Able to fight off saltwater you can take this on the lake or into the calm surf to create your own waves. With a top speed of 29 mph, you’re capable of much of the enjoyment of a wakeboard without needing to be drug along like bait on a hook. Just be advised that it will put a serious dent in your trust fund, but who needs college?