Welcome to our 10-minute beginner’s guide to wakeboarding.
Wakeboarding is action-packed and adrenaline filled sport.
And no, you don’t have to go and spend 10’s of thousands of dollars on a boat to get started!
In this guide on how to wakeboard for beginners, we’ll cover everything from the gear you need, through pulling off your first trick.
Wakeboarding Gear List
Below we’ve got a list of gear you’ll need to get started wakeboarding.
Remember, most parks offering wakeboarding lessons will allow you to hire the kit.
So, if you’re not sure whether wakeboarding is for you, go and have a few lessons before investing cash in equipment and gear.
#1 – Wakeboard
Your board is going to be your biggest investment.
For beginners, a board that has lips at either end of the board (double-ended) is going to be most suitable.
Why? For a start, the double-end helps beginners ride switch much easier.
That’s going to make learning to carve, jump and do tricks, much easier in your early days.
#2 – Boots & Bindings
Your bindings are locked onto the board, and are where you’ll slot in your boots so that when you ride, the board doesn’t disappear into the distance.
Essentially, boots are only there for comfort. Having bindings rubbing directly onto your feet is not going to feel comfortable, at all.
Like boards, there’s a tonne of boots and bindings available.
You’ll get a much better deal if you buy them together as a package.
Boots with a draw cord will allow you to adjust for comfort. And, you’ll want to durable but lightweight set of adjustable bindings to keep your feet rock solid.
#3 – Wetsuit
Next, you’ll need a wetsuit.
You can wear a full wetsuit, or a shorty (basically, a one-piece short/t-shirt combo).
The type of wetsuit you need for wakeboarding is going to depend on water temperature.
All the best wetsuit brands will offer a range of different wetsuits, to suit various weather conditions.
They start with a 6/5/4 which is usually sealed. That’s for temperatures around 0°F – there’s no way I’d be wakeboarding in that.
They then jump to a 5/4/3 which is suitable for water in the 45°F range, and a 4/3 will be good to go in temperatures down to 55°F.
The most common wetsuit for wakeboarding comes in the 3/2 and 2/3 range. Basically, these are summer wetsuits.
If it’s particularly warm where you ride, then you might get away with a pair of board shorts, a wetsuit vest and an impact vest.
If you plan to wakeboard out on the ocean, you’ll want to check sea temperatures. Different seas are different temperatures, at various times of the year.
The outside temperature is not always directly related to the water temperature. You can check out sea temperatures for the UK and US here.
#4 – Impact Vest
Next, you’ll need an impact vest.
Your impact vest is a life-vest (or buoyancy aid) and body protection, in one.
If you ride park, and do tricks, this is going to protect you when you bail. But, it will also keep you afloat too.
Typically, an impact vest that’s designed for wakeboarding is going to be a lot lighter than a standard life jacket.
Wakeboarding manufacturers produce them to be as low profile as possible, so they don’t hinder body movement when you’re doing tricks.
There’s a range of brands selling them right now, and there’s a good deal on O’Neill impact vests at around $80.
#5 – Helmet
Your last piece of safety equipment for wakeboarding comes in the form of a helmet.
Like the impact vest, this is going to protect you when you fall.
As a beginner, your falls are going to be small. But, as you progress, you’ll start using obstacles like rails. And, if you hit your head on a rail, it’s going to hurt; big time!
Most wake parks will demand you wear a helmet, or you won’t be able to ride.
Health & safety an’ all that!
#6 – Wakeboard Bag
A piece of non-essential kit.
But, if you are investing $200-300 into a wakeboard, you’ll want to make sure its kept in good condition.
A wakeboard bag is going to stop your board getting scratched up when you travel to the park.
#7 – Action Camera
Relive your best moments with an action camera.
There’s a tonne of different action cameras ranging right from the low-end of $50, through to around $500 for the likes of the new GoPro Hero 6.
Most cameras will come with (or, the manufacturer will allow you to purchase separately) helmet and board mounts, so you’ll be able to catch a range of shots on your day out.
Types Of Wakeboarding
Next question: what type of wakeboarding are you going to get involved with?
This basically comes down to one thing; do you have a boat (or jet ski), or not?
If you’ve got a boat or jet ski, and a space of open water, you can wakeboard as and when you please.
There are some wake schools that use boats to tow students, but you’ll find most of wakeboarding parks use a cable system.
Using a boat is certainly not the cheapest way to start wakeboarding. You’ll be adding thousands of dollars to the start-up cost of your new hobby.
We’ve created a quick guide to buying wakeboard boats towards the end of this guide.
As the name suggests, the tow at these parks comes from a network of cables.
As the parks don’t need a boat, fuel, or a driver, the sessions here are going to be a lot cheaper.
So, as a beginner, that’s the type of park you want to head for.
Where To Go Wakeboarding
You’ve probably never drove past a wakeboarding park, but that doesn’t mean they’re not out there.
In fact, there are literally 1,000s of parks across the globe.
Although it’s not a comprehensive list, there’s a good interactive map over at US Cable Wake Parks.
Don’t let the name fool you, it’s a global resource.
There’s also a UK specific resource over at Wake HQ that lists all the best parks.
And, it would be rude not to mention a friend of mine.
He’s built a wakeboard park in Warwickshire, UK, from scratch.
Go and checkout his FaceBook page to see what’s going on at his park, Spot On Wake.
Finding Wakeboarding Partners
The best global resource to find partners for almost any sport, is Meetup.com.
They’ve got a group for wakeboarders. It’s got over 30,000 members and there’s nearly 100 meetups posted globally.
You can join the group by clicking here.
Apart from Meetup.com, the best way to find people to go wakeboarding with, is to head to your local park.
Most wake parks will have a jam night. Instead of lessons for beginners, it’s a kind of free-for-all where everyone is just out to have fun, and try out some new tricks.
Naturally, this brings in all the regulars, so there’s a good chance you’ll meet a group to hang out with, and learn a few techniques from in the process!
How To Wakeboard
Now you’ve got your gear, and know where to go riding, it’s time to learn how to wakeboard.
I’m sure you’ve seen a tonne of videos on YouTube, but it’s not as easy as it looks.
Even if you’re a complete beginner and haven’t even had your first lesson, it’s worth spending some time understanding what an instructor is going to ask of you.
That means you’ll spend less time bailing and more time riding.
The first thing you’ll need to determine, is the type of stance that suits you.
Like snowboarding and skateboarding, there’s two stances; goofy and regular.
You’ll need to know this before you jump on a board.
But, when you start learning and watching wakeboarding videos, there’s a good chance the instructor rides different to you; so, you’ll have to account for that.
9 times out of 10, you’ll be able to determine which way you ride, simply by knowing if you are left or right-footed.
Goofy riders are typically left-footed and left-handed.
Your lead foot will be your right foot, and your back foot is your left.
Regular riders will typically be right-footed and right-handed.
Your strongest foot (right) will be at the back of the board, and your lead foot will be your left.
Is Riding Goofy Or Riding Regular Better?
Goofy isn’t better than regular, and vice-versa.
Your foot positioning for wakeboarding simply comes down to which foot is your strongest. If you’re riding the wrong way (i.e. goofy when you should be regular), it’s going to make learning a lot more difficult.
How To Get Up
Until you learn how to get up on a wakeboard – bad-news; it’s going to be incredibly frustrating.
So, it’s worth getting the technique down and watching some videos, before you have a lesson. That’s going to mean less time eating water, and more time on the wake.
#1 – Foot Placement
If you’ve already decided on a foot stance (goofy or regular) but are really struggling, try switching.
Being goofy or regular, usually comes down to being left or right footed; but not all the time.
So, if you’ve had 10+ attempts at getting up, switch feet and you’ll instantly feel whether the new foot placement is better or worse.
#2 – Arm Placement
For beginners, leaning your arms on each side of your knees will give more support as you lift out of the water.
#3 – Let The Cable Pull You Up
A big mistake for beginners is trying to get up, or pulling yourself up.
If you’re having to force the issue, the cable or boat hasn’t built up enough speed to keep you upright.
And, if there’s an option to shorten the cable/tow rope, take it. A shorter rope usually makes getting up a lot easier for beginners.
#4 – Centre Of Gravity
As getting up on a wakeboard becomes more natural, you’ll hardly have to think about body position.
But, an effective way for beginners to get up quickly, is to squat, a lot!
This lower centre of gravity will give you more stability, so as you bobble, you’ll have some leeway, thanks to your bent knees. If you’ve not got a low centre of gravity, you’ll find you get off balance extremely easily.
#5 – Holding Position
Any sharp movements as the rope pulls up and out the water will be quick and jerky, and they are hard to counter balance.
Think about body position and centre of gravity, and hold it right up until the point that you’re up and out the water. Controlled movements are what this is all about.
#6 – Board Positioning
There’s a fine line between the board creating too much drag, and you going face first.
To ensure you’re not doing either, we’d suggest watching the video below to understand the correct board positioning for getting up, before you get out on the water.
How To Turn (Edging)
Now you’ve learnt how to get up on your board, you need to be able to turn.
On a wakeboard, it’s not so much a turn, as it is a carve; like surfing. And, you do this by edging.
#1 -- Leaning With Your Toes
A toe-side edge is when you turn by leaning in with your toes. As you lean, you’ll use more edge on your board, hence the name.
#2 -- Leaning With Your Heels
A heel-side edge is when you turn by leaning with your heels.
For instance, riders riding regular will have their left foot forward and be leaning backwards to turn left.
Riders that are riding goofy with their right foot forward will be leaning backwards, but edging to turn right.
#3 – Look Where You Are Going
Like mountain biking, surfing, and a tonne of other sports, where you look is usually where you go.
Look at your feet, and there’s a good chance you’ll be going under. Instead, think about how your next manoeuvre is progressing and look to where to want to be in the next 5-10 seconds.
If you’re on a cable and swinging out wide to edge, look at the point you want to hit.
As you reach it, turn smoothly to look back at the cable, as that’s where you’ll want to be heading.
#4 – Building Speed With The Rope
Edging will scrub off speed. The more edge you use on the board, the more speed you’ll drop.
To keep speed maintained (and for short-sharp boosts of speed), you’ll need to use the tension on the rope.
#5 – Smooth Turns
I’m sure you’ve already watched a tonne of wakeboarding videos where they are edging quickly and sharply, setting up for tricks.
Usually, that’s intermediate-advanced wakeboarders using some level of progressive edge to build up to a trick.
Realistically, you want to avoid this as a beginner.
Make everything as smooth as possible.
Sudden turns will upset your centre of gravity, and there’s a good chance you’ve not got the technique to counter this correctly, until you build up some more experience.
How To Ride Switch (Fakie)
Riding switch (or, fakie), is riding the opposite way to what you do usually.
For regular riders (usually having their left foot forward), riding fakie means having their right foot forward.
For goofy riders, riding switch means riding with their left foot forward.
With some practice, the technique of riding switch comes completely naturally. But, the first few attempts are going to feel incredibly awkward.
Essentially, you’ll have to remember the techniques and tips that got you up and edging in the first place, and apply them to riding switch.
A lot of tricks (180 for instance) rely on riding fakie/switch. So, you’ll need to be able to do this comfortably before you progress.
How To Do Tricks On A Wakeboard
Hit A Kicker
Core Strength Exercises For Wakeboarding
When it comes to body strength and fitness, wakeboarding is a well-rounded extreme sport.
It’s not about short-sharp bursts of power, or all about stamina.
For that reason, the best workouts for wakeboarding are focused around core strength.
Core strength exercises will give you better posture for getting up initially, and for tricks as you progress from a beginner through to intermediate.
There’s a quick guideline for some core strength exercises suitable for wakeboarding in the video below.
The Top 6 Exercises For Core Strength
Looking for some more core strength exercises for wakeboarding?
Checkout our top 6 below.
#1 -- Dead Bug
#2 -- Vertical Leg Crunch
#3 -- Hanging Leg-Raises
#4 -- Plank
#5- Oblique V-Up
#6 -- Reverse Crunches
Buying A Boat For Wakeboarding
You’re not limited to wake parks and cable setups.
If you’ve got the cash, you can buy a boat for wakeboarding.
Maybe you’ve got a few lakes you’ve got permission to launch on (or have your own), or want to get out in the ocean.
But, you’ve probably seen cheap boats in the $1,000-3,000 range.
And, there’s wake boats that are 10x-20x that amount.
So, what’s the difference?
What Makes A Wakeboarding Boat?
There’s a big list of features to cover, but top of that list is one feature; a boat that creates a tonne of wake for riders you’re towing.
Wakeboard boats create more surf (or wake) behind the boat, than a traditional boat.
How Do Wakeboard Boat Engines Differ From Normal Outboard Boats?
Most boats will have a small outboard engine.
The engine sits deep into the water, because that’s the best way to get the most efficiency in terms of power. Creating spray, wake and surf is essentially a form of power loss.
Unlike traditional boats, wakeboard boats use a V-Drive engine that are placed inboard, near the rear of the boat.
They are less efficient power wise, because the power is released to create wake, rather than just speed.
What Else Besides The Engine, Is Unique To Wakeboarding Boats?
Most wakeboarding boats will have a wedge. Its device used to harness the power of the wave created by the propeller, shaping it in the process. It creates bigger and smoother wake that’s perfect for riding.
Asides from this, some boats will use water tanks.
These are used to weigh the boat down to give bigger, deeper and more powerful wake off the back of the boat.
Do They Create Waves Big Enough To Wake Surf, And Play The Guitar?
Yes…yes they do.
BONUS: The Best Wakeboarding Websites & YouTube Channels On The Web
Finding Wake Parks & Partners
If you’re looking for partners, you can find plenty of groups meeting up to go wakeboarding by clicking here.
Wakeboarding YouTube Channels
David is a wakeboarding nut. If you’re looking for cool wakeboarding videos, look no further than his channel here.
If you’re looking for a wakeboarding channel that offers instructional videos, but also some general wake videos, check out Protest. We’ve already featured a few of their videos in our guide.
Thanks for reading our 10-minute guide to wakeboarding.
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