Wakesurfing is an ideal watersport for those that love to surf, but live far away from the beach or find themselves wanting to create their own waves on their own time. With wakesurfing, you are pulled behind a boat on a board that looks like a short surfboard and might remind you of a wakeboard. However, do not confuse these watersports. Wakeboarding and wakesurfing are surprisingly different, despite their apparent similarities.
Wakeboarding vs. Wakesurfing
If you are new to watersports, you might have heard the terms “wakeboarding” and “wakesurfing” and now find yourself wondering – what is the difference? At first glance, they might seem pretty much the same. For both you’ll need a boat capable of making a wake, a tow rope with a comfortable handle, some safety gear (always wear a life jacket!) and a board to ride on. But although there are quite a few similarities, there are some important differences.
The most notable difference is that wakeboards have bindings and boots, but wakesurf boards do not. The way the rider is towed, the boat’s ideal speed, and how you get up on the board will also change depending on whether you are wakeboarding or wakesurfing. The one thing that stays the same? The adrenaline rush. For more similarities and differences, check out our guide on wakeboarding vs. wakesurfing.
Choosing the Right Board and Gear for Wakesurfing
If you are serious about learning how to wakesurf then you should consider investing in proper gear, starting with your wakesurfing board. As we mentioned, these are vastly different from wakeboards, so keep in mind that a wakeboard you already have will not work for learning wakesurfing.
When you are first starting out, we recommend choosing a beginner wakesurf board, as these are designed to help those new to the watersport get their bearings more quickly. They are all about added stability, with a larger surface area, three fins, and less buoyant materials that will have you sitting lower in the water. After you have picked out your new board, you are almost ready to hit the water.
You’ll also need to make sure your boat is properly equipped to tow a wakesurfer. Wakeboard and ski boats are already optimized for watersports, but you may want to add some additional accessories to increase your wake for an even more exciting experience. We recommend checking out ballast bags or wakeshapers like SurfMode that provide more control over the size, shape, and location of the wake behind your boat.
Beginner Wakesurfing Moves
Getting Up on the Board
Before you can ride the wake, you initially need to find your footing on the board. If this seems difficult at first, know that you are not alone. This is one of the earliest hurdles for many new wakesurfers, but with practice you will be riding the wake in no time. One of the best pieces of advice we have heard for learning how to get up on the board is this: it is like getting up out of a chair. Listen to this and more tips to learn how to get up on a wakesurf board from Cobe Mikacich.
Dropping the Rope
Wakesurfing is a bit like being on a surfboard. Once you have momentum on the wave – or in this case, the wake – the ride is all about you and your board. Once you get in the pocket of the wave you can drop the rope and ride but check your posture first. You want to stand up straight so you can stay in control of the board. Start by letting the rope go slack. If you can maintain your balance without relying on the tension of the rope, then you are ready to drop it. Just be sure to safely throw it back into the boat or off to the side.
Staying with the Wake
After you grow comfortable with getting and staying up on the board without a rope, you are ready to learn one of the most fundamental, and crucial, wakesurfing skills – staying with the wake. To stay with the wake while wakesurfing, you want to be patient and balanced, which takes a lot of control and proper positioning. Learn how to place your feet and move the board to stay with the wake with Cobe Mikacich as part of our instructional video series on how to wakesurf.
How to Drive a Boat for Wakesurfing
When talking about driving a boat for a beginner wakeboarder, the most important thing is to be gentle on the rider. Having an experienced driver is recommended, and a boat that is capable of slowly pulling the rider up, rather than drawing them up which quickly could cause falls. In general, this same concept is going to apply to any wakesurfer, as you never want the boat to jerk to a start and make it impossible for the wakesurfer to get up on the board.
Once the boat is in motion, the driver needs to get the boat into gear to help the rope go taught, not loose, and get the rider moving. Then, the driver can slowly accelerate the boat, picking up speed until the rider is going at the speed they want to surf the wake. Communication between the driver and rider is key for a successful wakesurfing experience.
Safety Tips for Pulling a Wakesurfer
It is important for boat drivers to have safety precautions in place if they plan to pull a rider. First and foremost, you should never use a boat with an outboard motor for wake surfing. Because the propellers are exposed, this poses a significant safety risk for the rider. An inboard motor is much safer. Second, we mentioned that communication is key. Many boat drivers and riders make use of hand signals to ‘talk’ to each other while they are on the water. Having some key signals is helpful for quick communication so you know what your rider needs, especially if they have fallen and need to be picked up. Alternatively (or additionally) you could have a third party on board to watch the rider and be at the ready in the event the rider needs help or anything else unexpected happens. Finally, be sure to check your state’s regulations, as there are usually laws that help you know exactly what you need to be safe while you enjoy your time on the water.
The Art of Wakesurfing
Wakesurfing, like many other watersports, is an exciting activity that can be enjoyed by a variety of people. The first time you get up on the board, drop the rope, and ride the wake, you will be addicted and ready for more. If you take things at your own pace in the beginning, mastering the fundamentals and finding your comfort on the water, you will be set up for success and ready to take on bigger, more exciting tricks before you know it. And that is where the real fun begins!