Ever heard the terms “skurfing” or “wakeboarding”? If someone mentioned Tony Finn or Shaun Murray, would you know who they were talking about? Wondering about the future of wakeboarding? Whether you want to impress your friends with your wealth of knowledge or just know where and how your favorite watersport started, this quick overview of the history and origin of wakeboarding will be sure to do the trick (no pun intended).
The History of Wakeboarding
Wakeboarding started in the 1980’s when the first wakeboarders in New Zealand and Australia created a new water sport they called “skurfing”. Just like the watersport you know today, skurfing took place on the surface of the water. These athletes were towed behind a boat on a bindingless, hand-shaped board.
News of skurfing spread rather quickly, and in 1985, Tony Finn, a water skier and surfer in San Diego, evolved the watersport by combining surfing and waterskiing. He designed a new board that was a cross between a surfboard and a water ski, aptly naming it the “skurfer.” “Skiboarding,” as he called it, paved the way to what is now known as wakeboarding, but not without effort.
It took about five years for the water sport to be recognized until it was televised on ESPN for the first Skurfer Championships. From there, it really took root in the community and the wakeboard went through a series of evolutions. The board became wider, foot bindings were added for more air and bigger tricks, and twin-tip wakeboards were introduced for switch riding.
Aside from the wakeboards you use now, the way you wakeboard today has origins in past athletes pushing for something new, something even more exciting to test their skill on the water – something we have no doubt you are familiar with. Like with many sports, there have been several advancements to the water sport and changes to boards to lead to the wakeboarding we know and practice today.
So, as you pop an ollie, flip through a tantrum, or roll through a scarecrow on the wake, you can now thank those athletes that first pursued that adrenaline rush on the water.
Key People in Wakeboarding
While Tony Finn has claims to the origins of wakeboarding, as the sport has evolved new names have taken center stage.
Possibly the greatest wakeboarder of all time is Shaun Murray. With four world champion titles to his name and as one of the most popular coaches in wakeboarding, he is definitely one to know if you practice the water sport.
Harley Clifford is an Australian wakeboarder known for his Zoolander style. He has won over a dozen wakeboarding championships over the course of his career and is constantly improving his skills and learning new tricks.
Wakeboarding since she was thirteen, Dallas Friday is the youngest wakeboarder to receive silver at the X Games. She has also performed and secured first place in numerous other wakeboarding competitions, including the IWSF World Cup.
More recently, you might have heard of Nic Rapa and Meagan Ethel. In 2020, Nic won the pro men’s final and Meagan won the WWA Wakeboard World Series and Nautique Wake Series titles. No easy feat for either of them, and certainly two wakeboarders to keep an eye on if you want to see some incredible wakeboarding performances.
The Future of Wakeboarding
As the water sport continues to evolve there will likely be new players on the board to know and watch, but where is the future of wakeboarding heading next?
The simple answer – nobody really knows. With new wakeboarders coming to the forefront of the sport, new wakeboards coming on the market, and new tricks to watch and learn, you can always expect something exciting. But what that something is, is yet to be known. Maybe you will be the next wakeboarder to watch, or someone you wakeboard with will create the next must-learn trick. We might not know what the future holds, but we do know that the future of wakeboarding is nothing less than a world of opportunity.
And as Raph Derome might say, it’s all about your perception.