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Wakeboarding vs. Kneeboarding

Wakeboarding vs. Kneeboarding
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Out of all the board sports, wakeboarding and kneeboarding seem to have the most in common. While there are many similarities between these two water sports, there are many differences too. Find out more about wakeboarding and kneeboarding below:

Similarities Between Wakeboarding and Kneeboarding

Wakeboarding and kneeboarding are probably two of the most closely related water sports. Most of the equipment needed is the same, as well as how you use it. Look at the similarities between wakeboarding and kneeboarding:


Many of the requirements for wakeboarding and kneeboarding are the same. You’ll need a large body of water that can accommodate a boat that will be used to move the rider around. People who want to wakeboard and kneeboard will need a tower with a high tow point so the rider can get enough air in his or her jumps. For the rider to be towed by the boat, you need a tow line with a handle on the end. Both sports use a tow line with little to no stretch so riders can get in the air and do tricks easily.

Riders will need similar clothing for both water sports. They require swimsuits or wetsuits, and they are considered summer sports, though you can do them any time. Some people like to wear gloves when wakeboarding or kneeboarding, but you don’t have to use them.

As a rider, you will need upper body strength when wakeboarding or kneeboarding. On a kneeboard, you will need to be able to pull yourself up onto the board and hold onto the tow line with a handle as you do tricks. With wakeboarding, you’ll use your arms and shoulders to hold onto the tow line and handle while you’re getting up and as you ride. With both sports, you grip the handle with both hands, palms down. You’ll also engage your back and core muscles by having to balance and stand up on both boards.

Boat Speed

In wakeboarding and kneeboarding, speed of the boat is important. If the boat doesn’t get up to ideal speeds, the rider won’t get up on the board properly. For wakeboarding, the ideal speed is between 19 and 22 miles per hour, while kneeboarding boat speed ranges from 15 to 20 miles per hour. Acceleration of the boat depends on the size of the rider for both sports.


Wakeboarding and kneeboarding both use one board with a smooth underside that easily glides over water. There are different kinds of boards in both sports, and the rider should choose which one to use based on application of use. The edges of the boards are important; they can be round or sharp, depending on what you want to be able to do. Wakeboards and kneeboards can have fins on the bottom to make turning easier and have more control in the water. There are a variety of fin styles available for wakeboarders and kneeboarders that create different experience for the riders. Rockers, or the way the bottom of the board is shaped, is important for wakeboards and kneeboards since it smooths out the ride and makes turning easier.

Differences Between Wakeboarding and Kneeboarding

While wakeboarding and kneeboarding seem to have a lot in common, they do have their differences. Find out what makes these watersports different:


Although riders for wakeboarding and kneeboarding both ride boards, this necessary piece of equipment is distinct for each sport. A wakeboard ranges from 47 to 58 inches long, whereas a kneeboard ranges from 60 to 78 inches long. Wakeboards don’t need to be quite as long since the rider would be standing instead of sitting. Kneeboards are typically 4 inches thick, including the rubber pads for your knees. A wakeboard is only about 1.25 inches thick.

The bottom of kneeboards can be flat or curved, depending on how the board will be used. Wakeboard bottoms can have concave or featureless bottoms. While kneeboards can have fins, they aren’t a required piece of equipment for this water sport. Without fins on a kneeboard, it is easier for the rider to do surface spins. Wakeboards usually have fins to help with direction change and to provide control in the water. Both boards can have sharp or rounded edges, but the purpose of the edge is different on the boards. A wakeboard with rounded edges provides a smooth ride and is better for tricks. A kneeboard with rounded edges creates smoother turns. Wakeboards with sharp edges provides acceleration and speed, while kneeboards with sharp edges allows for harder cuts at the wake for higher jumps.

Riders stay on the board in different ways in each of these sports. Bindings on the feet are used in wakeboarding so riders can stand up. In kneeboarding, a velcro strap is secured over the legs to keep the rider in place.

Stance on the Board

The most obvious difference between wakeboarding and kneeboarding is the stance a rider takes on the board. When you wakeboard, you are standing up on the board with knees slightly bent and one foot in front of the other. The rider must decide which foot feels more natural in front when riding on a wakeboard. With kneeboarding, everyone will ride the same way: in a kneeling position sitting on their heels with a strap over their thighs to secure them onto the board.

The way riders get up on the board are also different. When you wakeboard, you should keep your knees bent all the way to your chest and your arms stretched out in front of you holding the tow line handle. Once you’re up on the board, you should lean back slightly to stay balanced. When you kneeboard, you will start out on your stomach in deep water. Place your arms under the strap and hold onto the tow line handle. You should be forward enough on the board so you can easily tuck your knees under you once the boat starts moving and the board is in the wake. Pull your knees up until they are flat against the board, and then tighten the strap over your legs. You should keep your weight towards the back of the board, slightly leaning back.

Physical Ability

For wakeboarding and kneeboarding, you use your upper body strength, core, and back. However, in wakeboarding, you also need leg strength. When the boat starts moving and pulls you out of the water, you will need to be able to stand up using your lower body strength. For kneeboarding, you won’t need quite as much leg strength. You’ll still need upper body and core strength for kneeboarding since you have to hold onto a tow line and pull yourself up on the board.

Boat Speed

In order to wakeboard or kneeboard, the boat needs to be going the proper speed. With wakeboarding, speeds should be around 19 to 22 miles per hour. Any rider will need to be at this speed in order to properly stand up on the board. When you kneeboard, the boat should be at a speed of 15 to 20 miles per hour for an adult. For kids, the speed of the boat can start out at 10 miles per hour if they are little and go up from there depending on their age and size.

Board Storage

When you’re not out on the water, you want a place where you can store your boards. On most boats used for water sports, the storage space isn’t long or wide enough to accommodate wakeboards or kneeboards. For this reason, you’ll likely want to add a rack to your tower to store your boards. Adding a rack will free deck space and keep equipment secure and protected when not in use. The racks needed for wakeboards and kneeboards differ, though. Wakeboard racks are smaller because these boards are longer and narrower than kneeboards. The forks that hold a wakeboard are closer together and have narrower gaps to secure the board. A kneeboard rack spaces the forks further apart and has a wider gap between them to hold a kneeboard.

Transitioning from Kneeboarding to Wakeboarding

If you’ve gone kneeboarding before and want to try wakeboarding, there are a few things you need to be prepared for. While you’ll still be on a board behind a boat going around the same speed, the physical act of wakeboarding is different than kneeboarding. You will probably fall when you wakeboard because you have to stand yourself up on the water, whereas with kneeboarding, you just pull yourself into a sitting position. You will also need to keep in mind to figure out which foot you will have in front since you are positioned sideways when wakeboarding instead of facing forward.

Knowing the similarities and differences between wakeboarding and kneeboarding will help you be prepared once you’re out on the water. Ready to get started on your new hobby? Browse through our wakeboard towers to get started!

And if you're interested to know how wakeboard compares to other board sports like snowboarding and water skiing, be sure to check out our definitive guide to wakeboarding vs. other board sports.

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