How Does Wakesurfing Work? And 6 Other Commonly Asked Questions | Volcano Watersports

How Does Wakesurfing Work? And 6 Other Commonly Asked Questions

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21 March 2023

Wakesurfing is pretty unique. While it shares some similarities with wakeboarding, there is one key difference: instead of being towed by the boat while you ride the wake, you’re actually just riding the wake – not rope, just your own speed.

Just as the name suggests, it’s a hybrid of traditional surfing and towed watersports like waterskiing and wakeboarding. In reality, though, it’s a totally unique feeling – riding the wake without anything anchoring you to the boat, using torque and thrust to stay on top of the water, gain speed, and perform some neat tricks. It’s a great sport for surfers to try*, but also newcomers to watersports.

But – and we get this one a lot – how does it work? Why doesn’t the force from the boat simply push you back and leave you doggy paddling after your board? How do you stay upright, let alone move and, eventually, figure out how to control that movement?

If you’re feeling apprehensive about your first time wakesurfing – or just flat-out confused – then this is the guide for you.

1. First, what is a wake?

We’re dialing it all the way back to the fundamentals with this one. Put simply, a wake is the ‘disturbance’ created by a boat moving through the water. It’s a little like the trail left by an airplane moving through the sky; a V-shaped wave created by the boat as it pushes through the water, also known as a ‘stern wave’, since it’s produced by the stern of the boat.

Then again, it’s not just boats. Any solid object moving through the water will create some kind of wake – a jet ski, or even a swimmer or duck, will leave one behind.

The wake can be split into two parts: the lateral (or divergent) wake, which is represented by the raised, foamy parts that make the V-shape, and the transverse wake, which is the section of smoother water that sits within that V-shape. Other factors, like backwash from propellers, can alter the wake’s shape.

This wave is what makes tow sports like waterski and wakeboard, and a hybrid sport like wakesurfing, to happen.

But not all wakes are created equal. The best boats for wakesurfing, waterskiing and wakeboarding enable the driver to configure the wake’s size and wave shape to suit your needs and skill-level. Lower, smoother waves are better for beginners, while more experienced surfers, boarders, and skiers will look for bigger, steeper waves in order to gain speed – and start doing some tricks.

This is exactly what you get with our boat rentals.

2. What is the difference between a surfboard and a wakesurf board?

A wakesurf board is generally smaller than a traditional surfboard. While surfers will pick a board that is up to 24 inches taller than them (depending on their experience – they might go for one a little smaller, but still taller than they are), wakesurfers will use a board that is quite a lot shorter than they are.

In general, wakesurf boards are also thicker, and feature larger fins than surfboards.

Interestingly, it is possible to wakesurf on a regular surfboard, but you will notice some performance issues. Since the wake is a smaller space than the shoreline – and the waves are smaller – you’d find that a regular surfboard would feel a little cumbersome and clumsy compared with the smaller, sleeker wakesurf board.

3. So How Does Wakesurfing Work?

Al transferir su peso, los wakesurfers pueden dirigir la tabla hacia los dos lados de la estela, permitiéndoles realizar trucos durante ese periodo.

The physics of wakesurf is not all that different to the physics of traditional surfing, although there are fewer interruptions. While surfers need to ride each wave as it comes (and, often, spend a significant chunk of time waiting for the next one), the boat creates a single, continuous wave for wakesurfers to ride. Applying more pressure to the front of the board increases speed, while the opposite stance will allow you to fall back from the boat a little.

Since the wake is constantly curling and breaking, the wakesurfer can be constantly ‘riding’ the face of the wave. This is what prevents them from coming to a standstill and, as a result, being left behind by the boat.

By transferring their weight, they can steer the board between the two sides of the wake, and start working on some tricks.

4. How do you let go of the rope while wakesurfing?

While this may sound like a simple question with an easy answer, the reality is that, when you’re actually out there trying the sport for the first time, letting go of that rope isn’t as easy as it looks.

First, you need to find your sweet spot. Don’t be in a rush to toss that rope aside and prove your mettle as a wakesurfer. Instead, get in tune with the board – make micro-adjustments to your stance and weight-distribution, and make sure you’re turned onto how those micro-adjustments impact your speed and direction. You want to make sure you’re riding on the face of the wave – not fighting against the crest or feeling like you’re in a constant struggle to keep your speed up.

Once all those stars have aligned, you can start to think about going at it alone.

The best indicator that you’re ready to drop your dependency on the boat is that there is some slack in the rope. If the rope is still taut, that means it’s still giving you a tow – and that, once you let go, there’s a strong chance you’ll drop out of the back of the wake. In other words, you’ll find yourself right back where you started.

If the rope is a little slack, that means you’re no longer physically reliant on the boat.

Mentally, it may be a different story. A lot of beginners will find that, even with the right stance and the right amount of slack in the rope, they have a hard time tossing it aside. Think of it like a new cyclist who’s scared to remove their training wheels, even if it’s clear they’re not reliant on them anymore.

The physical hurdle comes first – then, you need to tackle that mental hurdle. It may take a few attempts, but you’d be surprised how easy it is to carry on without that rope in your hands.

5. Can you hit the boat while wakesurfing?

It is possible, and that’s why wakesurfing should only be done with the right boat – one that is designed to ensure there’s always plenty of distance between the surfer and the propeller, even if they’re right up near the stern.

Provided you don’t run before you can walk, and you understand the basics of accelerating and decelerating, it’s unlikely you’ll just surf straight into the back of the boat. Most wakesurfers are constantly making micro corrections to their stance to increase or decrease the distance between themselves and the boat, and ensure they’re always within the wake.

With the right instructor, the risk is very small.

6. How do you stay in the wake?

The key is to remain aware of what’s happening to you and the board, and to anticipate the next few seconds before they actually arrive. If you feel yourself starting to creep up the face of that wave, then you need to start making those small corrections to ensure that you don’t go all the way over the wave and wind up out of the wake entirely.

With time, you won’t need to think so carefully about making these adjustments and anticipating what could happen if you don’t make them.

Also, make sure you don’t panic and start making big, sudden corrections to your stance and weight distribution. It’s called a sweet spot for a reason.

7. Is wakesurfing easier than surfing?

In a sense, yes.

One of the biggest reasons why people tend to pick up wakesurfing faster than traditional surfing is that it’s a lot easier to get those vital practice hours under your belt. While they say it takes 10,000 hours to become an expert, a new skill actually requires around 20 hours before you overcome that ‘frustration barrier’. That’s a lot more doable but, unless you hit upon the ultimate beach for surf, it’s going to be a lot easier to get those 20 hours wakesurfing than it is surfing. Why? Because you don’t have to wait around for the perfect wave – the boat will simply create it for you.

Wakesurfing also entails smaller waves, and none of the choppy or close out waves that surfers have to wrangle with during a session on the water.

Then again, that’s not to say wakesurfing is easy. Whether ot not you find it tougher than tow sports like wakeboarding and waterski will come down to you – there’s no straightforward answer. We know a thing or two about introducing complete beginners** to watersports, so don’t overthink it too much. .

At Volcano Watersports, we’re all about giving you the tools and knowledge you need to perfect a new skill – and have fun doing it. You can get in touch with us to talk about planning your own watersports vacation on Lake Arenal, and figuring out what it is that makes wakesurfing as popular as it is.