The History and Evolution of Wakeboarding
Wakeboarding is a deceptively simple sport. While the fundamentals are pretty easy to get the hang of – strap onto the board, get in the water, and don’t let go of the rope – it’s a much steeper learning curve than you might imagine.
The great news is that the learning is the best part. Watersports are always challenging, whether you’re a beginner or an expert, and that’s why they’ve got so many fans around the world.
First, Why is it called wakeboarding?
Boats and jet skis moving through the water at high speeds create a wave behind them, and this wave is also known as a wake. Add a board into the equation, and the name makes a lot more sense.
Unlike traditional surfing, which depends on natural waves, wakeboarding relies entirely on the wake the boat creates, which means boarders don’t need to stand on the shore, waiting for the waves to pick up on their own.
And we do mean waiting. Researchers think that surfers may spend as little as 8% of their time actually surfing. That’s why tow sports are so great for watersports vacations.
When was wakeboarding created?
Wakeboarding didn’t come into existence fully formed. While the earliest signs of the new sport came about in the 60s, it wasn’t until the 80s that wakeboarding really took off.
Wakeboarding is younger than other popular watersports. In fact, it was created as a result of creative water-skiers, who decided to switch things up with the creation of a monoski. This single board, just big enough for both of the skier’s feet to be strapped on one in front of the other. It rose to popularity in the 60s, and is still a popular choice for water-skiers today.
The wakeboard is a little different. Instead of standing with one foot in front of the other, wakeboarders stand with their feet parallel, and their bodies either facing the back of the boat, or positioned side-on. At first, regular surfboards were used – and the sport was briefly known as skiboarding. A hybrid name for a hybrid sport.
The trouble? Regular surfboards weren’t ideal. They were big and heavy, and held back ‘skiboarders’ who wanted to do more on the water.
The real big change came when an Australian watersports enthusiast, Tony Finn, invented the Skurfboard. While the name itself is a hybrid of ‘ski’ and ‘surfboard’, the board was a unique creation – built for the unique movements skiboarders were pioneering out on the water.
By the 90s, the world-famous O’Brien Watersports created a board of their own – and the term ‘wakeboard’ finally entered into circulation.
Thanks to the sport’s rising popularity, the board’s design became one that we’d recognize today. Wakeboards became more compact and aerodynamic. They were more buoyant, which made it a lot easier for boarders to get going in deep water, and manufacturers started to experiment with different curves to suit different wakeboarding styles. This enabled wakeboarders to really hone their skill – to figure out new tricks that they couldn’t do on a surfboard or a pair of waterskis. The ropes were also optimized for the specific demands of wakeboarding, rather than waterski, allowing wakeboarding to become a sport of its own, rather than a hybrid.
In the world of watersports – and sport in general – we’re pretty sure the equipment will never be considered perfect. The physics of wakeboarding are fascinating, and there is always more to research – more technology to deploy in the search for the ‘ideal board’ or the ‘perfect rope’. But whatever the future has in store, wakeboarding has evolved thanks to a whole lot of ingenuity and development from its boarders – and the biggest brands in watersports.
Wakeboarding is one of the most popular watersports in the world, which is pretty incredible when you think about it. What started off as a little experiment among waterskiers has snowballed into a totally unique sport – one that people will travel the world to try out for themselves.
We recommend waterboarding for almost anyone, even if you’ve got no experience in watersports before. While getting up on your feet is a challenge, it is one of the best watersports for complete beginners, since you’ll always be able to rely on the rope to pull you along.
At Volcano Watersports, we’ve got a big collection of quality wakeboarding equipment available with boat rentals, and we can calibrate the wave to suit anyone who wants to get out in the water, and find out what it feels like to be towed along with the breeze on their face, and the spray on their skin.