Is there a difference between Wakeboarding and Wakesurfing?

Wakeboarding and wake surfing are two highly popular surface water sports that focus on riding waves and boat wakes while performing various tricks. Each summer, tens of thousands of thrill-seekers from across the country hit the water to participate in these sports.

When people were first hitting the water back in the day, you mostly saw water skiers. As technology advanced, watersports enthusiasts began experimenting to find new ways to fuel an adrenaline rush.

Enter wakeboarding and wakesurfing. The names look similar but make no mistake, Wakeboarding and Wakesurfing are two completely different sports. Let’s explore the main differences:

The Board

Wake surfboards are typically longer than a wakeboard, measuring four to five feet in length. Styles range from skim-style boards, which are shorter than wakeboards, and the longer surf-style boards, which are better for beginners. 

Your choice of board will depend on several factors, and a pro shop can help tailor the board to your level of ability, and your level of fun desired.

The Equipment

On a wakeboard, a person has their feet strapped into boots connected to a board. If you’re familiar with snowboards, it’s very similar to that. When wakesurfing, your feet are free to move around the board, very much like surfing.

The Ropes

There are different types of ropes, but it’s mostly due to the use you make of them. Wakeboarders have to hold on to the rope at all times to keep moving forward. In contrast, wake surfers start off holding the rope, but they can choose to throw it back on the boat after gaining balance. With wakesurfing, you’re able to keep moving forward by surfing the wakes produced by the boat.

In addition to how the rope is used in each sport, you should know that the rope length is different as well. For wakesurfing, the rope length is about 10 to 20 feet. Because the rope doesn’t have to be utilized so much, it’s helpful for the rider to be close enough to throw the rope back into the boat.

With wakeboarding, the rope is much longer. The length can be anywhere from 65 to 85 feet long. As mentioned earlier, with wakeboarding, you hold the rope at all times, so you don’t need to be that close to the boat. It’s also necessary for jumping over wakes, which is a part of the fun of wakeboarding. You jump over one, and land on the downside of the second wake.

The Boat

Boats used in wakeboarding are typically more complex, featuring large “wake towers” made of stainless steel and aluminum piping. The purpose of these towers is to raise the rope’s pull point 6-7 feet higher than the surface of the water.

This allows for greater maneuverability when performing in-air tricks. Ski boats and even jet skis are often used to tow wake surfers. People who are serious about the sport of wake surfing weigh their boats down with cinder blocks, water, metal and other heavy objects to create larger wakes. These larger wakes promote bigger, more exciting jumps for the rider.

Wakesurfing is requires an inboard boat (or V-drive boat) where the propeller is safely under the boat. For obvious reason being so close to the back of the boat/propeller the typical sterndrive is not safe for surfing whereas it is for wakeboarding.

For wakeboarding, a rider is much further from the boat, so you don’t necessarily have to get an inboard or V-Drive boat.

The speed the boat goes when wakeboarding and wakesurfing is slightly different. When wakeboarding, the boat should be going about 15 to 25 mph. This helps make the wake firm and clean for the rider. It allows them to have more comfort to jump and try out tricks. Though for beginners, wakeboarding two or three miles below 15 mph is a good place to start.

When wakesurfing, you don’t really need too much speed. The boat should be going about 10 to 14 mph. The driver should go slow and gradually pick up speed. One other thing to note, skim style wakesurf boards perform best on the low end of boat speed, and surf style boards perform best on the high end.

The Techniques

There are a couple of key fundamental differences between wakeboarding and wakesurfing to note – the first being the way a rider stands on the board. On a wakeboard, riders strap their feet into boots connected to the board, similar to snowboarding. On the flip side, wakesurfers ride as if they are on a surfboard, freely standing.

The techniques used to ride the wave are also very different. In wakeboarding, the user holds a boat-towed rope throughout the duration of the ride. This is in stark contrast to wake surfing where the user releases the rope to ride out a wake. When a wake surfer approaches a large wake, he or she will drop the line to ride the peak in a similar fashion as surfing (hence the name, wake surfing).

By strapping into a wakeboard, riders can stay connected to the board while performing aerial tricks. Since wakeboarders ride holding onto a rope, they can reach faster speeds and launch their boards over wakes to reach breathtaking heights.

At the end of the day, your choice of sports doesn’t really matter. If you’re well-equipped and if you’re playing with professionals, you’ll have a great time.


About CSURF Board Shop

CSURF Board Shop is you one stop shop for a Wakesurf gear! As Wakesurf aficionados, we select  only the finest wake surfing gear for you to enjoy. Wether you’re a beginner or a an expert, we can guide you into purchasing the best wake surfing gear for your skills and style of riding. 

CSURF Board Shop offers you a large selection of top quality brands and products. Our selection of wakesurf gear isn't made based on our profit margin, we strive to offer you the best products at the best competitive price and we hold a complete line of wakesurfing gear, accessories, swimsuit, wetsuit and flotation devices. 

We also offer wakeboard rental and lessons

With over 10 years of experience in wakesurf coaching,  CSURF Board Shop offers you wakeboarding lessons and rental at your place or on our boat. We only use new  wake boat & wakeboards and we take the time to choose the right equipment for your skill and shape.  We also have an awesome partnership with Sport who supplies us with the latest wake boat for the ultimate wakesurfing fun and experience.  Check out our wakesurfing courses. 

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