Wakeboard/binding combinations can be found for as little as $200, or as much as $1,000. The difference? Low-end boards are perfect to throw on the boat for a weekend because they’re forgiving enough to accommodate a wide range of abilities and body types. Higher-end boards are more customized to fit specific riding styles. Here’s what to look for in either case.
Typical boards feature a core made of compression-molded, closed-cell polyurethane foam sandwiched between top and bottom layers of fiberglass. Look for some form of monocoque, or doublelap, construction; layers of glass wrap over the board’s edge from top to bottom to create a stronger bond and reduce the chance of delamination should you damage an edge. A new alternative is to add an inset, woven fiberglass rope around the board’s perimeter.
A sharper edge, or rail profile, gives a faster ride into the wake, but it’s unforgiving should you catch an edge. A rounder edge slows the ride, giving riders more confidence on surface tricks. New combination edges are soft and round in the center and sharp near the tips. This combination edge allows riders to slow down or speed up the board response by shifting weight forward or back.
The biggest factor in how a board rides is rocker — the bananalike curve the board displays from tip to tail. Smooth, continuous rocker is better for beginnerto- intermediate riders, or expert riders who appreciate its predictable nature, soft landings and surflike carving. Three-stage rocker places a flat spot in the middle of the board, flanked by more abrupt curvature at the tip and tail. It provides a more explosive pop off the wake but lacks continuous rocker’s predictable consistency.
Long, shallow, ramplike fins provide control, without the “lockedin” feeling produced by deep, surf-style skegs. Most boards feature a pair of shallow fins flanking a deeper removable fin at the center. Alone, the small, outer fins give a looser ride on calm water, making it easier to perform surface tricks. The center fin gives recreational riders better grip.
Old-school thought is the bigger the rider, the longer the board. That still holds true, but recent trends have seen all types of riders benefiting from larger boards. These boards provide more lift, making it simpler for beginners to get up and providing more pop off the wake for advanced riders. A larger board is also more stable while learning. “We’re not saying to oversize the board,” says Hyperlite’s Greg Nelson, “but if you’re between two sizes, always err on the bigger side.”