By Jake Thomas
Now that our boats are slowly waking from hibernation, it’s time to get excited about hitting the waves once again with your weapon of choice. The question is what will it be? The big trend in watersports these days seems to be variety as there are more boards available now than ever before.
Wakeboarding is continuing the progression of driving board design and sales towards specific disciplines. There are traditional wakeboards in all shapes and sizes for different styles of riding. Some boards are designed with rails and fin sets for precise tracking in the water, while others are finless allowing more freedom and forgiveness when landings are less than perfect.
There are also now more robust park specific board designs available with rounded edges and profiles for hitting features like rails, boxes and sliders. While some are designed specifically for parks, there are hybrid designs available for traditional and park riding combined.
Most models come in different lengths for the size of the rider but width and rocker style can vary between designs, yielding distinctive personalities behind the boat. Long story longer, if you have a chance to try before you buy you should definitely do so to ensure you are getting a board that suits your riding style.
Wake skates have carved a nice niche in the market as the binding-less cousin to the wakeboard for skateboard-style action. From soft barefoot tops to grip tape decks requiring footwear, there is a broad range of wake skates now available from most major and some specialty manufacturers.
Then there is the wake surfing category. Much like the wakeboard, some wake surf boards are designed with multiple fins for better traction to help beginner and intermediate riders enjoy the sport. Other more advanced boards with single fins cater to the advanced rider. As with any sport, equipment can progress with your ability level so starting with a beginner/intermediate wake surf board is usually the way to go as most offer removable fins which allow you to progress as a rider before having to upgrade your equipment.
The variety theme continues with slalom and water skis. Slalom skis can range from combo drop-a-ski to expert slalom course shredding machines. Each has an assortment of shapes and sizes to cater to almost any skill level. Trick skis have basically been replaced by wake skis, which behave like mini jump skis. They allow skiers to catch air off the wake and dazzle onlookers with their airborne prowess. Parabolic, or shaped skis, continue to be available for anyone needing additional help out of the water. It would seem there is a ski out there for just about everyone.
Knee boarding maintains a very small segment of the tow sport market. Ski manufacturer Connelly has brought a new toy to the table called “The Thing.” At first glance it looks like a long kneeboard without a strap. It has a padded area for kneeboard play complete with a handle hook for two thumbs up of hands free operation. Because of its design, when you muscle up the courage, you can easily stand up and enjoy wake surfing either with or without the handle. For that reason,
“The Thing” is on my shopping list this season. It’s a great way for my kids to build up their confidence and grow with the sport.
Because of the wide selection of product available on the market these days, if possible, try before you buy. Spend the time with your local retailer to learn about (and hopefully test drive) the product that is best suited for you and your riding style.
This article is featured in the Summer 2015 issue of Boats&Places.