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What to ride….

After discussing the wake boats and some of the differences in the drivability and hull design to the wake in last month’s column, this month I’d like to focus on the fun stuff available to ride on: the new wakeboards, wake skates and wake surfers. There are so many wakeboards to choose from that it’s pretty easy to find something that will fit your riding style, from beginner to pro-level.

To really know what sort of pop and edge control you’re going to get from a board, you’re going to have to ride as many as you can. Magazines like Alliance Wakeboard Magazine have good information on the topic from guys who test a few dozen of the myriad of boards available.

On a local level, go to marinas and inquire about demo boards and clinics. This is a great way to see what you like. Find out when the reps from different companies will have all the 2011 gear out and ready for you to get fitted and try out. Companies like Liquid Force, Hyperlite, Ronix, CWB, Slingshot (the list goes on) will usually have a regional rider at the clinics for some instruction and further opinion on product. Today’s boards are lighter and stronger with a constant evolution of materials, but we still see great things coming from the old way.

Slingshot is using a wood core in their wakeboards this year. This method is quite a bit different then a composite wrapped wake skate, which has been out for a few years. Slingshot’s entire line, from entry level to pro model, is a wood core. Slingshot claims the boards offer flex and prop and they don’t lose it over time, or at least not as fast as a full composite board looses pop.

Carbon fiber has been added to many of the pro models of both wakeboard and wake surfers for strength and a lighter weight and usually adds some dollar signs to the sticker price. The wake skate front hasn’t seen as much in the way of change of materials in construction or the design, but it has seen change in companies coming in and out of the industry.
Wake skate has been pushed from the rider-owned concept from the get-go. Few of these have stood the test of time, but Integrity and Sattelyte have held up over the past 10 years. Oddly enough, one specializes in composite boards (Integrity) and the other in wood (Sattelyte).

We are seeing guys like Andrew Pastura, unquestionably the best wake skater out there today, starting his own company, Water Monsters and picking up a previous local of ours, Kyle Walton, and giving him his own pro model. Gone are quite a few wake skate companies, and some are rebounding back like Oak, which always had a great product and team.

The wake surf product has really come along this year as most “wakeboard” companies have a nice lineup of surfers to choose from. I’m a little partial to companies that focus on having one product and doing it really well.
I’ve personally done a complete switch from surf style boards to skim style wake surfers this year. Victoria, Phase 5 and Triple X are the truest of skim style and for good reason. They make skim boards, Victoria and Triple X under their respective names, and Zap skim boards makes Phase 5 wake surfers.

Inland Surfer has somewhat of a skim style board but also a full array of wake surfers, and the Walker Project has the true surf style boards and will custom make them for you. I’ve discussed the differences specifically in previous month’s columns. I think the skim styles are easier to learn on. I’d like to mention that rarely does “one size fit all” in regard to a board and the family. Wakeboards, skates and surfers are very size specific – wake surfing even more so for casual riding. To obtain good progression in wakeboarding and skating, you absolutely need to be on the right size. The “growing into” concept will most likely equal a tough learning experience.

So the long and short of it is that there’s a board made for everybody’s riding style and ability and you should ride as many as you can before you make your mind up. There’s always the possibility you’ll just know the second you hop on a board that you love it, and that’s the best part of trying them out – finding the right one.