Wakesurfing is a lot of fun and can be an enjoyable hobby for the whole family. In addition, it is a low-impact water sport that still takes some skill and is an excellent exercise to do. These factors make it a great activity for a family on the lake.
There are two main components to getting started with wake surfing. First, you have to get the necessary equipment to produce a surfable wave. Then you need to work on your technique and skills to surf on that wave.
What kind of Boat Is Best For Wakesurfing?
The best type of boat for wakesurfing is a v-drive inboard. V-drive inboard boats have the engine placed aft or near the rear of the boat. This is different than direct drive inboard boats, which have the engine placed more centered in the cockpit. Usually, a boat of this style is called a towboat because they are made for watersports where the participants are towed behind.
The even weight distribution of a direct drive boat makes them great for skiing where the minimal wake is desired. However, for wakesurfing, you are looking for the maximum wake and doing that, and you want to displace as much water toward the rear of the boat as possible.
Almost all v-drive inboard boats are designed with space for ballast or have ballast already installed from the factory. Therefore, it is important to look for one with enough ballast capabilities. Generally speaking, on a 20ft boat, you will want to see somewhere around 1000-1500lbs of ballast, though some models have ballast upwards of 3,000lbs.
Surf Boat Manufacturers:
- Air Natique
- Malibu Boats
You will want a boat with enough power to easily maintain a speed of around 8-11mph while full of ballast. Most wakeboats are fully capable of this, as surfing is typically not the most demanding application you would throw at a wakeboat in terms of power requirements from the boat.
Outboard motors are not appropriate for surfing as the rider will be reasonably close to the boat, and there is a risk of prop strike injuries.
Getting a wakeshaper can help clean up the wake coming off of a boat. If your wake is washed out, consider getting a wakeshaper to clean it up.
How does a wakeshaper work? Two streams are coming off the back of the boat when riding, one on the left the other on the right. These streams collide and create the whitewash we are all too familiar with coming off the back of the boat. A wakeshaper weakens one of these streams causing less whitewash and producing a cleaner wave on the opposite side as it is placed on.
With a wake shaper, you no longer have to list or weigh down one side of the boat to clean up the wake. This is because the wake shaper is weakening the stream coming off the back of one side of the boat, so you do not have to do the same thing with weight.
Ballast is important for creating a substantial wake. In general, the more your boat weighs, the more water it displaces. The more water it displaces, the bigger the wake. An important safety note: Do not add more weight to your boat than it is rated for.
There are a few options for increasing your ballast:
- Water Ballast
- Lead Ballast
The most popular way to add ballast to your boat for wake surfing is to use what is known as ballast bags. You put these bags in your boat and then fill them with water.
It might seem a bit crazy to think about pumping water on a boat. Kind of like the recipe for sinking a boat. This is definitely true, and you need to be mindful of what is going on when you are pumping water into these bags. If a hose were to come undone, you would be pumping water directly into your boat!
Another common type of ballast for wake surfing is to use lead ballast. With wake boats, this is usually also done in the form of a lead ballast bag. The advantage of using lead over water is denser than water ballast. Over 11 times denser, in fact. So it will take up less space in your boat to give you the same amount of ballast.
There are some major downsides, though. The first is to pump water ballast on or off the boat, depending on when you need it. That way, you are not hauling around a bunch of extra weight all day when cruising around.
Another disadvantage is that loading and unloading the weight is cumbersome. When launching, you have to transport the lead to the boat, physically pull it out of your compartments, etc. You can have a switch right on the boat that will fill or drain a tank with water.
People as Ballast
Your friends and gear also help with ballast. Something to be mindful of is where they sit on the boat will impact the weight distribution of the boat and thus the shape of the wave.
This can be both a good and a bad thing. It is good because it gives you more control over the wake by adjusting where people sit. It is bad because it can create a more inconsistent wake as people move around the boat.
The other downside is that you probably want the weight distribution as far back on the boat as possible. Well, usually, the seats are a decent bit forward from the very back of the boat.
Getting a Board for Wakesurfing
The next piece of equipment to get for wakesurfing is a surfboard. Boards for wakesurfing are slightly different than regular surfboards to account for the differences in the wake of a boat compared to the ocean.
There are three main types of wakesurf boards:
- Surf Style
- Skim Style
- Hybrid Style
A surf style board will be made to go faster and catch the wake better. This style of board is typically best for beginners. These are most equated to a longboard when compared to ocean surfing.
A skim style board is made to break from the wake or have a level of slippage. This allows the rider of skim style boards to do tricks involving spinning or sliding across the wake much more easily.
Then comes the hybrid style board. This style promises to bring you the best of both worlds by being more agile like a skim style while giving a little more stability to the surf style board. They usually have a portion of the rail as a rounded edge to assist carving but are not a full rounded rail.
- Liquid Force
- O Brien
The Technique to Wakesurfing
You will be going slower than with most other watersports to get a good wake. Usually, the ideal speed for a boat is 8-11mph, and it varies by boat. You will want to set up a 25 ft tow rope, usually hooked up to the wakeboard tower. There are several different types of tow ropes. The style where a small segment has a bungee helps keep you stable.
The basis of wakesurfing is to stay in the pocket of the wave, where it provides you with enough push to keep going indefinitely. As you maneuver the wave, you will get pushed up toward the boat or fall back away from the boat.
You can pump the board to gain more speed if you find yourself falling back out of the pocket. You will lose speed and move backward on the wave by leaning back a little. By leaning forward, you will catch more of the wave, and it will speed you up to move forward.
Once you get a good grasp of how this works, you can start to do more advanced moves and tricks.
How to Pop Up
Getting up when wakesurfing is different than when surfing on the ocean. One of the main reasons for this is that wakesurf boards have much less buoyancy than regular surfboards.
To set up for wakesurfing, you should leave the rope taught and be in the water on the side of the boat you intend to surf on. The nose of the board should be facing toward the middle of the boat and perpendicular to the boat.
You will set your feet on the board and lay away from the boat. As the boat starts going, you apply pressure into the board with the heel of your feet, which makes it act like a fulcrum. Then by holding onto the rope, it rotates you around and up. Once you are standing, you can adjust your feet to a more comfortable natural position.