The first thing you need to understand when buying a wakesurf board is the boards style, i.e., what the board is designed to do. In wakesurfing, there are three main styles – surf, skim, and hybrid, each style has a wide range of different shapes and sizes, but the overall style will generally explain the boards riding characteristics. Dive into each of the styles below to learn more.
Majority of the boards in the wakesurf market are surf style as they are the most popular and common board style you’ll see on a boat. Surf style boards have the most volume, more “push” (ability to be pushed by the wave with a rider on it) and high stability, making them the best option for beginners. When looking at a surf style board, you’ll notice it closely resembles surfboards you see in the ocean, just at a smaller size. This is because just like in an ocean wave you want your board to carry lots of speed, track well on the wave, and have stability to give the rider maximum control. Surf style boards are the easiest to learn on but are also great for experienced riders as they allow the rider to perform more intense maneuvers such as slashes, airs, and big bottom turns. They also allow the rider to use more of the wave as they have a bigger “sweet spot.” Surf style boards will typically have 2-5 larger fins to help the boards stability and speed.
Bottom line, if you are only buying one board for your boat or need a board for a range of riders, we recommend surf style.
Skim style boards are typically smaller and thinner than surf style boards, aka less volume and push. Skim style boards will have a flatter profile to allow them to skim across the water better, this helps the rider perform more advanced tricks as the board isn’t as “stuck” to the water. Skim style boards can be a bit harder to learn on as they have a smaller sweet spot on the wave and will feel slippery underfoot. If you are a beginner we recommend sticking with surf or hybrid style. If you know your way around the wave, a skim style board may help you dive into more advanced tricks. Unlike a surf style board that you can carve up and down the wave with ease, a skim style board will dance around on you and will want to spin and slide across the water. Skim style boards will typically only have one small fin to give the board as much freedom as possible.
Hybrid boards are just as they sound, they blend both surf and skim style characteristics to create a mid-volume shallow construction board that rides not the fastest nor slowest, not the most stable but not too slippery, and not the most aggressive for tricks or big carves. Hybrid boards are designed for the rider who has interest in both carving and cruising, but also learning more advanced tricks such as spins or shoves. A beginner can learn on a hybrid board, but it won’t be quite as forgiving as a surf style board. Advanced riders will be able to control a hybrid board to perform just as they need, they are a great alternative for someone who wants the best of both worlds. Hybrid boards will typically have 2-3 mid-size fins that, when added or removed, can manipulate the way the board rides through the water.
Once you’ve figured out what style fits you best, it’s time to choose a size. Generally, each wakesurf board comes in 3-4 different sizes to accommodate a range of rider weights. There is no strict guideline to who can ride what board, but if –
You are a bigger rider you will need a bigger board with higher volume, if your board is too small it won’t have enough push to keep you in the wave.
You are a smaller rider you will be able to control a smaller board better, as a bigger board will want to control you.
Your boat has a big wave you will have the freedom to choose from any board (not including rider weight) as your wave won’t restrict you to only high-volume boards. A bigger wave can support the use of a smaller board.
Your boat has a smaller wave you will need a bigger, high-volume board (no matter the rider weight) so the board has enough push with less of a wave. A smaller wave won’t be able to support the use of a small board.
Wave size aside, use the chart below to get a general idea of which board will support which weight.
Shapes, Fins, & Rails
Each wakesurf board will have a different shape, you’ll mainly notice this difference in the tip or tail of the board. Board shape determines the boards riding characteristics in the water. To simplify it, a board with a narrower tip and tail will have less push but more carving power, whereas a board with a wider tip and tail will have more push but won’t carve as hard. You’ll typically find wider and less rounded tips and tails in surf style boards as they will allow more volume, and in return more push, but if you see a surf style board with a pointy nose you can expect it to have more carving power than in a board with a “duller” nose. You will also often find a fish or swallow tail (two-pointed tail) in surf style boards, a fish is designed to have more speed and maximize responsiveness and aggressiveness, without severely compromising the boards push. In skim and hybrid boards, you’ll typically find a more rounded shape with sharper nose and tails to allow the board to carve, spin, and slide easier.
Wakesurf fins are like tires on a car – they give the board traction. Just like tires, different fin sizes, locations, and amounts will affect the boards performance. In the most general terms, the bigger and more fins you have on the board the more stable it will be in the water. When you have smaller or less fins, it will free up the tail of the board to slide side to side in the water. Here are some typical fin setups and their general performance –
Single Fin – You will most often see single fins on skim style boards as they allow to board to spin with ease. Typically a skim style fin will be no more than 1” – 1.5” tall, providing the board maximum glide on the water. You will sometimes see a single fin on a surf style board, but in this case, it will be a very large 4” – 6” fin to give the board maximum traction.
Twin Fin – Twin fins are becoming more common in wakesurfing. Twin fins will often be on a surf style board as they allow the board to be fast and loose, while still providing some stability. In most cases you will see a three fin or “thruster” set-up on Hybrid boards, but you can remove the center fin to create a twin fin setup. This will provide a looser surf style feel.
Thruster – Three fins are the most common across the wakesurf lineup because it offers just the right amount speed and stability. Thrusters are often found in surf style boards as the center fin will offer high stability while the outside fins will help the board generate speed. The nice thing about thrusters is the ability to remove fins to change the board feel, most commonly a rider would remove the center fin to create a twin fin but can also remove the outside fins to create a single fin.
Quad Fin – Boards with four fins are designed to generate maximum speed down the line while offering high stability, these are most commonly found in surf style boards and allow the rider to give less effort to stay in the wave. The quad fin design creates channels through the fins that direct the water and generate speed. Quad fin setups are great for all wave sizes but may increase your chance of dropping the rope on a smaller wave.
Five Fin – Five fin boards are rarely found on a surfer as they don’t necessarily increase performance, however they offer the most options when customizing your fin setup. Five fins will only be found on surf style boards and can be good on all wave sizes due to their versatility. We don’t recommend using all five fins at once as they will generate drag and slow down the rider.
The rail is the edge of the wakesurf board. Rail shapes affect the way the board turns and determine how it moves through the water. The three common rail types are “hard” “soft” and “blended.” The harder the rail the sharper the edge on the base side of the board, harder rails will give more speed and responsiveness, but will be less forgiving when the rider makes mistakes. Soft rails, sometimes called full rails have a rounded edge and allow the board to be more forgiving, a soft rail will be more stable and consistent than a hard rail. Blended rails are just as they sound. They incorporate both hard and soft rail characteristics to “blend” the performance of both a hard and soft rail board.