Wakeboarding vs Wake Surfing

Both wake surfing and wakeboarding are thrilling water sports that entail riding boat wakes and waves. Because of how similar their names are, you might think wakeboarding and wake surfing refers to the same sport. Sure, the two sports share quite a few similarities, but they are essentially different sports with disparate characteristics. 



What distinguishes wakeboarding from wake surfing is the technique. When you’re wakeboarding, you cling to the boat-towed rope all through your ride.


In wake surfing riders let go of the tow rope to surf the wake. When you approach a wake in wake surfing, you release the rope and then ride the wake to the peak, like you would when surfing (it’s why the sport is called surfing).

Wakeboarding boats are usually more complex; they come with massive aluminum and steel piping (wake towers).

The towers are meant to raise the towing rope 6 to 7 feet high above the water.

This improves the maneuverability of wakeboarders and enables them to perform in-air tricks. Wake surfers are towed by ski boats and jet skis.


Choosing Board Design and Size

When deciding on wakeboard length, one should consider the rider’s weight and height. Conversely, wake surfboards don’t have set guidelines when it comes to board length.

Both boards come with rockers; however, wakeboards go deeper than wake surfboards. Wakeboards may have a 3-stage rocker, hybrid rocker, or continuous rocker.

Wakesurf boards on the other hand have more rocker for a slower rise that allows you to feel the waves and less rocker for a fast and smooth ride.

Wakesurf Board
Wakesurf Board

But the binding (or rather absence of bindings) is what majorly differentiates the two boards.

Wakeboards come with boots and bindings with which you attach your legs as you ride. Conversely, wakeboards don’t have bindings. You have to grip the board with your feet when riding.

wakeboard with boots

In a nutshell, wake surfs are longer with a design that mimics surfboards. On average, wake surfs are 4 to 5 feet.

Also, wakeboards have a buyout center and are fiberglass-coated to bolster their performance. They also come with interchangeable fins, and thus you can customize your board to suit your riding style.

Getting up on the Board

For you to get on a wakeboard, you need to lay in the water like someone whose leaning back on a comfortable chair.

Have your board perpendicular to the water surface, with the edge peeking out. You should then hold on to the tow line with your knees bent. The boat will then pull you up.

When getting on a wake surfboard, you should lean back in the water while holding the tow line, and with your legs placed on the board.

Once the boat starts pulling, you should press your heels to the board and rise vertically with your feet slightly apart. And once you’re on standing position, you let go of the rope and surf the wake up to when the waves break.

Tow Ropes

In both sports, you need a tow line, but the kind of rope you’ll need for wakeboarding is quite different from what you’ll need in wake surfing. When wakeboarding, you hold on to the rope all through the ride, so that you execute tricks while riding.

Wakeboard tow rope

When wake surfing, you let go of the rope once you get up on the board and start riding the wake, it’s similar to surfing natural waves.

Wakeboard ropes don’t stretch and are thin and long. Wakesurfing ropes are shorter and thicker which makes riding easier. 

Boat Speed

Wakeboarding boats go from 18 – 23 miles/hour. The speed of the boat during wakeboarding is hinged the riders’ skill level. If you’re a novice, you should start with lower speeds and gradually increase the speed as you gain more experience.

Wakesurf boats are significantly slower (10-12 miles/hour). It’s therefore easier to get up on the board, and because your ride close to the boat, it’s easier to communicate with the driver.



To wake surf or wakeboard you need a huge body of water in which your boat will have enough room to navigate. In both sports, you need a boat capable of creating big waves or plenty of wake.

When you’re wakeboarding or wake surfing, you’re pulled by tow rope that’s attached to the boat’s tower.

Besides, in both sports, you either ride or use the boat’s wake to perform tricks.

Both sports require that you wear the right safety gear and attire. Mostly, riders wear bathing suits, drysuits, or wet suits.

Athletic Ability

The physical abilities needed in wake surfing and wakeboarding are quite similar. For you to stand on the board, you need leg and core strength. Your back should also be strong.

Balance is also vital because you’ll be spending most of your time on the board. Besides your upper body should be strong because you’ll be holding a tow rope.

Posture on the Board

In both wake surfing and wakeboarding, you’ll need to stand on a board that’s in water. The board should glide easily over the water. When it comes to your posture on the board, it’s quite similar in both sports.

You should stand perpendicular to the board; one of your feet should be at the fore and the other at the back. Your dominant foot should be at the front; it will help you gain and retain balance.

Transitioning Between the Wakesurfing and Wakeboarding

If you’re transitioning between these two sports, there are some things you should consider. For one, the physical experience of riding is a bit similar.

But you’ll need a bit more arm and upper body strength when wakeboarding because you’ll be clutching he rope throughout the ride.

Another key physical consideration is falling. Wakesurfing falls don’t have much impact because the riding speed is lower. Conversely, with wakeboarding, the impact is harder because of the higher speeds.

Which is the Best?

Both wake surfing and wakeboarding are thrilling sports, with unique pros and cons.

Regardless of your background, you can enjoy both sports. You should try both sports to establish which one is ideal for you.

Further Reading on Wakebording

Similar Posts