The history of wakeboarding… in a nutshell

Posted: March 21, 2014 by kirisyko in Wake Boarding, Water


Wakeboarding is a hybrid water sport that was originally adapted from conventional water skiing and surfing. Wakeboarders execute tricks from the waves that are produced behind a speed boat. The waves, referred to as the wake, have an angled surface that wakeboarders use as a ramp. Wakeboarders are pulled behind the ski boat using a rope and a handle. Wakeboarding’s brief history dates back to the mid-1980s.

Breathe. That’s the boring blurb done.

The earliest wakeboarders were actually surfers. Surfers in the early 1980s would be pulled behind speed boats while attempting to ride their conventional surfboards. A more primitive version of early wakeboarding involved surfers tying a rope and handle to the back of a truck and holding on as the truck drove down the beach. Surfers soon realized that their everyday surfboards were too long to adequately maneuver behind the skiing boat or truck. Surfers began shaving down their surfboards to create the first home-made wakeboards.

boarding behind truck

A surfer from San Diego named Tony Finn created the first board exclusively made for riding the wake of a skiing boat. Finn named his creation a Skurfer. According to in regard to the Skurfer, “it looked like a little surfboard and was pulled by a boat while the rider performed surf-style carving moves in the wake.” The riders of the Skurfer board had to stand precariously on top of the board as they were pulled behind the boat.

tony finn

Modern-day wakeboarders have the luxury of securing their feet in place using boots that are fastened to the top of the wakeboard. The earliest development of the wakeboarding boot came in the summer of 1985 when Tony Finn decided to drill foot straps onto the top of his Skurfer board. The foot straps allowed the rider to concentrate more on technique, which led to the development of tricks. According to Wake.Co the, foot straps “allowed for big air taking the sport to something more than surfing”. Wakeboarding struggled to gain popularity in the early years of the sport for various reasons. Early wakeboarding lacked the technology to develop a properly functioning wakeboard. The lightweight and narrow design of the Skurfer board made it almost impossible for the rider to lift himself out of the water from a resting position. The first televised Skurfer boarding competition in 1990 was met with little to no interest. However, though the work of dedicated riders and company owners, the sport slowly began to take off.

Wakeboarding received a groundbreaking innovation from water sport company owner Herb O’Brien in 1991. O’Brien developed the first wakeboard, named the Hyperlite, which allowed the rider to easily submerge the board. This new heavier wakeboard helped the rider to easily lift himself out of the water from a resting position. The Hyperlite model helped riders to create innovative tricks. Wakeboarding experienced another breakthrough in 2000 when wakeboarders developed a floating street course consisting of ramps and rails.

floride wake park

Now, although wakeboarding is mainstream, it’s still increasing in popularity every day. With new competitions and championships popping up all over. Earlier in October 2013 the World Wakeboarding Park Championships took place in Abu Dhabi and here are riders Matty Hasler, Daniel Grant, Tom Fooshee, James Windsor and more enjoying the Al Forsan International Sport Resort.


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