Like snowboarding on an ocean wave instead of a ski hill, wakeboarding is a true adrenaline lover's sport. The open-air activity combines elements of water skiing and surfing, and was originally known as "skurfing." It involves a rider being towed behind a motorboat or personal watercraft at about 30 to 40 miles per hour along the water's surface. Skimming at this speed across the surface of the Gulf of Mexico brings wakeboarders closer to nature and fitness, all while experiencing a major adrenaline jolt.
How It's Done
Wakeboarding equipment is simply designed. The boards are buoyant and either comprised of foam, mixtures of wood and resin, or honeycomb, and covered in fiberglass. Fins are placed toward the center of the wakeboard for quicker, smoother releases from the wake.
By using edging techniques, a rider can move outside of a wake or quickly cut toward a wake, or jump by riding toward and up the wake and launching directly into the air. As the athlete edges toward the wake against the pull of a rope, pressure builds against the water on the bottom of the board and helps increase momentum. When an athlete rides up a wake, the energy of that wake will launch him or her into the air and make it feasible to do tricks.
Who Can Teach You and Where To Get Gear
This may seem complicated to the inexperienced wakeboarder but various instructors are peppered throughout Sarasota County to help with hands-on training. Sarasota Wind and Water Adventures provides rentable paddleboards, kayaks, water skis, wakeboards and kiteboards. The company's licensed instructors hold lessons for both amateur and advanced athletes.
Island Style Watersports in Sarasota offers lessons in kiteboarding (also known as kitesurfing), which is a mix of wakeboarding, windsurfing, surfing and other disciplines. This method invites participants to stand on a board with foot straps or bindings and use the power of a large controllable kite to move across the water.
Like Island Style, Sarasota's Califlorida Surf & Skate Shop has a plethora of boards, such as paddleboards, surfboards, skim boards and body boards. Because wakeboarding is a blend of so many boarding styles, experimenting with several types of equipment helps athletes find their groove. At Rent Just 4 Fun on Holmes Beach, patrons can rent a wakeboard for $30 per day.
The sport exploded in the late 1980s around the time snowboarding was gaining popularity in colder climates. The concept was supposedly developed in Australia and New Zealand, but innovator Howard Jacobs was also creating wakeboards and performing tricks in the early 1980s in Florida. Of course, wakeboarding lends itself to most tropical regions that are rife with bays and beaches.
In 1989, the World Wakeboard Association (WWA) was founded, and the organization now sanctions more than 400 days of wakeboarding, wakesurfing and wakeskating events annually.