August 07, 2023 11 min read

Pick the perfect board to surf on the wake

A person riding a surf board on a wave

Ever heard of wake surfing? Maybe you have given it a try and are ready to add a board to your ever-expanding collection of stand up paddle boards, surfboards, and watercraft. Perhaps this is a completely new concept for you! Wherever you are with wake surfing, we are here to give you all the info, share our knowledge, and outline what you need to know before buying the gear.

This is your ultimate buyer’s guide on how to choose a wake surf board. We will go into what wake surfing is, outline what equipment is needed, and give you some beginner tips to start you off on the right foot. 

Making sure you have the right board under your feet when wake surfing is super important. You need to consider your skill level, riding style, and weight to get maximum performance out of the board. Keep reading to learn more about choosing the right board for you!

What is Wakesurfing?

Woman wearing a black suit surfing on a water created by the boat

Let’s start at the beginning. What is wake surfing? 

Wakesurfing is a water sport that involves riding the wake (wave) created by a boat while being towed at a relatively low speed. Unlike wakeboarding, where the rider is pulled by a rope and uses bindings to stay attached to the board, wake surfing involves riding the wake without being directly connected to the boat. Instead, the rider uses the boat's propulsion to generate a continuous wave, and they surf along the face of the wave.

To get going, the wake surfer starts by being pulled up onto the wave using a tow rope. Once you are in the sweet spot of the wake, you let go of the rope and continue riding solely on the energy of the wake. The boat maintains a constant speed, typically between 9 to 14 miles per hour (15 to 22 kilometers per hour), creating a surfable wave.

Wakesurfing is a combination of traditional surfing, skateboarding, and wakeboarding. You can perform various maneuvers, learn tricks, and fly with jumps – incorporating elements of style, balance, and creativity. It provides a unique experience as riders can ride the wave for an extended duration, close to the boat, and in a more laid-back manner compared to other water sports.

Wakesurfing has gained popularity due to its accessibility and the ability to create a fun and social activity on the water, much like multi-person paddle boarding with friends. It caters to riders of different skill levels, from beginners to advanced, and offers a thrilling and enjoyable experience for all water lovers.

Shape and Size

When choosing a wake surf board, the shape and size are a good place to start. Both are crucial for performance, stability, and suitability for the rider. Beginners are generally recommended to go for a longer board, leaving the shorter boards for more experienced riders. A longer board provides more stability, while a shorter board allows for quicker turns and tricks.

The board shape directly affects the performance and suitability for different riding styles. There are three main shapes to consider:

  • Surf-Style – these boards resemble traditional surfboards and are ideal for a laid-back, smooth surfing experience. They have a more rounded nose and tend to be larger, offering stability and ease of use.
  • Skim-Style – smaller, lighter, and more maneuverable. They are designed for tricks, spins, and skate-like maneuvers. They have a flatter rocker and typically lack fins, allowing for more freedom of movement.
  • Hybrid – combines features of surf-style and skim-style boards, offering a balance between stability and maneuverability. They are a good option for riders who want versatility and a bit of both.

Size Chart

Assorted colorful surfboard

 A little more on the size of a wake surf board… There is an element of weight limit recommendations that go alongside the size of the board as this directly impacts the buoyancy of the board. Here is a general guide to help point you in the right direction.

Surf Skim Hybrid Rider Weight
Up to 4’ Up to 4’ Up to 4’ Up to 110 lbs
4’ - 4’8” 4’ - 4’4” 4’ - 4’8” 100 - 170 lbs
4’8” - 5’ 4’4” - 4’10” 4’8” - 5’3” 150 - 200 lbs
5’+ 4’10”+ 5’+ 190 - 250+ lbs


Always check the weight limit specified by the manufacturer for the wake surf board. Ensure that the board can accommodate your weight for the best performance and buoyancy out on the water.

Skill Level

You have to consider your own skill level before buying a board. Are you a beginner, intermediate, or advanced rider? This will impact the type of board that suits you best.

Beginner wake surf boards are generally larger with more float to them. This gives newbies the stability they need to ride the wake comfortably without wiping out all the time. 

As your skill progresses, you can begin to experiment with sizes and shapes. Intermediate and advanced surfers will be looking for smaller boards to give them more speed and opportunity for tricks.

The best thing you can do is be honest with yourself regarding your skill level. Going for a board that is too small for you will hold you back in the long run and slow down your progression.

Board Rocker

Just like surfboards, hard paddle boards, and inflatable paddle boards, wake surf boards can have a rocker as well. The rocker refers to the curvature of the board from nose to tail. 

A higher rocker allows for better maneuverability and looser turns. A flatter rocker provides more speed and stability. This design and shape directly impact how the board handles and performs in the water.

It is important to consider your riding style and preference when choosing the rocker profile.

Rail Design

Wakesurf board with a fin attached

Similarly to rocker, the rail design of the board shape influences the riding style. Again, this ultimately comes down to personal preference. Some people may prioritize speed, while others focus on tricks and maneuverability. Think about the type of experience you want from your wake surfing sessions.

Thinner rails cut into the water more effectively, giving you sharper and faster turns. They are unforgiving though and take a decent level of skill to master. Thicker rails are slower but far more forgiving, making them a good design for beginners to the sport.

You can also get “soft” or “blended” rails. These are slightly rounded giving more stability and consistency across the board. 

Fin Set Up

The fin setup plays a crucial role in the traction and control of the wakesurf board. Most boards have removable fins, allowing you to customize the setup and experiment. 

Larger fins offer more stability and drive, while smaller fins provide more maneuverability. Beginners may benefit from larger fins for added stability, while advanced riders might prefer smaller fins for increased maneuverability.

We encourage you to try out different fin sizes and configurations to see what works best for you!

Try Before You Buy

Whenever possible, try out different boards before making a purchase. Renting or borrowing boards from friends can help you get a feel for different styles and shapes, ensuring you make an informed decision. Local shops often offer demo boards for people to try before they buy as well. It is also worth keeping an eye out for ex-demo boards that come up for sale at a discounted price!

Care and Maintenance

The care and maintenance of a wake surf board is much the same as a surfboard or other water sports equipment. It is no secret that the better you care for your gear in between sessions, the longer it will last you!

One of the most important things to remember is to rinse your board after use. Salt water is a nightmare for epoxy, PVC, and other materials used in these boards. It is also good practice to let the board dry off completely before putting it into a bag for storage.

Make sure you repair any scratches or dings as soon as possible. This will prevent the board from getting waterlogged and too heavy to use.

More Wakeboarding Gear

Man wearing a life jacket surfing on wave

Alongside your newly purchased wake surf board, you will need a few other bits of kit to stay safe out on the water and have the best time. Here is a brief checklist on more wakeboarding gear:

  • Personal Flotation Device (PFD) – or life jacket, a crucial piece of equipment for water safety. It helps keep you buoyant and provides flotation support in case of an accident or fatigue. Choose the best PFD specifically designed for water sports activities.
  • Tow Rope – a wake surf-specific tow rope is required for getting up on the wake initially. It is important to use a rope designed for wake surfing, as it is typically shorter and has minimal stretch for better control and safety.
  • Boat – you will need a boat equipped with a wake-generating system, such as ballast tanks or a wake shaper. These systems create a surfable wake for wake surfing. Ensure the boat driver is experienced and knowledgeable about towing wake surfers safely.
  • Wakesurfing Rope and Handle – once you are up and riding the wake, you will want a wake surf-specific rope and handle. These ropes are usually shorter than wakeboarding ropes and often have a single handle or grip to provide better control and maneuverability.
  • Wetsuit or Swimwear – depending on the water temperature and your personal preference, you may need a wetsuit or appropriate swimwear to keep you comfortable and protected during wake surfing sessions.
  • Fins and Fin Tools – many wake surf boards come with removable fins or have options for different fin setups. It is beneficial to have a set of fins suitable for your riding style and preferences. Additionally, fin tools are handy for installing, adjusting, or removing fins as needed.
  • Board Bag – helpful for transporting and protecting your wake surf board. It shields the board from scratches, UV rays, and other potential damage during transportation and storage.
  • Sunscreen – wake surfing often involves prolonged exposure to the sun. Apply waterproof sunscreen with a high SPF to protect your skin from harmful UV rays, even on cloudy days.
  • Towel and Dry Bag – keeping a towel handy helps you dry off and stay comfortable between rides. A dry bag is useful for storing personal belongings, such as your phone, wallet, and keys, to keep them dry and secure while on the water.
  • First Aid Kit – it is always wise to have a basic first aid kit on hand in case of any minor injuries or accidents that may occur during wake surfing.

5 Beginner Tips For Wakesurfing

Man on a wakesurf board

New to the sport? Here are our 5 top tips to help get you started.

  1. Start with a lesson. It is highly recommended to seek instruction from an experienced wake surfing instructor or someone with expertise in the sport. They can teach you the fundamentals, provide valuable tips, and ensure you start with the right techniques and safety practices. A lesson will help you progress faster and establish good habits from the beginning.
  2. Begin with a larger board. As a beginner, choosing a larger wake surf board with more volume is beneficial. A larger board provides increased stability and buoyancy, making it easier to get up on the wake and maintain balance. Look for boards with a wider outline, thicker profile, and more forgiving characteristics suitable for beginners.
  3. Spend time on the basics. Focus on mastering the basics before attempting more advanced maneuvers. Start by getting comfortable with getting up on the wake and maintaining balance. Practice riding in a straight line, adjusting your weight distribution, and finding the sweet spot on the wake. Developing a strong foundation in the fundamentals will make it easier to progress to more challenging tricks and turns.
  4. Maintain proper body position. Pay attention to your body position while wake surfing. Keep your knees slightly bent, your arms relaxed, and your weight centered over the board. Avoid leaning back or shifting too much weight onto your back foot, as this can cause instability and hinder control. Maintaining a balanced and centered body position will help you ride with stability and responsiveness.
  5. Stay in the wake's sweet spot. The sweet spot refers to the area of the wake where the wave is most powerful and allows for the best ride. Experiment with positioning yourself on the wake to find the sweet spot that offers a smooth and enjoyable ride. Typically, the sweet spot is slightly behind the boat and closer to the center of the wake. Adjust your position by shifting your weight and using subtle movements to stay in the sweet spot and maximize your ride.

What is the difference between wake surfing and wakeboarding?

Wakesurfing and wakeboarding are actually two very distinct water sports. Both involve riding behind a boat and utilizing the boat's wake. While they share some similarities, there are significant differences between the two.

  Wakeboarding Wakesurfing
Attachment The rider is secured to the board using bindings or boots that are attached to the board. The rider holds onto a tow rope, which is connected to the boat. The rider is not directly attached to the board or the boat. Once the rider is up and stable, they let go of the tow rope and ride solely on the energy of the wake.
Speed Wakeboarders usually ride at speeds between 18 to 24 miles per hour (29 to 39 kilometers per hour), which helps generate a firm and well-defined wake for jumps and tricks. Wakesurfing takes place at lower speeds ranging from 9 to 14 miles per hour (15 to 22 kilometers per hour) to create a surfable wave.
Wave Riding The rider performs tricks and maneuvers on the surface of the wake, launching into the air for aerial tricks or executing spins and flips. Wakesurfing involves riding the wake like a traditional surfer. The rider positions themselves close to the boat and surfs along the face of the wave, performing maneuvers, turns, and stylish maneuvers similar to surfing.
Equipment Wakeboards are typically shorter and have bindings or boots for the rider's feet. The boards often feature fins and channels for stability and control during tricks. Wakesurf boards resemble traditional surfboards, providing a larger and more buoyant platform without bindings. Wakesurf boards may have fins that can be adjusted or removed to customize the ride.
Accessibility Wakeboarding is generally considered more challenging as it requires more strength, balance, and technique to handle the higher speeds and perform tricks. Wakesurfing is generally considered more accessible to beginners compared to wakeboarding. The lower speeds and the ability to ride the wake without being directly attached to the board or the boat make it easier for newcomers to get up and start riding. 


🏆 Why is it important to choose the right wake surf board?

Ensuring you choose the right wake surf board for you is important for several reasons. The size, shape, and design of the board influence how the board performs in the water which impacts your experience. Getting the right wake surf board for your skill level, weight, and riding style will maximize your fun out on the water.

👍 What factors should I consider when choosing a wake surf board?

When choosing a wake surfboard, you need to consider the shape and size of the board first and foremost. You also need to think about your skill level and style of surfing. These aspects will determine what type of board you need to get the most out of your sessions.

🏝️ How do I determine the appropriate board size for my skill level and weight?

Always check the manufacturer’s recommendations. However, it is generally recognized that the larger and more buoyant the board, the more suitable for beginners and larger riders. As your balance and skills improve, you can progress onto smaller boards that will go faster but be harder to manouever. 

❓ What are the different board shapes available for wake surfing?

The three different types of wake surf boards are surf, skim, and hybrid. Each are designed with careful consideration for performance and features. The rocker, dimensions, and rail design will differ depending on the board style.

Jay Regan
Jay Regan

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