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Wakeboarding

By: Evan Finneke

Published: October 18, 2006

Since its beginnings a mere twenty years ago, the popularity of wakeboarding has spread like wild fire throughout The States, and as far as the coasts of Australia and Japan. The sport has become widely televised on several channels including ESPN, and has even sparked the publication of a magazine genre.

The sport is a direct combination of the water towing used in water skiing, and the riding principles of both snowboarding and surfing. Riders usually begin in the water, knees close to the chest and board out in front and wait to be towed. As the boat begins to pull, the rider moves to a squat, and  an eventual sideways stance following behind the boat.

The bizarre beginnings of wakeboarding, or skurfing as it was originally called, formulated when the idea of combining the principles behind water skiing and surfing where tossed around. Strangely enough, two individuals developed products during 1985 that resembled a shortened surfboard; only riders would have bindings to place their feet in similar to a snowboard. Tony Finn, inventor of the skurf, and Jimmy Redmon of the Redline, both marketed their ideas around the same time. However it was Redmon's design that first incorporated the bindings, which were critical to the sports future. In this way, riders could control the board as if they were surfing, but can also get air and perform tricks without concern of losing the board.

Skurfing, or skiboarding, began to increase in popularity towards the late 80s. Inevitably, competitions grew to the nationally televised level when in 1990 ESPN aired their first Skurfing Championship. At this point the sport still lacked the intensity and failed to reach its' potential as would be seen in the near future.

As the demand for the board's maneuvering abilities grew, the design needed to be re-evaluated and improved upon. It was water sport businessman Herb O'Brien who began to incorporate the compression-molded neutral buoyancy wakeboard, and with it, the standard in board production. O'Brien's Hyperlite Pro was a naturally buoyant board; wide enough to give a rider foot space. From that point, the sport was unanimously named wakeboarding to coincide with what O'Brien called it; the possibilities achieved were twice as appealing as before.
Not only did this design allow for more efficient riding, but it also allowed for an easier deep start, which opened the sport to individuals like children and families whom before lacked the professional qualities needed to start and ride.

The board would undergo one more major improvement in future years as infamous wakeboarding designer Jimmy Redmon, know as the wakeboarding guru, would add the twin tip standard to the bottom side of the board. In this way, riders would balance easier and be able to ride regular and goofy foot with equal range of capability. Competitive wakeboarding depends on the twin tip style so riders can link tricks and land with either foot forward without worrying how it will affect their next trick.

Also coming by way of guru Redmon is the establishment of the World Wakeboarding Association (WWA) which supports and regulates competitive wakeboarding globally. Redmon along with a group of wakeboarding enthusiasts were able to layout the rules and regulations that would become the standard of the sport. National sponsors such as Redbull and Honda have gotten behind the buzz, and just as any sport, numerous lines of wakeboarding companies have sprung up to answer the demand.

Wakeboarding is generally grouped with extreme sports such as skateboarding and surfing and has found a welcome place among the widely popular ESPN Xtreme Games. Similar to many of these games, wakeboarding is judged upon a series of tricks performed by the rider. Also like these sports, wakeboarding has adopted a lexicon all its own. Some phrases are basic slang any skateboarder or snowboarder might use, such as air or faceplant. However, new slang has been created to fit the needs of this unique sport. To case would be landing directly on top of the wake quickly, while doubling-up is when your boat circles around and takes a second pass to increase the wake size. In the States, wakeboarding can be found on the lakes of the Midwest, the East and West Coasts, but more than anywhere wakeboarding has seemed to claim a home among the waters off Florida.

 

Hemmel, Jeff. Wakeboarding's Creative Force; Inside the Mind of Jimmy Redmon. Boats.com. 5 August, 2000. Domain Enterprises. 4 October, 2006. www.boats.com/boat-articles.

Wakeboarder. 2005. 4 October, 2006. www.wakeboarder.com.

Wake World. 2006. eWake Inc. 4 October, 2006. www.wakeworld.com.