What is the best wakeboarding gear? 

Wakeboarding is a hybrid of three favorite water sports: water skiing, surfing  and snowboarding. Like water skiers, wakeboarders are pulled across the water by tow ropes. Like surfers, wakeboarders ride the waves. Like snowboarders, wakeboarders leap, spin, do tricks and fly through the air off ramps. If you’re going to go wakeboarding, you’re going to need a board, tow rope, helmet and life vest.

What is a wakeboard?

They look like the snowboards you see the pros ride when they do all those incredible tricks at the Olympics and in the X Games. Wakeboards are rectangles about 4 feet long and 2 feet wide. Both ends have the same shape, so you can ski leading with either foot. 

Where can I use my wakeboard?

If you’re using it like a surfboard, wakeboards are welcome at most beaches. Wakeboards are welcome anywhere in public areas where people are water skiing. To ski behind a rope, you’ll need a boat. 

Water sports parks

Not every wakeboarder has a boat or access to one, which is where water sports parks come in. These recreational areas are small lakes, usually artificial, with systems of overhead wires, pulleys and motors that tow ropes attach to. Wakeboarders and skiers are pulled around an oval track by a tow cable.

  • What’s included: Fees vary, but all include riding time, wakeboard, life vest and helmet.
  • Courses: Most are oval and large enough that a dozen wakeboarders can be on the lake at once, all in a row with wide spaces between them for safety. Some have ramps and jumps located around the course so skiers can do high-flying tricks. 
  • Wipeouts: When skiers fall, the tow rope continues around to the home base, where it is shifted onto a side track just like a model railroad train. Fallen skiers paddle themselves and their wakeboards to the nearby shore, walk back to the launch area and do it again.

Best wakeboards

Best Zup You Got This Wakeboard, Wakeskate and Wakesurf Board Combo

Zup You Got This Wakeboard, Wakeskate and Wakesurf Board Combo 

The molded-in side rails and cushioned areas let you ride standing, kneeling or on your belly. It’s 57 inches long and comes with its own 60-foot tow rope.

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Best Driftsun Throwdown Wakesurf Board

Driftsun Throwdown Wakesurf Board

This fiberglass board is hand finished and made for people with beginning and intermediate skill levels. It’s 54 inches long, 20 inches wide, has special contours and fins and holds up to 250 pounds.

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Best Rave Sports Impact Wakeboard with Charger Boots

Rave Sports Impact Wakeboard with Charger Boots

This lightweight 50-inch board is best for riders weighing less than 125 pounds. You lace up the boots and slide them into the bindings. The side rails run the entire length of the board and the fins are removable.

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Best tow ropes

If you’re going to be wakeboarding behind a boat, you need a tow rope with a handle, both made from quality materials. You also need to choose a length that matches the speeds you plan on reaching.

Best Airhead Water Ski Rope with Radius Handle

Airhead Water Ski Rope with Radius Handle

This 16-strand rope is rated with a 1,600-pound break strength and comes in three sections. You can use the 45-foot section for wakeboarding, the 60-foot section for knee boarding and the 75-foot section for skiing.

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Best Rave Sports Elite Wakeboard Kneeboard Rope

Rave Sports Elite Wakeboard/Kneeboard Rope

The wide 15-inch handle has a diamond grip that is made for doing tricks. The 75-foot bright green five-sixteenths-inch rope is easy to see in the water and has three removable sections.

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Best DockMoor Wakeboard Rope and Self-Centering Tow Harness

DockMoor Wakeboard Rope and Self-Centering Tow Harness

The 12-inch handle attaches to a 5-foot bridle that connects to a 2,200-pound tensile strength tow rope. The 75-foot rope can be configured for different lengths and the stainless steel pulley keeps the tow rope centered with the back of the boat.

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What other equipment do I need?

Every active water sport has risks and some element of danger. Wakeboard riders need safety equipment that protects them and keeps them afloat.

Water sports helmets

Wakeboarders are pulled along by tow ropes, most at speeds of 10 to 40 miles an hour. As any water skier knows, when the boat turns and you crack the whip, you’re going lots faster and are at increased risk of a wipeout, so your head must be protected. Choose a helmet for safety reasons, but take comfort and visibility into consideration, too.

Best Pro-Tec Ace Water Helmet

Pro-Tec Ace Water Helmet

The high density injection-molded polystyrene shell has a precise fitting system, waterproof liner and 15 open vents for ventilation and drainage. The cupping ear guards protect your eardrum while channeling water away.

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Best Vihir Adult Water Sports Helmet with Ears

Vihir Adult Water Sports Helmet with Ears

The hard plastic shell has 11 vents that channel air in the front and water out the back. You use the fan-shaped buckle to fasten the chin strap firmly, then turn the regulator knob to adjust for a proper fit.

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Best Triple Eight Gotham Water Helmet

Triple Eight Gotham Water Helmet 

The halo liner is made of three layers of foam wrapped in plush fabric and is easily removable for washing. This 1.5-pound helmet comes in five sizes.

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Life vests 

Life vests are flotation devices people wear out on the water. They’re called vests because they’re shaped to enclose only the torso, leaving the arms free to move through their full range of motion without restriction. Make sure your life vest fits snugly in all the right places and latches securely. 

Best Airhead Camo Cool Kwik-Dry Neolite Flex Life Jacket

Airhead Camo Cool Kwik-Dry Neolite Flex Life Jacket

This personal flotation device dries quickly and meets all U.S. Coast Guard safety requirements. The side-release buttons open and close quickly and the zipper ensures safety on the water. The kids version has a crotch strap for added safety.

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Best Hyperlite Indy CGA Women's Wakeboard Vest

Hyperlite Indy CGA Women’s Wakeboard Vest

This vest is approved by both the Coast Guard and Transport Canada. The segmented foam flotation panels are firmly anchored, drain quickly and the whole thing attaches with plastic buckles and secure belt loops.

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Best Hardcore Water Sports Life Jackets for the Entire Family

Hardcore Water Sports Life Jackets for the Entire Family

From kids weighing less than 50 pounds to super large adults with 60-inch chests, these Coast Guard-approved jackets are designed to provide a stable face-up position for the swimmer’s head.

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