Wakeboarding vs. Wakesurfing

Looking for a creative way to spend some time out on the water? Have you tried wakeboarding or wakesurfing? These are two highly popular surface water sports that focus on riding waves and boat wakes while performing various tricks. If you take the plunge, you’ll be joining tens of thousands of thrill-seekers from across the country. The freedom of movement and beautiful scenery these sports offer are just two of the many reasons why so many people love it. You might assume wakeboarding and wakesurfing refer to the same sport. While they share some similarities, they are two different sports with their own unique characteristics.

The Board

One of the most important elements of any surface water sport is the board. Wakesurf boards are typically longer with more a surfboard-like design. The average length of a wakesurf board is 4-5 feet. The sport has been around since the 1950s and 60s, although Alfonso Corona was awarded with the first “wake surfboard” patent in 1997. Wakeboards are generally constructed with a buyout center and fiberglass coating for a superior level of performance on the water. Wakeboards often have fins that are interchangeable, allowing the user to adjust their board to their ride style.

The Technique

The technique is what differentiates wakeboarding and wakesurfing. While wakeboarding, the user holds a boat-towed rope throughout the duration of the ride. In wakesurfing, the user releases the rope to ride out a wake. Approaching a large wake, a wake surfer will drop the line to ride the peak in a similar fashion as surfing. Some wakesurfers will hold the rope through multiple wakes, but this reduces the rider’s speed and agility.


Boats used in wakeboarding are a little more complex, featuring large “wake towers” made of stainless steel and aluminum piping. These towers raise the rope’s pull point 6-7 feet higher than the surface of the water. This allows for greater maneuverability when performing in-air tricks. Ski boats and even jet skis are often used to tow wakesurfers. Often wakesurfers weigh their boats down with cinder blocks, water, metal and other heavy objects to create larger wakes that make jumps more exciting for the rider. Wakesurfing requires an inboard boat where the propeller is under the boat. The typical sterndrive is not safe for surfing whereas it is for wakeboarding. Wakesurfing is not limited to only the younger crowd. It is also enjoyed by the 40+ age group. We’ve witnessed wake surfers making a peanut butter sandwich while surfing, demonstrating the luxury of allowing the rider to be as laid back or aggressive as they choose.

Scorpion Bay is Arizona’s premier floating playground, offering everything from daily pontoon and ski boat rentals to slips for harboring your yacht (or dinghy). Come for the fishing or come for the frolicking—either way, incredible mountain views, fantastic dining and world-class marina services await less than an hour out of Phoenix.