Wakeboarding is a popular and fun water sport in which a rider is towed behind a motorboat while on a wakeboard, and surfs on the wake created by the boat. The sport is practiced around the world, mostly in a non-competitive manner, with family and friends while at a beach or lake. But, there are still plenty of wakeboarding competitions around the world. In order to participate in wakeboarding, riders need equipment to keep them safe and ensure that they perform their best and have as much fun as possible.
The main pieces of equipment needed for wakeboarding are a boat, a wakeboard, wakeboard boots, and a tow cable for the rider to be towed behind the boat. These pieces are the foundation of the sport, and without them a wakeboarder would be unable to partake in the sport.
The rest of the equipment required to wakeboard is mainly intended to keep riders safe and insulated, such as a life vest, a wetsuit, and more. These pieces ensure that the rider does not get injured or risk drowning when they fall into the water, which happens often in wakeboarding.
First and foremost, wakeboarders need access to a boat. A boat is what pulls the wakeboarder along and creates the wake to be surfed on behind it. A rider does not need to own a boat, they just need access to one, whether it be through a friend or family member who drives it, or through some company or service that offers rentals or rides. Those who choose to purchase their own boat should be prepared to invest tens of thousands of dollars.
Wakeboard boots or bindings are extremely important, as they attach to the wakeboard so that the rider's feet stay on it. Finding the right boots is like finding any kind of shoe; it is important to feel comfortable in your boots and choose the style that matches you best. What works for one rider might not work for their friends and family, although it is a popular choice to buy one pair of boots and keep it attached to your wakeboard so that everyone can use them and save time. Open toe, velcro boots are best for this as they are easily adjusted for size.
Buoyancy aids, such as a life jacket or life vest, are extremely important to have while wakeboarding. Riders often fall into the water at disorienting angles in deep areas of a lake, and in some rare cases can be knocked out or made dizzy by either hitting their head on the wakeboard or making a strong impact with the water. This makes a life vest a necessary piece of equipment for wakeboarding in order to keep riders safe.
Many wakeboarders like to wear swim goggles in order to protect their eyes and make for an easier recovery after falling into the water. This is especially the case when wakeboarding in the ocean or in another body of saltwater, although the sport is much more common in freshwater, still bodies like lakes. Even in freshwater, though, goggles can be helpful to keep your vision clear when you fall underwater.
A helmet is another piece of safety equipment that is necessary for similar reasons. Wakeboarding usually involves a lot of being thrown off balance and falling. In the case of a rider falling off and hitting their head on the wakeboard, it is important to have head protection to minimize the damage. Additionally, in wakeboarding competitions, there are often obstacles in the way, making them a required piece of equipment to compete. Wakeboarders must be sure to get a wakeboarding helmet specifically - they are lightweight, water resistant, and ventilated, making them much more effective for the water than a bike or ski helmet.
Although wetsuits are more ideal for helping keep wakeboarders safe, many riders choose not to wear them, whether it be because they are uncomfortable in them, or simply do not own them. Without a wetsuit, a swimsuit is a suitable replacement that provides comfort and convenience in the water. They can also be worn under a wetsuit if the rider prefers it for comfort, and can help prevent chafing from a wetsuit in this case.
Since wakeboarding involves a rider being towed behind a boat, the rider needs to have a rope or tow cable that is attached to the back of the boat with a handle to hold on to while riding. There are specific tow cables with handles designed for wakeboarding, that on the lower end cost around $50-$80.
Naturally, the wakeboard itself is required in order to partake in wakeboarding. The wakeboard is what allows the rider to ride the water. It has bindings to attach to the wakeboarding boots and keep the rider rooted in place on it. It is designed to ride the waves and, if the rider desires, to do jumps and tricks off of them. There are many different types and styles of wakeboards, and it is up to the wakeboarder which style they prefer. However, there are some notable differences between competitive and casual wakeboards, since competitive ones are specifically constructed for tricks, so it is important to be conscious of that when purchasing a wakeboard. Non-competitive wakeboards for beginners cost around $200-$300.
Although many casual wakeboarders choose not to wear a wetsuit for reasons such as comfort or money, it can provide some extra comfort, and more importantly, it creates extra protection for the rider. A wetsuit serves as good insulation, which is key since spending a lot of time in the water can get very cold, which affects comfort and performance. The gas bubbles within a wetsuit's material provide a little extra buoyancy, helping riders stay afloat when they tumble into the water. It also helps protect the rider's skin from the sun, as being out on the water in the hot sun for long periods of time is a good recipe for a sunburn. However, even those who wear a wetsuit should still be sure to apply sunscreen throughout the day while on the water. On the low end, wetsuits cost around $50.
The most important pieces of equipment for wakeboarding are the boat, wakeboard and boots, towing cable, and life vest. All of these pieces create the foundation of the spot while the life vest keeps the rider safe and afloat in case of falling off into the water. Things like the wetsuit, helmet and goggles are all very helpful as well and increase the level of protection for the rider, but are not entirely necessary, especially when it comes to casual, recreational wakeboarding.
Wakeboarding equipment can be pretty expensive when it's all added up, even if you don't count the boat. A wakeboard and wakeboarding boots alone can cost close to $400 or more. Throw in a towing cable, a life vest, a wetsuit and a helmet and you add close to another $200. For those who already own a boat and choose to forgo the wetsuit, goggles, and helmet, all the necessary gear can be found for around $400 on the cheaper end of the scale. On the higher end, particularly for those who partake in wakeboarding competitions, the total cost of equipment can be near or over $1000, and for those who choose to purchase their own boat, the total is likely to be north of $20,000.