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The history of Wakeboarding

The history of Wakeboarding goes back a number of years. It is really a derivative of many sports intertwined into what it is today.

For decades, surfing has been a favorite sport of beach dwellers. And in that time, historians recall surfers being towed with a ski rope behind a boat and, sometimes even from the shoreline by a truck. From this, shorter boards started being used. And in 1985, a San Diego surfer named Tony Finn developed the Skurfer -- a hybrid of a water ski and a surfboard. It looked like a little surfboard, and was pulled by a boat while the rider performed surf-style carving moves on the wake. This riding style evokes visions of snowboarding and skateboarding with a bit of water skiing. Riders stood anywhere on these boards since there were no straps or bindings. Still today people can be seen 'surfing' behind a boat.

However in the summer of 1985 the first major devlopment pccured, footstraps were drilled onto these boards. What makes this interesting is that this innovation came from two different people at the same time who had no idea what each other was doing. Finn added the straps to his Skurfer, while Jimmy Redmon in Austin, Texas, added straps to his Redline design water ski board, which was a smaller version of a surfboard causing raves in Texas. The significance of footstraps can't be overestimated in the evolution of wakeboarding. Footstraps allowed for big air taking the sport to something more than surfing. Much more like snowboarding and water skiing. It was more dynamic and free-flowing.

Through the rest of the decade, Tony Finn promoted, popularized and marketed the Skurfer, and the sport of skiboarding was born. But even as the first Skurfer championships were televised by ESPN in 1990, the sport was struggling. Lack of innovation and technology were holding it back. Only experienced or very strong riders could do deepwater starts on the Skurfer. Skurfers were narrow, very buoyant and required excessive energy to get them up and planing on the surface of the water. The Redline design boards were lightweight and performance oriented, but lacked the durability needed for the constant poundings in the sport. Although these things limited the growth of skiboarding, the stage was set for a new exciting water sport.

Herb O'Brien, a successful businessman in water skiing and owner of H.O. Sports, started tinkering with the boards at this time. He introduced the first compression-molded neutral-buoyancy wakeboard, the Hyperlite. This innovation sparked the massive growth of what today is known as wakeboarding. (The term skiboarding stuck around for a few years, but wakeboarding ultimately became the official name of this sport.) The Hyperlite's neutral buoyancy allowed the rider to submerge it for easy deepwater stars. Wakeboarding became accessible to everyone from 4 to 80 years of age.

O'Brien continued to refine the wakeboard. The board had a thin profile and would carve like a slalom ski. It also had phasers (large dimples on the bottom), which broke up water adhesion and gave the board a quicker 'loose' feel and softer landings from wake jumps. The thin shape, neutral buoyancy and phasers were features made possible by the compression-molding process. Following the lead of the H.O. Sports, other board companies started manufacturing wakeboards.

As the sport grew, the boards continued to get better. The first Hyperlites, designed and built back in 1990, had the overall shape of a surfboard with an obvious tip and tail. In 1993, Redmon researched and developed the 'twin-tip' design -- a symmetrical shape that has become today's standard in the sport. Twin-tip boards have a fin on both ends, allowing a centered stance that results in equal performance whether the wakeboarder rides in the forward or switchstance (fakie) position.

The World Wakeboard Association is the worldwide governing body of the sport. Redmon founded the WWA in 1989 and is considered the 'guru' of wakeboarding. He is responsible for developing the rules and formats to keep the integrity of the sport and the essence of wakeboarding in its present form.

The sport flourished professionally in 1992 when World Sports & Marketing, a Florida-based sports promoter and event organizer, began staging pro wakeboard events. This gave wakeboarders a chance to compete professionally and gave them exposure on ESPN and later ESPN2. The sport then got its own national publication when Wake Boarding magazine was launched in 1993 by World Publications. The Pro Wakeboard Tour continues to grow each year as does the sport's magazine.

Two new series are added in 1998 - the Vans Triple Crown of Wakeboarding and the Wakeboard World Cup. In the year 2000, professional wakeboarding dramatically alters its format adding sliders and jump ramps to the course giving it the image of a "street course" on water. As wakeboarding enters the 21st Century, the ultimate titles for any professional rider are the Pro Wakeboard Tour, the Vans Triple Crown of Wakeboarding and the Wakeboard World Cup.