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
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)
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.