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The Perfect Wakeboard

The Perfect Wakeboard
By cramey on Friday, June 01, 2001 @ 4:16 pm
As in many industries, there is an abundance of misinformation in the wakeboard world. The following tips come from years of experience in the industry, and are designed to cut through some of the tech talk and misleading jargon.

First and foremost, no one design element makes for a good board. Boards only work well when the elements of design are well integrated. For instance, were a friend to tell you, "you need a wide board, 'cuz that's good for boosting big air", they would be doing you no favor. There are plenty of wide boards that are not good for aerials, and there are others that are not good for anything! Many times, when an industry finds a "hot niche", the manufacturers race to produce that style of gear. It does not always add up to good performance. Elements, such as our timely example of width, must combine with other factors, such as edge shape and rocker, to provide a great combination.

Do not buy a board by "size". This tip is related to the first. Centimeter "size", is a poor barometer of a board's overall character. The length is the only variable measured by this. To put a finer point on it, a 138cm in one board, may be perfect for you, while the identical length in another board may be completely inappropriate. Factors such as width and wetted surface area make as much, if not more difference than length. A friend telling you, "buy a 142cm" is doing you a disservice. They probably mean well, and are advising you towards a board that they have had a positive experience with, but many expensive board purchase mistakes are made in this manner.

Here are some guidelines for what effect the individual design elements might have:

Rocker: The curvy "banana shaped" profile of your board. Rocker generally may be viewed on a scale from "loose feeling" to "stable feeling." The more exaggerated the arc, the looser the board feels. Conversely flatter boards tend to be more stable. A great deal of rocker tends to slow a board down, while a flat profile tends to be faster. Some boards use a "constant rocker" and others somewhat of a "kinked" or "flat spot" rocker line. The latter tries to incorporate the best speed/maneuverability qualities of both rocker designs.

Edge design: The shape of your board's edges, whether sharp or rounded, has a profound impact on the tracking capabilities of the board. The sharper the rail (another term for the board's edge), the more aggressively the board will "bite" into the water. This results in improved acceleration, and overall speed. The downside of this, is the tendency for sharp rails to be "catchy". Remember, a sharp rail is always sharp, and is less forgiving than it's rounded counterpart. Beginners and flat water tricksters are well advised to look for boards with more "buttery" (rounder) rails. To confuse matters even more, many manufacturers are producing boards with combination edges, that combine elements of both designs, in an attempt to achieve the best of both worlds.

Bottom design: This refers to the often debated features that affect the wetted surface area of the board. Channels running lengthwise down the bottom of the board serve two functions. They provide additional traction against slipping sideways, and they accelerate the waterflow beneath the surface, adding to overall speed. Boards with heavy contouring also tend to be a little less forgiving for surface tricks and wake slides. Dimples, also referred to as phasers, speed bumps, etc., are designed to break up laminar flow, or downward suction on the board from the water's surface. If you think of a dinner plate being set on a wet table, and the suction that is created, the principle is the same. The dimples break up the suction and, in theory, accelerate the board. In reality this does very little to effect performance positively or negatively. It is technology that was borrowed from the surfing industry, which largely dropped the concept about 20 years ago.

Width: A board's width affects it's speed, stability, and pop off the wake. Increased width can add stability, but detracts from a board's speed. The greater the wetted surface area of a board, the more drag it produces. Drag is the factor which can most easily reduce speed. Width can also help get extra air by providing a broader surface to smack to wake. This will only be true, however, if the overall speed is still good. If you are interested in getting big air from a wide board, make sure it has sharp rails and strong channels to help speed it up.

Length: As with width, length is less important than overall wetted surface area. Remember, the only portion of your board which can profoundly affect your ride, is the portion in contact with the water. Much of a board's length, depending on it's rocker line, may be out of the water. This portion has little to do with the board's feel. Length is one of the most looked at, and most misunderstood elements, in board purchasing.

Weight: Boards have become pretty darn light over the last few years. In general, light weight means a livelier feel underfoot, and quicker rotation in the air. This has traditionally come at the expense of durability. Recently, the gap between heavy and light has been greatly reduced by better manufacturing techniques. Many experienced riders are choosing the most durable boards, and saving the extra half pound by eating a few less waffles.
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