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THE BASICS WHEN CHOOSING YOUR BOARD AND GEAR

People nowadays are always on the lookout for something new to discover and try. From new food to a new hobby, everyone is always looking for what else is out there for them to explore. Recent trends in sports suggest that enthusiasts are now more open to trying the more extreme. Every day, extreme sports are taking center stage and here is a quick guide for all those who want to try this relatively new but rising sport.
Just like anything new, even a new sport, research is a key factor in helping you prepare both mentally and physically. Knowing the basics, like what board to use and what to gear to choose, will also help you have a higher rate of success in whatever your chosen sport.
One sport that is slowly gaining popularity among sports enthusiasts is wakeboarding. A whole new level of thrill is experienced as you try to balance on a board as you are being pulled by a rope attached to a boat. It is both technical and artistic as you try to gauge the wake along with many factors while trying to look as graceful as possible as you execute air tricks and different maneuvers. Seasoned wake boarders often describe the sport as a different kind of adrenaline rush from that of surfing and snowboarding.
It also uses specific gear, different from those used in skateboarding and snowboarding. Basically, you need a wakeboard, binding, and boots. There are many types available out in the market but knowing what to look for according to your specific need will make the hunt simpler and stress-free.
In wakeboarding, there are different types of boards. These differ on the skill level of the user and the purpose. These are then further classified according to the height and weight of the user. Sounds complicated but need not to be when you know what board to go for.

Starting out or Advanced?

Wake boarders generally fall into three skill categories, the starters, intermediate, and the advanced. Many have the false impression that starting out with the advanced level wakeboards will make it easier to master the sport, but this is really far from the truth. Those who are trying the sport for the first time or are just starting out need to use the more user-friendly boards, these are on the heavier side since they are made of denser materials making them easier to control and handle, making the learning experience simpler. The main focus of those who fall into this category is balance, making a heavier board the perfect start out gear. Beginners should also go for boards with square sides which also offer more stability.
Those who fall into the intermediate level are those who have been into wakeboarding for some time now and are regularly wakeboarding at least once a week. The intermediate level wake boarders usually aim to not only practice balance but also want to venture into the more complicated maneuvers. Boards for the intermediate level are lighter and are usually starter boards that are customized by the users to suit their preferences.
The advanced level is consisted of those who are training to join are regulars in the wakeboarding tournament scene. Since advanced level wake boarders are already pros at balance, their main concern now is to master different tricks which are easier to achieve using a wakeboard made of lighter material. Lighter boards offer the user more freedom in executing gravity-defying twists, jumps and turns since these have less drag. It is also recommended that advanced skill wake boarders choose boards with rounded edges. When compared with boards with squared edges, these boards have a lesser chance of getting caught during a landing. Another benefit to rounded edges is that they have allow to faster speeds during takeoff and relative ease when landing, a must for advanced skilled boarders who are aiming for complicated air tricks.

Single or Twin-tipped

Advanced skill level boards can be further classified according to their tips, twin-tipped or single. The starters should opt for the single-tipped wakeboards. These are designed for one-directional riding, having one squared tip and another being rounded. Single-tipped boards are also a great choice for riders who prefer to use a specific foot forward.
Twin-tipped boards sport rounded edges on both sides. These make it easier to change directions with a single movement. Landing and the transition in direction is made smoother by the rounded edges as these produce lesser friction as compared to the single-tipped boards. Those with skateboarding or snowboarding experience, which usually involves switching foot position regularly, may find that twin-tipped boards are the more comfortable choice when transitioning to wakeboarding.

Size of your board

In wakeboarding, size does matter. Another important factor to consider when choosing your wakeboard is its length. This is especially important for those who are on the heavier side since a mismatch could mean sinking a bit more which may affect the size of the wake you catch and in turn also lead the boat to pull you at a faster rate. Control is also lessened and drag is added when your board is sunken into the water. Putting it simply, shorter boards tend to be slower and use up more energy. Bigger is not always better when it comes to choosing the right wakeboard size for you. When a board is too long or big for you, quick direction shifts and air tricks are harder to pull off since the weight may prove too much to execute sudden movements.
The best way to determine what wakeboard size will work best for you is to enlist the aid of standard sizing charts. These will guide you on what weight to length and height to weight ratio use. When sizing charts are not available, choosing the longer board may be the best choice since you can move on to longer boards as you skill level improves. Also, when choosing a board which is to be used by a number of people, base your choice on the heaviest person since longer boards are more stable as compared to the shorter versions.

Know the material

Looking into what material is used in a wakeboard is just as important as determining the correct size to use for your height and weight. Wakeboards can be made out of a wide range of materials available on the market today. Choosing the right one for your needs is essential as it may affect the success of your wakeboarding.
A lot of available wakeboards in the market today are made out of a fiberglass outside with a separate material for the core. Fiberglass is a highly durable but lightweight material used across many applications. The core may be made out of wood or foam with each kind having its own set of benefits.
Boards with a foam core tend to be cheaper, making it the perfect choice for the first timers or for those looking to purchase their first wakeboard at a budget. Foam core boards are also lightweight making them easy to carry around but provide lesser control and stability owing to their lightness. They are also reputedly very durable and are said to withstand any condition you subject them to. This material is generally recommended for those who are looking for multiple-user wakeboards.
Although wood core boards are heavier as compared to foam cores, they excel in the field of flexibility owing to wood’s natural ability to expand in water. Advanced skill wake boarders may find that wood cores may be the perfect option since their flexibility will help its rider execute board bending stunts and air tricks that may be harder to pull off with the less flexible wakeboards.
Recently, wakeboard manufacturers have ventured into using graphite. Although still in the experimental stage, the material proves promising as it is not only light but is also stiffer than wood, giving users that extra ‘snap’ when riding a wake.

Rock on

When looking at a wakeboard, one is sure to see the characteristic bends along its shape. In more technical terms, these are the “Rockers” of your wakeboard. Generally, there are two types: the continuous and the 3-stage rockers.
Continuous rockers offer consistency since they have a streamlined bend from the tail to the tip of board. This helps the board pick up more speed and also gives a smooth feel to the wake. A good rule of thumb to follow is that the lesser the bend of your rocker, the more control you get when you go in a straight line.
On the other hand, three-stage rockers are easily distinguished by two bends located at each end. This gives the board an almost skateboard-like look. Unlike the predictable and smooth feel given off by the continuous rocker, this gives a more forceful kick to your jumps and lands, making them a good choice for advanced skilled boarders who are into lifts and air tricks.

Fins and direction

Aside from looking at a board’s size and bend, another feature to look into is its fins. These function much like a fish’s, they stir the board in what direction you want and help keep the board flat on the water. Without it, your board may either be rotating in the water or going in directions against your plan.
There is a wide array of fin types to choose from depending on what suits the boarder best. From shallow to deep, big to small, thin to fat, fins come in all shapes and sizes. Starter boards are usually equipped with deeper fins to make it glide smoothly across the water and give the user more control on what direction they want to take. In contrast, advanced level boards have shallower fins. You also have the option to go for the removable or built-in type.
Seasoned wake boarders recommend that riders do a trial and error of what fin type suits their riding style and skill best. There is no set choice as to what will surely fit you but trying out different fin types with different board styles will surely help you find your custom fit. There are also those who choose to just go and ride finless, preferring the built-in fin as opposed to using the removable fin type. This styles of going finless helps the learner to use the board’s rail instead of relying heavily on the fin to steer in the right direction. This style of learning helps give you better posture, making the extra effort worthwhile in the long run.

Taking care of your board

Taking good care of your gear is a vital part of the any extreme sport experience. Improper storage and maintenance could spell disaster for you. When you take care of your gear, it takes care of you in return. Ensuring that it is always in tiptop shape always minimizes the risk of injury and accidents, and can also spell success or failure.
Here are some basic tips to help you keep your gear in check. Prolonged board exposure to the sun causes damage. Microscopic cracks may appear when you leave your board out in the sun for too long, affecting its flexibility and durability. If wakeboarding in saltwater, never rinse with soap since this too dries out your gear. Rinsing with freshwater is the best way to clean out your gear. Invest in storage bags for your wakeboard and a separate bag for your gear. This helps in protecting them against bumps and scratches. Just make sure to dry off your wakeboard and gear before storing in their respective bags for long periods of time. Choose a cool and dry spot to store your gear and always double check everything before every use.

To bind or not to bind?

In every kind of extreme sport, safety is always top priority. This is why experts recommend that wake boarders should always use bindings. These are vital because they make you and your board a single unit. Bindings greatly help in decreasing the chance of injury on a ride. Without it, your board may smack you in the face or head during a fall.
Many wakeboard manufacturers make bindings that are interchangeable. This gives the boarder the freedom to mix and match it according to purpose and comfort. Always go for the right fit, bindings that are too tight are just downright uncomfortable and painful, while too loose and they defeat their purpose. Starters may opt for the adjustable bindings while advanced riders can go for the custom-fitted pair for ultimate protection on the more advanced maneuvers.

On to handles and Ropes

Wakeboarding will not be wakeboarding without ropes and handles. Basically, they are what help you catch the waves and wakes by connecting you to the boat that will be pulling you across the water. Just like all the other features of the sport, ropes and handles come in all shapes and sizes, each serving a different purpose.
Many have the wrong impression that water skiing and wakeboarding both use the same type of ropes. This is completely untrue since waterskiing ropes are very flexible and stretch, while wakeboarding ropes offer almost no stretch at all. This helps the wake boarder launch themselves off the water surface, which will be almost impossible to achieve when using rope that is very stretchable. There are three main factors to consider when choosing a wakeboard rope: handle, length and material.
Handles used in wakeboarding are slightly wider than what is used in waterskiing. They usually range from 5 to 15 inches, with the wider handles designed to accommodate the hands when you pass it behind your back on the more advanced tricks. If you find that passing the handle behind your back is too much of a chore, you can go for V and T handles. These are better than the standard handles as they are pre-wrapped behind the boarder’s back.
Another tip is to choose the perfect diameter to the user’s hand size. Children and women need handles with a smaller diameter to provide them with a better grip. There are also ergonomically-shaped handles out on the market which are designed to mold your hands to the handles giving you a more secure grip.
They are made out of a wide variety of materials such as carbon fiber, EVA and even aluminum, all lightweight and durable. These materials can withstand the constant pulling and tension between the rope and the boat pulling you.
Different grip materials are also available for you to choose from. If slippage is your main concern, you can go for the rubber grips since these offer you the maximum grip even on wet surfaces. Those who are looking for maximum comfort can go for the chamois grips as these are softer and more forgiving, especially for the more delicate hands of children. The best way to see what will work best for you is to ‘feel your way’, try grabbing different handle grips to get see which one to pick. Handle grips come in all textures and are usually stamped with a pattern, so pick one that is most comfortable for extended gripping.

Boots for every wakeboarding use

Boots are another vital part of the whole wakeboarding experience since they are what attach you to your board. This is the glue to the whole equation. Choosing the right boot pair is made easier when you know what to look out for.
Flex is one deciding factor when picking out the best pair for you. A boot’s flex can range from very flexible to being very stiff. Your choice should depend on what feels more comfortable to you. Not all wake boarders like a very flexible boot, some prefer the stiffer variations, and it just all depends on your personal preference. Boarders who are advanced and are into air tricks find that flexible boots work better for the quick movements associated with the maneuver’s, while the beginners often go for the stiffer ones with added ankle support finding that they give more stability while giving them more speed and better carving.
It is always best to check out the Stiffness Scale detail on the product details before making a purchase if available, with 1 being the softest and 5 the stiffest.
There are also two variants available as to the style of wakeboard boots. The closed-toe variant are more precise when it comes to fit. Although they are not recommended for those who are looking for boots for multiple users since the fit is not highly adjustable, but what they do offer is better control and quicker heel-to-toe response. Another plus to this style is that they help in keeping the feet warmer despite being submerged in water. One minor downside is that they are on the higher end of the price scale and are more expensive than the open-toe types.
Open-toe boots are more flexible when it comes to the number of users since they can accommodate more than one shoe size as compared to their closed-toe counterparts. Also, they give your feet more room for breathing and allow the still growing feet of children space to expand into. Although they do not keep the feet as warm as the closed-toe styles, they do offer versatility especially for those who are buying only one board for multiple users of all sizes.
Here are a few tips to help you take good care of your boots to make them last longer. Never put on boots that are totally dry. The ideal way is to get the boots and your feet wet before putting them on. Never force your foot into a boot, this will only result in damage on both foot and boot. Loosen boot up before trying it on. If still in vain, try using a lubricant that is biodegradable. Some use soap, but this is a big no-no since soap dries out the material and may cause premature cracking later on.
Hopefully, this article proves useful for anyone thinking about trying wakeboarding or for those who have already tried the sport and are willing to invest more in gear. A little research goes a long way, giving you a great head start as you go extreme through wakeboarding.

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