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Wakeskating is a water sport and an adaptation of wakeboarding that employs a similar design of board manufactured from maple or from fibreglass. Unlike wakeboarding, the rider is not bound to the board in any way, which gives the sport its own unique challenges. Instead, the top surface of the board is covered with griptape, (in a similar fashion to a skateboard) or a soft, high-traction, foam, usually referred to as EVA foam, covering that is kinder to riders in the inevitable crashes and also allows a rider to ride barefoot. Riders usually wear shoes while riding to afford themselves extra purchases on the board, similar to skateboarding.The speed at which riders wakeskate behind a PWC (Personal Water Craft: Jet ski), boat, cable system, or winch is generally 16 – 22 miles per hour. However, this depends on water conditions, the weight of the rider, their proficiency in the sport as well as a preference matter of the rider.
Some of the earliest activity resembling wakeskating dates back to the late 1970s and early 1980s with freeboarding or wakesurfing. Originally, riders would surf behind boats with long boards, but eventually the sport evolved towards boards that were much shorter (ex:4'8) which allowed riders to launch airs off the wake and even ollie. However, the watersports industry leaned strongly towards bindings, resulting in the focused evolution of wakeboarding. Wakeskating would eventually begin to take notice in the mid 1990s, and the growth continued. It is increasingly popular in youth culture across the globe, but is prevalent mainly in its country of origin, the United States. An aspect of wakeskating that draws many aficionados to it, as opposed to wakeboarding, is progression without the need for the large and extremely expensive boats (necessary to create the wake for wakeboarders to achieve maximum air time). An alternative to using wakeboard boats to tow riders is using high powered jet skis. This method of watercraft can provide an adequate tow, with little or no wake. Jet skis are better for shallow water or where water obstacles are available to perform tricks on. Recently, the use of a high speed winch designed for wakeskating and wakeboarding has allowed riders to bring the sports to small ponds or other waterways where boats and jet skis cannot operate.
Wakeskating tricks are inherently more technical than wakeboarding. The tricks are based firmly on skateboarding as opposed to snowboarding. Numerous tournaments and competitions exist throughout the world for the sport of wakeskating.
Wakeskates usually size between roughly 39-45 inches, which is considerably smaller than a wakeboard. Rail shape can vary from a more rounded shape, which is common on most wood skates, to a sharper rail, which was traditionally found on compression-molded decks, and a resurgence in the variable edge, which means the rail will be rounded in the middle and sharp on the edges. Today, a variable edge can be found on numerous wakeskates, since it allows for forgiveness on rails and lip tricks, but also allows you a sharp edge for cutting into the wake.
The Rise of the Industry
An idea from a skateboarder (jason messer) that liked boating. FWT (fresh water traction) was the first wakeskate specific company involved in attaching wakeskate pads to wakeboards. He made figerglass boards and barefoot footpads for wakeboards. A company called "bad ass bindings" started by Herbie Fletcher, lent they're traction technology and gave a wakeboarder pro his own signature model pro wakeskate pads "the hook."
New materials and assembly techniques are continually introduced into the sport of wakeskating. Traditional boards are made of plywood or fiberglass, but a new technology has come out called Tri-Ax Fiberglass reinforcing. A woven fiberglass top sheet is applied. This process helps the board to be more rigid and increases the life of the board.
Wakeskates are manufactured by many of the same companies that produce bush league such as 12 Gauge, CWB, Hyperlite, and Liquid force, along with many Wakeskate specific companies such as Integrity, Oak, Sattalyte, and New. However, going back into wakeskating's roots, the first company dedicated specifically to wakeskating was called Fresh Water Traction. Fresh Water Traction (abbreviated as FWT) was conceptualized and owned by Jason Messer, and FWT was the first company to produce any product specifically for wakeskating. Their first products began as traction pads, which are foam constructions one could attach to their wakeboard via the inserts one would normally use for bindings. This allowed for riders to try the art of wakeskating without having to commit to cutting up their wakeboard or attaching something that could also be removed. Later, Fresh Water also came out with the first wakeskate specific fin. This fin was shallow and long and allowed for the board to release much easier than most wakeboarding fins at the time. Towards the end, Fresh Water attempted to release a wakeskate to the public, but cost was a major hurdle that could not be over come.
Soon before Fresh Water Traction ceased production, a small rider owned company named Cassette entered the market in 1999. In an interview with WakeBoarding magazine in 1999, Thomas Horrell alluded to the idea of a wakeskate specific company: "Some day soon there will be an all wakeskate company, and it's going to be a totally different thing; it's going to be sick. People will triple-take on it; it's going to be massive and people won't know what to think." Early on, Cassette was run independently, but soon after the brand was licensed to Liquid Force. Once Liquid Force filed for bankruptcy, their working contract with Cassette became void, resulting in Cassette separating from Liquid Force in 2003. In the realm of board production and design, Cassette began by producing flat decks, but by 2002 they had introduced the first concave wakeskate to the market. 2003 brought about the influential and legendary 4-trac, along with a wakeskate-specific fin that allowed for not only nose slides, but bluntslides and manual variations. 2005 brought the world of wakeskating its first bi-level.
In addition to Cassette's contribution to advancing wakeskate designs, they also produced and captured some of wakeskating's most influential films, allowing them to portray wakeskating and push it in the best direction they saw fit. Cassette not only produced wakeskating's first "team videos" but also the first film dedicated entirely to wakeskating, which is titled Linear Perspective, followed by 2003's Sfumato.
Cassette founder, Thomas Horrell is widely respected from his influence on wakeskating and his contribution to its progression. Although the company is currently defunct, Cassette Wakeskates are still sought after for both riding and historical value. Cassette's demise is attributed to a few years of poor production due to manufacturing errors. Many wakeskates during this time were not properly laminated and were made using a non-waterproof glue, causing the boards to absorb water. Cassette's savior idea, the bi-level wakeskate, was not immune to these setbacks. While Cassette's design is regarded as one of the best bi-levels among hard core riders, delamination issues were experienced with the first batch of top decks. This put the company in a tough position with warranties. (The bi-level design was copied by nearly every other company in the industry, who now utilize new technologies to make the wakeskates more durable). Horrell still lurks, putting out stand up video parts and pushing the sport.
WakeBoarding Magazine, 1999: "The wakeskating thing has just started. Messer and his whole scheme has just started to unfold as he thought. He's totally right on when it comes to that. It's going to be huge and totally break through all of the barriers that have been up against wakeboarding in the last three or four years."—Thomas Horrell
The most recent developments in the sport has been the rise of the flip tricks. Wakeskaters like Andrew Pastura, Ben Horan, Nick Taylor, Matt Manzari and Reed Hansen have taken the flip trick variations that are frequently done on skateboards, and incorporated that into their wakeskating. This has caused the sport to be even more popular behind Jet skis and winches, the latter allowing flip tricks to be performed down drops, gaps, and spillways.
For the most part there are two main board materials. The wood deck, which is used to make Flat decks, Concave decks and Bi-Levels. Composite is the other main type, a lightweight material. They both have a different feel in the water.
Fins are constructed with three different kinds of materials. The first and original fin material to wakeskating is plastic. This material will bend and crack if it is exposed to the right conditions. When the fin breaks and bends, it loses its performance. Plastic fins can only be molded down to .5 inches in width. Fin manufacturers also use fiberglass and aluminum. Due to the fact that they are hand molded or machined they can be much narrower. The narrow fins will cut down on drag in the water. Aluminum fins are heavier and cost more, but they hold up to the beating that wakeskating can give them. Fiberglass fins are cheaper than aluminum fins, but in time they chip apart. They don’t weigh as much as aluminum fins either.
The length of the fin on your board can vary greatly. Some fins are 5-8.5 inches long. The longer fins are good because, they don’t have to be as deep to get the same surface area in the water. They will track better than a fin that is shorter. Also the long fins work better on rails and ramps because they are shallow enough that they will not make a lot of contact with the rail and ramp. Shorter fins must be deeper to get the same amount of tracking. A shallower fin will not track as good as a deeper one. But a deeper fin will have more drag in the water, and it will not release from the water as fast.
Many wakeskates are designed to be ridden without fins. After several early years of stigma associating finless riding with bad style, several prominent wakeskaters who prefer to ride finless have emerged over the last few years giving legitimacy to the argument that fins are a personal preference and not totally necessary.
The following manufacturers make and sell wakeskates: American Wakeskates, Arson, Byerly Wakeskates (water skis), CWB (water skis), Hyperlite (water skis), Integrity, Liquid Force (water skis), Mutiny, Oak, Obrien (water skis), Origin, Remote, Ronix, Goodwood, Sattelyte,12 Gauge, New Wakeskates and Project Wakeskates (Brazil).
Tricks and stunts
A number of tricks and stunts are possible while wakeskating.
Lip tricks- Using the lip of the wake like a rail, these tricks can be done behind any watercraft. Lip tricks can be very basic (frontside lipslide to bs 270 shuvit out) or very complex (kickflip to frontside boardslide to body varial to frontside lipslide to backside 450 bigspin out), but most deal with the 4 basic lipslides. Frontside lipslide, frontside boardslide, backside lipslide, and backside boardslide. Lip technicians are known to trim down the technical names of these moves by dropping the "side" and "slide" off any of these moves, i.e. "Front lip" or "front board". Lip tricks are a unique facet of wakeskating that, during its formative years, gave it much of its flow. This was something that appealed to riders from all action sports and helped to build wakeskating's budding reputation as a fun and legitimate board sport. While progressive lip tricks are often overlooked in the upper echelons of wakeskating now, lip tricks are still an important part of wakeskating's identity and continue to be popular among its amateur and casual participants. Defined by frontside or backside.
Flats tricks- The equivalent of flatground in skateboarding, doing technical moves in flat water on either side of the wake is another facet of wakeskating helping to separate it from wakeboarding. In the nature of wakeskating's evolution most flats tricks are directly translated from skateboarding and continue to progress as fast as any other facet of wakeskating. Defined by heelside or toeside.
Re-entry- Using one side of the wake as either a quarterpipe (per skateboarding) or a wave (a la surfing) are the two most common ways to describe re-entry moves and this distinction can also help shape the style of a wakeskater if he/she subscribes to either method of boardriding . Starting from the bottom of the wake and riding up to the top, a wakeskater pops the trick from the top of the wake and lands coming back down the transition of the same wake he/she started from. Most re-entry moves are first learned in the flats and then brought to the re-entry for either more pop or for the new experience. Doing more than one re-entry move in a "line" is also more likely to "flow" when compared to flats tricks. Defined by frontside or backside.
Inside-out- Starting in the middle and doing moves off the back of the wake into the flats is called inside-out. Like re-entry and flats, most inside-out tricks are heavily influenced by skateboarding. This method of doing tricks involves more lateral motion than flats or re-entry, making it slightly more difficult but the transition of the wake from the inside-out can give a wakeskater more height on a move than simply doing it in the flats. This lateral motion is also useful when learning wake to wake moves. Defined by heelside or toeside.
Wake to wake- This method of doing tricks on a wakeskate has the most potential to get maximum height. Usually done on a boat that puts out at least some semblance of a wake, it involves 1. cutting out into the flats and 2. cutting back in towards the wake, the rider then uses the wake to 3. launch into the air, 4. crossing over the middle of the wake in the air, and 5. landing in the transition of the next wake to soften the landing, this technique can put a wakeskater 10+ ft. into the air. Wake to wake is comparable to vert ramp skating as it is generally less technical than other facets, but allows for big air and is generally more appealing to non-endemic spectators. Like vert skating, wake to wake was one of the first aspects of wakeskating in the early years and even though there are a few people still pushing the limits of both, they are no longer at the forefront of their respective art forms. Defined by heelside or toeside.
Wakeskating, has in recent times become more and more urbanized due to the advent of the "winch". The winch is a mechanical device with a small horizontal shaft engine that holds a spool of rope and pulls the rope in at riding speed. Much like a winch on the front of a Jeep or Truck but with ski rope and faster. This invention has given wakeskaters the opportunity to ride in places never imagined possible before, making wakeskating more accessible than ever before. The original winch was the Re-wind winch and was conceptualized Tony Robinson and Thomas Horrell in 2003. Winches however are not just a commercial endeavor, some people build their own. The first all winch video "Homeless" was produced by the Homeless Crew a.k.a. La Sewer Crew from lasewer.com also known as Clear Line Productions The 45 min. video documented where to youth was headed with winch use and how fast the movement was growing. La Sewers inspiration grew from Thomas Horell and friends that had taken the concept from idea to reality. The La Sewer crew began in 2006 with Brandon Rau, Kyle Walton & Josh Jansson. The crew is currently a very active part in the wakeskate and winch community, continually updating their web site and progressing where a winch can be used. La Sewer has personally worked with every winch on the market, studied the designs, problems, benefits and produced their own sustainable winch project. La Sewer is currently producing their own version of a winch designed for wakeskating and wakeboarding. The La Sewer winch is 100% non corrosive unlike any other winch on the market, also offering 100% replaceable parts you are essentially getting a lifetime warranty. La Sewer has looked back to their own roots of growing up around snow doing urban rail missions on skis and snowboards and branched out to the snow industry with Poor Boyz Productions allowing their crew to have a new way of looking at urban features.
The shoes that wakeskate riders wear are similar to skateboarding shoes and can often be used for both. Many wakeskating shoes are designed with quick drying materials and special drainage channels. The drainage channels are a system of holes in the sole and channels through the midsole. DVS was the first legitimate skate shoe company to commit to a wakeskate specific shoe back in 2004 (though they outfitted Thomas Horrell and select members of the Cassette team since 1999). Teva, a performance shoe company, manufactures a wakeskate shoe called the Gnarkosi. It includes a drain frame that allows water to leave the shoe from the bottom so it doesn't become soggy and heavy. Some wakeskating shoes are built with an Ethylene-vinyl acetate (EVA) midsole. This EVA is an ideal material for the production of shoes, because it will not crack under stress and it is not affected by UV radiation. This special lightweight buoyant material is perfect for keeping down the weight of a soaking wet shoe.