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An example of someone wakesurfing.

Wakesurfing is a water sport in which a rider trails behind a boat, riding the boat's wake without being directly pulled by the boat.[1] After getting up on the wake, typically by use of a tow rope, the wakesurfers will drop the rope, and ride the steep face below the wave's peak in a fashion reminiscent of surfing. Wakesurfers generally use special boards, designed specifically for wakes.


The origins of wakesurfing are a subject of contention, as various individuals and companies lay claim to its inception. Some assertions trace the roots of boat-surfing or wake-surfing back as far as the 1920s, but there is a lack of credible evidence to support these claims. Visual records and written media from the 1950s and 1960s depict surfers actively riding surfboards behind motorboats in ocean settings. During the mid-1960s, numerous surfboard manufacturers began asserting their involvement in crafting boards specifically designed for riding wakes.

The trend of riding surfboards behind boats persisted throughout the 1970s and 1980s. The boards used in this practice gradually evolved into shorter forms, mirroring the progression of shortboards in traditional surfing. As boards became shorter, practitioners drew inspiration from windsurfing and sailboarding by introducing foot-strapping devices on the boards to secure their feet. Utilizing tow ropes and making sharp turns and jumps off wakes gave rise to sports like skurfing, skiboarding, and eventually wakeboarding.

The increasing popularity of wakeboarding prompted advancements in watercraft technology to amplify the size of wakes. This development subsequently paved the way for wakesurfing to step into the spotlight. Numerous trailblazers in the sport, including but not limited to figures like Tim Lopes, Jerry Price, Jeff Page, Rick Lee, among others, are recognized for their pivotal roles in shaping modern wakesurfing. The first US design patent for a wakesurf board was granted to Alfonso Corona in 1997.


With the rise of wakesurfing in recent years many individuals have attempted surfing behind boats ill-equipped to wakesurf. Boats with outboard motors or sterndrive propulsion are not suited for wake surfing and lead to heighted risk, possible maiming or even death.[2] The only types of boats safe to surf behind are direct drive or V-drive boats, this is because the propeller is located far beneath the boat rather than behind the boat.[3]

Another risk associated with ill-equipped boats is Carbon Monoxide Poisoning. Boats designed for wake surfing direct the boat exhaust downward into the propeller stream, pushing the exhaust far away from the rider.

Boat setup[edit]

Inboard ski or wakeboard boats[4] are the most popular choice for this sport as the propeller is under the boat, and is less likely to make contact with the rider. Owners of inboard boats place ballast, such as water, lead weights, concrete, or other heavy objects in different sections of the boat in order to weight the boat down and create a larger wake. The best weight configuration for wakesurfing is to place the majority of the weight near the back corner side the surfer is surfing on.[5] The deeper the boat is in the water, the bigger the wake will be overall. In addition, one will want to place a larger amount at the stern of the boat on the side which the rider is riding. This will ramp the wake up on the side the rider is riding and washout the opposite side.[6] A rope length of 2.43 to 3.04 meters (8 to 10 ft) is recommended. Wakesurf-intended ropes are generally 6.1 meters (20 ft) long, making it ideal for boats that have a tower set-up. Long ski and wakeboard ropes can become hazardous for wakesurfing, because it usually involves winding up the rope or tying unnecessary knots.

Notable wakesurfers[edit]

  • Ashley Kidd, winner of the 2014 and 2015 World Wake Surf Championships (pro women's division)[7][8]
  • Jake Caster, winner of the 2017 World Wake Surf Championships (pro men's skim division), runner-up 2018 World Wake Surf Championships (pro men's skim division) and placed 3rd in 2019 World Wake Surf Championships (pro men's surf division)
  • Connor Burns, 2019 & 2018 World Champion Pro Men’s wake surfer; 2017 World Champion Amateur Men’s wake surfer.[9]
  • Drew Danielo, 7X World Champion and recipient of the Legend Award at the 2019 World Championships.[10]

Trick list[edit]

Many riders perform a wide array of maneuvers or specifically named 'tricks' while wakesurfing, with most owing their origins to surfing, skating (both vert and street) and snowboarding, Some of the most well-known tricks are:

  • Pumping – Turning up and down the face of the wake to gain speed.
  • Stalling – Applying pressure to the back foot to slow down or “stall”.
  • Floater – When a rider and board “floats” on top of the wake.
  • Lip slide – Just like a floater, but the board is sideways.
  • Spray – Gouging into the face of the wake to create the water under the rider to explode and spray.
  • Fire hydrant – Placing one hand on the board and taking the front foot off.
  • Posing – Doing hand and body positions while riding for cool style points.
  • Hang 5 – Rider extends front foot (toes) over front of board.
  • Rail grabs – Grabbing the board’s rail while the board is on the wake – one or both hands.
  • Cutbacks – Bashing off the lip of the wake with the board – the more extreme and risky the better.
  • Paddle back in – Going to the extreme rear of the wake, throwing down on the board and paddling back into the power zone. This can also be done by pulling the outside rail of the board to bring it back to the power zone.
  • Tubing it – Throwing down on the board and sliding back into the tube until covered up – the deeper the better, and then popping out and standing back up on the board.
  • Switch stance – Riding with the opposite foot forward.
  • Airs – Launching off the lip with board into the air and landing back on the wake (toeside or heelside).
  • One-hand grab air – Grabbing one rail of the board while the board is airborne above the wake.
  • Double Grab Air – Grabbing both rails of the board while the board is airborne above the wake.
  • Hang 10 – Rider extends both feet (toes) over end of board.
  • 180 spin – Spinning 180 on the wake – Board and rider spin.
  • 360 spin – Spinning 360 on the face of the wake – Board and rider spin.
  • 540 spin – Rider spins continuously 1 1/2 times until they are riding switch stance forward.
  • 720 spin – Rider spins continuously 2 complete 360′s.
  • 900 spin – Rider spins continuously 2 1/2 times until they are riding switch stance forward.
  • Air 180 – Doing an air while spinning 180 the blind direction.
  • 180 air - Doing and air and spinning a 180 in the air and landing in with a switch stance.
  • Body varial – Rider does an air and rotates 180º before landing back on the board. The board doesn't spin at all during this trick.
  • 180 shove it – Spinning just the board 180 under the rider's feet and landing with the board “backwards”.
  • 360 shove it – Same as a 180 but you spin the board a full 360 under your feet. Note: rider does not spin only the board spins.
  • 540 shove it – Rider does and air and uses his/her feet to spin the board a full 540º before landing back on the board.
  • Big Spin – Same as a 360 shove-it, only the rider spins a 180 at the same time the board does a 360.

In popular culture[edit]

In 2013, Canadian musician Chris Hau recorded a video in which he plays a song on an acoustic guitar while wakesurfing.[11][12]

In February 2015, Hunter Sims, a professional wakesurfer, received a world record for doing 106 shove-its.[13]

Many celebrities have taken up the sport with P!nk, Julianne Hough, and Gus Kenworthy among the ones spending their summers trying the activity.[14]

World Champion Skimboarder Austin Keen[15] launched an interview series with celebrities wakesurfing in 2020. His first guest was Diplo.[16]


  1. ^ WakeSurfing, Wake Surfing, Wake boarding, WakeSports
  2. ^ "Can You Wakesurf Behind Any Boat? No, You Can't, Here's Why". 3 October 2019.
  3. ^ "Wakesurfing: How to surf on the lake safely". 27 July 2018.
  4. ^ wakeboard boats
  5. ^ WakeMAKERS. "Weight Your Boat for Wakesurfing". Retrieved 4 April 2014.
  6. ^ Fly High. "How to Weigh a V-Drive Ski/Wakeboard Boat" (PDF). Retrieved 2 November 2011.
  7. ^ Boarders (October 6, 2014). 2014 World Wake Surf Championship, Las Vegas". Retrieved 22 July 2016.
  8. ^ Centurion Boats (October 2015). "The 2015 World Wake Surfing Championship presented by GM Marine Completes Three Days of Amazing Wake Surfing Competition". Retrieved 22 July 2016
  9. ^ Centurionboats.com September 8, 2019 The 2019 Centurion Boats World Wake Surf Championship Comes to a Close [1]
  10. ^ "Drew Danielo". Phase 5 Wakesurf Boards. Retrieved 2021-03-18.
  11. ^ Mills, Carys (2 August 2013). "Does this wake-surfing singer have what it takes to go viral?". Toronto Star. Retrieved 17 September 2013.
  12. ^ Cross, Alan (1 August 2013). "Canadian Dude Sings, Plays Guitar and Surfs AT THE SAME TIME". AlanCross. Retrieved 17 September 2013.
  13. ^ "Most consecutive wakesurfing shove its". Guinness World Records. Retrieved 2016-10-24.
  14. ^ "Wakesurfing Stars -- What A Ride!". TMZ. Retrieved 2021-06-01.
  15. ^ "About Austin Keen - World Champion Skimboarder Professional". AK Companies. Retrieved 2021-06-01.
  16. ^ "Austin Keen and Diplo | Celebrity Surf Series". Unleashed Wake Mag. 2020-01-21. Retrieved 2021-06-01.

External links[edit]