When you see spikes in progression, technological innovations commonly precede them. Our sport, although still relatively new, has grown through its infancy, shed its awkward teenage years, and now hovers somewhere just past the wild and crazy early 20′s and is looking to get itself on track for the long haul. We picked the top 20 innovations that have given wakeboarding that extra push along the way to get us to where we are now. Keep your eyes peeled for more top 20′s throughout the summer in honor of our 20th year covering our sport.
Click the top left photo in the gallery below and get to learning.
Amongst the innovations that have propelled wakeskating to the ever-raising level that it currently inhabits, the ability to lock into tricks on ledges and rails has been of huge importance. Thomas Horrell with can be credited with yet another innovation with the creation of the Cassette 4 Trac for 2003. With the fin placement and design of the 4 Trac, Thomas was able to lock into legit noseslides, closing the gap between the fledgling sport of wakeskating to its inspiration of skateboarding. The effects can be witnessed today in Ben Horan’s back tail.
When Hyperlite dropped Shaun Murray’s Belmont board on the world in 2000, eyes were opened to the advantages of molded in fins. The greater durability, ability to hit features without needing a center-fin, and tracking stability that the molded-in side fins provided have played a huge role in both wake and park progression.
Rails and features have been in the game from early on when Byerly was getting busy hitting rocks and docks, but with the utilization of Trex, rail surfaces were to hold up against the elements and to repeated use.
The use of pools really took off in the early 2000′s, again with much credit to Thomas Horrell. The innovation can be seen put into action even today, more than 10 years later, with multi-level lakes being built at new wake parks across the world. The use of pools also brought wakeboarding right in front of the crowd with parking lot rail jams.
Although wrapped tricks had been done with a trick ski bridal handles, it wasn’t until Randall Harris came through with his Vandall Handle that wrapped tricks were possible while charging hard into the wake. Tricks like Randall’s wrapped front mobe added a whole new flair on what was possible then, and today’s riders are still finding new ways to progress with its use.
Thomas Horrell is a man with a list of innovations a mile long, but the move he made from foam top wakeskates to the use of grip tape ranks up there towards the top. Now able to truly mimic what he was doing on his skateboard, Thomas was paving the way for a sport that hasn’t shown any signs of slowing down.
Although a seemingly minor innovation, the sport of wakeboarding was able to take leaps with tech and flats tricks with the addition of non-stretch ropes. The mini-bungee action of the traditional slalom ski rope had its advantages in swerving, but not wakeboarding. By the mid-90′s riders had moved away from the rubber bands and into the world of non-stretch, and were able to build line tension and go bigger than ever.
The term “flex” does not necessarily accurately encompass the whole of what today’s new construction boards have become, but rather the movement of different core construction to give the board different riding characteristics. Prior to this, cores were experimented with only to shed weight, but when Hyperlite came out with the Roam for 2005, riding the board in a different way led to some huge progression in wakeboarding, namely rail and park riding.
Cable riding, currently known as park riding, has grown to take a legitimate spot as a form of wakeboarding. When Sesitec introduced a two-tower cable system, aptly named the System 2.0, wakeboarding as a whole changed immensely. Prior to 2008 and the Red Bull Wake Lab, riders were only able to dream up floating skatepark-style features. The System 2.0 allowed those dreams to become a reality.
Although multifin technology had been around in surfing, it wasn’t until Gregg Necrason showed up at X-Games in 1998 with a board that would change the way people thought about wakeboards. The multifin set-up of the Liquid Force Tripp led to less reliance on a deep center fin which would pay huge dividends in wakeboard technology down the road.
With advancements and innovations being made in all aspects of wakeboarding, it only made sense that people would figure out how to enhance wake with devices separate from the running surface of the hull. The Malibu Wedge was an early and longstanding example of such an enhancement.
With the innovation of speed control, riders were able to experience consistency in pulls regardless of who was in the driver’s seat. Adding ballast to boats made them more difficult to drive, but with the assistance of speed control, the guesswork was taken out of the equation.
At the top of innovations brought to us by Thomas Horrell would have to be the application of winches. He and the Cassette crew made use of the winch in their ground breaking film Sfumato in 2003 to get into situations that a boat, pwc, nor a vehicle could tow them into. The winch has remained a big part of hitting natural spots in both wakeskating and wakeboarding.
A specific rise in riding level was seen after the use of v-drives became more prevalent. Moving the heaviest part of the boat (the engine) towards the stern began to really peak up the wakes and with the extra space in the cockpit, riders were finding more places to put additional ballast bags. Within a few years, a boat was not considered made for wakeboarding without being a v-drive. Direct drives were soon to be confined to the slalom course.
Although the offerings from today’s board manufactures are not dominated by compression molded options as much as they once were, the move from plastic roto-molded construction to thin profile compression molded boards was a huge catalyst for the sport of wakeboarding. The lower buoyancy and sharper rails allowed early generation riders like Darin Shapiro to carve harder and edge like never before. Boosting tricks into the flats was now a possibility.
The advancement of wake parks throughout the last decade has been a huge catalyst for wakeboarding as a whole, both in participation and progression. Legitimate features with with pros and beginners in mind, wake parks have continued to help take wakeboarding to new levels.
In the early days, the extended pylon was in use, giving riders an elevated tow point to gain height and extra air time. The high pylon evolved into the tower which has cemented itself into the inboard boat market, as well as runabouts, jet boats, and other types of boats. Although the New Crew might disagree, the high tow point gave riders the extra height, time, and leverage to add rotations and variations for the last 2 decades.
When huge steps forward are taken in progression it is most often correlated to an innovation that made it possible. The move from sandal straps to wrapped neoprene boots was one of those innovations that sparked a huge push forward.
To displace more water and create a bigger wake, more weight added to the boat comes in high on our list of innovations. Volumes could be written on the innovations within weighting a boat itself when you start thinking about internal ballast systems and additional ballast bags. Without the help of the extra weight, riders would not be near the level that they are now.
The sheer amount of tricks that were invented as a direct result of the first twin-tip boards lands this innovation right at the top of the list. Looking back from where we are right now, it is tough to say that anything but the change from directional boards to twin-tips had more of an impact on wakeboarding. Need reminding? Watch what Byerly and Gator did within one year in the ’94-’95 season.