Tough Guys: Rail-Friendly Wakeboards

Words Justine Griffin Photo Swami

Not long ago, Tom Fooshee would burn through a wakeboard every three weeks thanks to his near-constant shredding at the Texas Ski Ranch and other cable parks around the world. But then the 2008 Wake Park World Series champ started riding the Liquid Force Witness Grind, one of the first boards to feature a base designed to better withstand the rigors of rail riding. Today, Fooshee cycles through fewer than four boards a year, and his Witness Grind is just one of a host of super-durable, rail-friendly boards available in 2009.

In fact, almost every board brand's lineup this season includes a board or boards specifically designed for hitting rails. Liquid Force expanded its Grind Series to include two boards; Hyperlite unveiled Nick Davies' pro model, Clash, with its new Enduro base; Ronix introduced the Arcade by Bill, with its new sintered snowboard base; Slingshot added its Dura Base to its Reflex wakeboard; and O'Brien made its new Impact base available on three of its 2009 models. While every brand uses its own proprietary materials and processes, each base is designed to do the same thing: handle the abrasion and impact of rail riding and give riders more control on obstacles of any surface.

"It's similar to what is being used on snowboards," says Tom Curtin, product manager at Hyperlite. "It's more durable, yet softer to help absorb the impact from hitting obstacles."

Pro riders were the initial motivation for this new breed of super-durable boards. For years, guys like Shane Bonifay and Erik Ruck have been destroying boards by hitting rails in their backyards. While pros provided the inspiration, the proliferation of rail-friendly boards owes more to the growth of cable parks. As more and more parks pop up, more riders have access to the same A-frames, fun boxes and wall rides that pros have enjoyed for years and thus have the same need for stronger boards.

Just like parks themselves, the future of cable-specific gear looks bright. Liquid Force will introduce its Grind Base into more boards next season. Slingshot is currently developing cable-specific products, such as boots to match the Reflex, and Hyperlite recently launched the first-ever cable team, one of whose goals is to help develop the best boards, boots and other products for wake park ripping.

Liquid Force Witness Grind ($400; liquidforce.com)

Hyperlite Clash ($440; hyperlite.com)

Slingshot Reflex ($429; slingshotwake.com)

Ronix Arcade by Bill ($370; ronixwake.com)

O'Brien Decade with Impact base ($550; obrien.com)