Equipment

THE BOARD YOU NEED
By now, you probably know what a wakeboard is. Maybe you even want to buy one. That is a good start. The question is, what board should you buy? It's tempting to go for a closeout cheapie, and for a beginner that might not be a bad idea. Because wakeboard designs are changing so quickly, boards that aren't that old sell for cheap. Two years ago recreational boards were almost all "directional", or surf-shaped. Now virtually no boards are surf-shaped. Surf-shaped boards still ride well for surfing the wake, but in reality any shape board - twin or otherwise - will work well for beginner and recreational riders.
The thing with twin-style boards is that they can do anything. Boards in this category can run the gamut from being part of the modern freestyle movement boards (shorter, wider) to being standard-weight construction pro models (narrower, faster, less forgiving). There are twin boards that are good for any style of rider - spinners, grinders, flippers - you just need to know what you want the board to do. At this stage of the game - when you haven't even gotten wet yet - it may be difficult to know how you want a board to perform. Thankfully, with a little water time, you can adapt any board to your riding style. But, for sake of argument and accuracy, wider boards get better pop off the wake - especially if you don't have a charging, pro-style cut. Consequently, these boards can make you go higher without too much effort. On the other hand, if you're a really aggressive rider (or want to be), the narrower boards will give you the hardest cuts, the biggest airs and the sickest falls, with a little practice.

THE BINDINGS
YOU NEED
As you leaf through this mag, you probably think it's a foregone conclusion that you need boots. Boots, high-wraps, binders - whatever you want to call them, the whole competitive wakeboarding world (with the exception of Mike Rogers, Erich Schmaltz and Doug Homan) is already sold. So, what does that mean to you?
Even though boots are now the main focus of binding development, straps still own most of the recreational market (55 percent). And straps are still fine for most recreational riders who aren't getting more than a few feet of air. Straps even have a following at the high end because they are light, easy to get into, fit the whole crew on the boat and are cheap. Which style really gives better performance is still at question, however. Both Homan and Rogers say they can crank themselves into straps better than in boots. Schmaltz likens it to skating, where he can move his heel around, duck it out or in, depending on the trick, whereas in boots, his foot is stuck in one position.
Guys riding boots say high-wraps offer better ankle support. Another plus of boots is they are more predictable in their release. The only thing boot riders tend not to like is the additional weight. Does that matter? Obviously some think so. Originator of the high-performance wakeboard high-wraps, Darin Wiley says that it naturally matters. "Look at the axis of your body. If you put your feet over your head, then getting rid of weight helps." Wiley says they don't go so far as to sacrifice the performance of their rubber to make the binding lighter. He notes that if you take out too much, you give up performance and durability.
As for what to look for in a binding, Wiley says good arch support is a must. "It keeps your foot from cramping. Most of us like to ride for 10 or 20 minutes, but if your foot is cramping up, you're back on the boat sooner than you want to be."
Our advice is:

Buy high-wraps if:
* Maximusupport is your primary concern.
* You don't want your bindings to release.
* Money is no object

Buy mid-wraps if:
* You want minimal support plus easy
entry and exit
* You like some flexibility.
* You want a quality binding at a strap price.

Buy straps if:
* You share your board with many people
with many different shoe sizes.
* You want the ultimate in lightweight.
* Ease of entry and release is your top priority.

THE FINS YOU NEED
As a beginner, you don't really need to worry all that much about the technical side of fins. The bigger the fin you can put on the tail of your board, the better off you'll be. You may also consider not using a nose fin at all at first, but if you do, make it a small one (1.75-inch or smaller). As you progress you can start to worry about depth, shape and material. For right now, it's just important to realize that a fin's purpose is to provide directional stability. Without a fin, it's hard to keep your board going straight, as you may have noticed if you ever used to ride fakie without a nose fin. A bigger fin provides better directional stability (tracks better) than a smaller one. A smaller fin breaks free more easily for going fakie, getting the board back around from fakie or doing butter slides. As for all that other techno-babble, let's break it down by component:

Quantity
It used to be a question of using one fin or all three. However, with most models available today being twin shapes, three isn't an option unless you're using a surf-style board. On a twin board you'll probably want to start with a large fin on the tail (2.5-inch) and a small fin on the nose (1.75-inch or smaller) if you use one at all. If you are riding in the surf, three back fins work well. Otherwise, even if you are just starting, go with only one fin in the tail and one fin in the nose. If you can't seem to get your board going forward, then go with three trailing fins as a last resort.

Depth
It's pretty simple: Big fins track better, but they tend to catch more on spin tricks. Charley Patterson says this is especially problematic with blindside moves. Once you get the feel for the board and how it tracks, you can gradually begin using smaller fins on the tail and adding a little larger fin on the front to help you track better switchstance. Shoud DeWitt at Rainbow Fins says most of the fins they're selling are 2-inch-and-above models.

Shape
Strictly a matter of personal preference. If you want to get more fin area (better tracking) while maintaining some looseness to your board, get a fin with a long base and a shorter depth (ramp-style fins). If you are more into getting back on the tail and surfing the wake, go for the surf-style fins.

Materials
According to Bill Doster at Ski World, one of Orlando's top shops, the aluminum and fiberglass fins are holding up the best. Most molded plastic fins are breaking where the screws go in - either becoming brittle from being out in the sun, getting tweaked from big landings or snapping off when hitting an object. DeWitt warns that if you think you are going to be grinding and bonking, use fins with two-screws - they hold in better.

THE ROPE YOU NEED
Wakeboarders use non-stretch rope. Period. And the simplest way to determine if your rope is non-stretch is to push your rope together and hold for a few seconds before releasing. Stretchy rope returns quickly to its original form. The non-stretch kind will remain deformed. Nowadays that means spectra, or kevlar or polyethylene, and it means a better ride.
Rope length is pretty cut-and-dried as well. A traditional ski rope is 75 feet. Ropes are shortened by removing the following lengths: First section takes 15 feet off, which leaves you with a rope of 60 feet; the second section takes off another 7 feet, which leaves 53 feet; the third takes 6 more feet, for a total of 28 feet "off" and a 47-foot line. Then there's 32 off, 35 off, 38 off, 39.5 off and other numbers with which only the gods of slalom skiing need concern themselves. Most wakeboarders, professional or otherwise, need only to

worry about rope lengths between 60 and 41 feet, so we are basically talking about the first four sections of the rope.
The reasons for changing your rope length are plain and simple. Common knowledge states that if you aren't clearing the wake, go with a shorter rope. If you are riding in the rooster tail, lengthen the rope. A shorter rope puts you at a narrower part of the wake and makes clearing it on a jump easier. We recommend 28 off as a short length for starting. Most people eventually move up to and are comfortable with 22 off-which makes a 53-foot line. Most pros are using 60 feet and above. It's a matter of preference, but the guys using the longer lines say it lets you float the trick more and land softer on the downside of the wake.
How your rope length ties to boat speed is slightly more complicated. As you get more weight in the boat, you'll also want to speed up the boat. If you speed up the boat, you should lengthen your rope. If you find that the wake is washy at 18 mph, you'll have to either raise the speed or shorten the rope. You don't want to be in the white part of the wake.
Overall, the stiffer the rope, the more control you have. The more control you have, the bigger you can go-especially if you have your speed and rope length right.

OTHER STUFF YOU NEED
Most of this gear is fairly optional - you don't really NEED it to get started (besides flotation) - but along the line you might want to give it a try.

Personal flotation devices
Despite what you may, or in this case, may not, have seen on the pages, flotation is key in learning to wakeboard for two reasons. 1) It keeps you afloat. Sounds dumb and you probably knew that, but if you've ever NOT worn a vest and been sitting out in the water fighting against the weight of the board for longer then 30 seconds, you'll appreciate a vest. It also helps keep you in the proper position when learning deepwater starts. 2) When you start crashing, and you will crash, it helps cushion the falls.
There are a lot of vests out there. Some are Coast Guard approved, some aren't; both will keep you afloat. The difference is that Coast Guard-approved vests are bulkier and may get in the way. However, a non-Coast Guard-approved vest will earn you a boating ticket if you are in a highly patrolled area. You choose.

Gloves
Use them, don't use them, we don't care. It's a personal preference thing. Some riders say gloves help them get a better grip on the handle; some say they get a worse grip because they lose some sensation in their hands. If you don't want callter.

THE ROPE YOU NEED
Wakeboarders use non-stretch rope. Period. And the simplest way to determine if your rope is non-stretch is to push your rope together and hold for a few seconds before releasing. Stretchy rope returns quickly to its original form. The non-stretch kind will remain deformed. Nowadays that means spectra, or kevlar or polyethylene, and it means a better ride.
Rope length is pretty cut-and-dried as well. A traditional ski rope is 75 feet. Ropes are shortened by removing the following lengths: First section takes 15 feet off, which leaves you with a rope of 60 feet; the second section takes off another 7 feet, which leaves 53 feet; the third takes 6 more feet, for a total of 28 feet "off" and a 47-foot line. Then there's 32 off, 35 off, 38 off, 39.5 off and other numbers with which only the gods of slalom skiing need concern themselves. Most wakeboarders, professional or otherwise, need only to worry about rope lengths between 60 and 41 feet, so we are basically talking about the first four sections of the rope.
The reasons for changing your rope length are plain and simple. Common knowledge states that if you aren't clearing the wake, go with a shorter rope. If you are riding in the rooster tail, lengthen the rope. A shorter rope puts you at a narrower part of the wake and makes clearing it on a jump easier. We recommend 28 off as a short length for starting. Most people eventually move up to and are comfortable with 22 off-which makes a 53-foot line. Most pros are using 60 feet and above. It's a matter of preference, but the guys using the longer lines say it lets you float the trick more and land softer on the downside of the wake.
How your rope length ties to boat speed is slightly more complicated. As you get more weight in the boat, you'll also want to speed up the boat. If you speed up the boat, you should lengthen your rope. If you find that the wake is washy at 18 mph, you'll have to either raise the speed or shorten the rope. You don't want to be in the white part of the wake.
Overall, the stiffer the rope, the more control you have. The more control you have, the bigger you can go-especially if you have your speed and rope length right.

OTHER STUFF YOU NEED
Most of this gear is fairly optional - you don't really NEED it to get started (besides flotation) - but along the line you might want to give it a try.

Personal flotation devices
Despite what you may, or in this case, may not, have seen on the pages, flotation is key in learning to wakeboard for two reasons. 1) It keeps you afloat. Sounds dumb and you probably knew that, but if you've ever NOT worn a vest and been sitting out in the water fighting against the weight of the board for longer then 30 seconds, you'll appreciate a vest. It also helps keep you in the proper position when learning deepwater starts. 2) When you start crashing, and you will crash, it helps cushion the falls.
There are a lot of vests out there. Some are Coast Guard approved, some aren't; both will keep you afloat. The difference is that Coast Guard-approved vests are bulkier and may get in the way. However, a non-Coast Guard-approved vest will earn you a boating ticket if you are in a highly patrolled area. You choose.

Gloves
Use them, don't use them, we don't care. It's a personal preference thing. Some riders say gloves help them get a better grip on the handle; some say they get a worse grip because they lose some sensation in their hands. If you don't want calluses, use gloves. If you don't care one way or another, try them and then decide for yourself.

Wetsuits
They are NOT life vests. They will not keep you afloat. However, as the weather warms up (slowly) and cools down (quickly), a wetsuit will extend your riding season, and that's a good thing.

Back support belts
A few years ago they used to be all the rage. Now, hardly anyone uses one. While they do lend support to your lower lumbar, they will not prevent back injuries. But if you know ahead of time that you do have a bad back, you might want to try using one. Even if it doesn't work, mentally you'll feel more secure and that will better your riding.

Bolts
Virtually every company has a version of the original G-Bolts. They all fasten your bindings and fins flush to the board and prevent slipping. Thumb screws work fine too if you always make sure they are tight.

Board bags
Pretty standard. You have suitcases for your clothes. You have golf bags for your clubs. Why not a bag for your board? It'll cut your trips from the car to the boat down to one (for equipment) and you'll look professional doing it. It also helps prevent dings and scratches from throwing stuff loosely into your car and your garage. But like we said earlier, you don't NEED it, or any of this stuff, to learn to wakeboard, but it's nice to have if you can afford it.calluses, use gloves. If you don't care one way or another, try them and then decide for yourself.

Wetsuits
They are NOT life vests. They will not keep you afloat. However, as the weather warms up (slowly) and cools down (quickly), a wetsuit will extend your riding season, and that's a good thing.

Back support belts
A few years ago they used to be all the rage. Now, ha

rdly anyone uses one. While they do lend support to your lower lumbar, they will not prevent back injuries. But if you know ahead of time that you do have a bad back, you might want to try using one. Even if it doesn't work, mentally you'll feel more secure and that will better your riding.

Bolts
Virtually every company has a version of the original G-Bolts. They all fasten your bindings and fins flush to the board and prevent slipping. Thumb screws work fine too if you always make sure they are tight.

Board bags
Pretty standard. You have suitcases for your clothes. You have golf bags for your clubs. Why not a bag for your board? It'll cut your trips from the car to the boat down to one (for equipment) and you'll look professional doing it. It also helps prevent dings and scratches from throwing stuff loosely into your car and your garage. But like we said earlier, you don't NEED it, or any of this stuff, to learn to wakeboard, but it's nice to have if you can afford it.