One thing we hear all the time from customers when they come into the shop, especially during the summer, is “We’d like to get a board that the whole family can ride.” We are always happy to recommend a wakeboard or surfboard that theoretically could accommodate the whole family. However, watersports equipment is not always a one size fits all. There are several inherent disadvantages to trying to accommodate a wide variety of riders on a single board. If you are looking to get some new gear for you and your crew this season and would like to know how to find the right sized board, this is definitely for you. So, let’s break down why board length is such an important factor when purchasing a wakeboard or surfboard.
When it comes to wakeboards, the most common issue on having a one size fits all board is the bindings. If your board is equipped with open toe boots, it is likely that it will be able to accommodate 3 to 4 different foot sizes, which means if you are sharing bindings between children and adults there will likely be too large of a gap in foot sizes. This could result in the smaller riders having to use large, unresponsive, boots that will more than likely come off with every fall. For riders with larger feet, this could result in them having to squeeze their feet into boots that may be too tight and cause discomfort after only riding for a short period of time. While these both may seem like minor issues, this can cause for riders to become discouraged or dislike riding all together in some cases.
Aside from the boots, the actual length of the board also plays a key role in a rider’s success. Without going into too much detail, the length of the board is determined by the rider’s weight due to the amount of surface area that the board provides on the water. Smaller, beginner riders, will actually benefit from learning on a larger board since the increased surface area will make it easier to stand up and become stable on the water. However, when it comes to larger riders, a smaller board will make it more difficult to stay on top of the water which results in the rider becoming tired sooner due to the additional drag that is produced. To put it simply, an adult rider will need an adult sized board, and once a smaller rider gets the hang of riding they will need a smaller and more responsive board.
Wakesurf Board Sizing
With wakesurfing, unlike many other sports, it is crucial for riders to have the appropriate size and style of board. This can be the difference between landing your first 360 and not being able to even drop the rope, and it all comes down to two key factors: buoyancy and shape. In regards to shape, SouthTown Boardsports has a fantastic post going over the different types and shapes of wakesurf boards. However, in this section we are primarily going to focus on the actual size of the board.
When it comes to traditional ocean surfing, most experienced surfers will recommend that you start out and learn on a longer surfboard. Due to the massive surface area of a longboard, the increased buoyancy allows for riders of all sizes to get up and learn on an extremely stable platform and ride a much smaller wave. This same logic applies to wakesurfing. Since we are not creating massive ocean sized waves behind our boats, beginner riders will benefit greatly from starting on a larger and more buoyant board. As for larger riders, the bigger and more buoyant boards will be extremely beneficial in flattening the learning curve.
This also applies to surfers who ride at a higher level, though not quite as much. In wakesurfing it is essential to learn proper weight distribution and the ability to pump your board makes a massive difference in being able to surf rope-less. Often, more skilled riders will be able to ride a smaller board due to their experience and ability to use technique to keep up with the boat. There is however, still a limit to the physics, and a more skilled rider still needs a board that has enough surface area to provide enough buoyancy.
Finally, lets talk about those who have kids that surf. While an adult may struggle with staying in the wave while rope-less at first, a child or small rider (let’s say under 120lbs) often have the complete opposite issue. Most modern surf waves can be as tall as an adult’s waist, this means it may be up to a kid’s chin. This means that if they’re riding a board that is too big they will most likely have a challenge when trying to control their speed. This lack of control will result in the rider having to constantly battle to stay far enough back in order to avoid touching the boat’s platform. As they progress beyond just being able to get up and drop the rope, a smaller board will be essential in making it easier to learn simple and more advanced tricks. All in all, if your goal is to help make your child absolutely fall in love with wakesurfing, you have much better odds if their board is the proper size and easy for them to control.