Choosing the Right Rope(s) for You & Your Crew

A rope is just a rope, right? After all, it does serve a pretty simple purpose. While it may just be the tether that connects you to your floating wake machine, you would be surprised how big of a difference it makes to have the right rope for your chosen sport. Here, in this post, we’ll be breaking down the best ropes for waterskiing, wakeboarding, and wakesurfing, along with the technical differences between them. Here they are in order of their sport’s historical rise to popularity:

Waterskiing


At the highest level, the goal of a water-skier (riding just one ski, of course) is to make it around the buoys on a ski course going as fast as possible, using the shortest rope they can do it with. In order to accomplish this most efficiently, skiers prefer a stretch line. The advantage of a rope that stretches is how it responds to a sudden change of direction. As the skier cuts to make it around a buoy, the rope is fully extended. Then, as they carve sharply around it and set their course to get to the next buoy on the other side of the wake, the tension causes a slingshot effect that propels them there with maximum efficiency. It also ensures that excessive slack in the line is not created when doing so.

With that said, a vast majority of skiers these days do so recreationally and without the intention of every running a ski course. So, for today’s skiers, here’s what we would suggest: If you are looking for an authentic waterski experience and have a goal of improving to a more advanced level, pick yourself up a stretch line and never look back! It will certainly never hold you back, and it will open more doors for you as you progress from learning to ride on two skis to learning to slalom. If you ski slowly and just for fun, whatever old rope you’ve had sitting around in your boat for years will probably work just fine for you.

Wakeboarding


The goals of a wakeboarder are quite different than those of a water-skier, with the main difference being the desire to get airborne. Wakeboarding is a freestyle sport not concerned with going faster and without the need to change directions rapidly. With that in mind, someone that wakeboards at an intermediate to high level prefers a non-stretch line. While the skier prefers the rebound effect of a stretch line, that effect can be downright dangerous to a wakeboarder while in the air. Most wake-to-wake tricks on a wakeboard require the rider to control the line tension in the air and keep the handle close to their body to stay on the right axis. This goes for spins, inverts, and everything in between. A rope that stretches makes this virtually impossible, which can cause the rider to lose control of their body position in the air and result in a crash.

So with that, here’s what we would suggest: if you have any hope of wakeboarding at anything more than a very basic level, get yourself a non-stretch line. A ski rope will make it exponentially more difficult to learn everything from your first wake jumps to your first invert. While you’re destined to crash no matter what as a wakeboarder, the proper rope will make learning less frustrating and prevent hard falls that could have been avoided. Plain and simple, wakeboarders from beginner to pro will benefit from riding a non-stretch line.

Wakesurfing


Of the three sports mentioned here, wakesurfing is the newcomer. Because of that, lots of people already have one of the previously mentioned ropes in their boat and wonder if they really need an additional rope for surfing. The short answer is probably yes, but not necessarily for a benefit in performance. After all, the goal in wakesurfing is to be able to surf without holding the rope at all. This means that ideally, you’ll only be holding it for a few seconds has you get up out of the water then tossing it into the boat. So why not just tie off your old ski rope at 20’ and call it a day? While a surf rope is not going to make you a better surfer, they are made with a few luxuries that you might enjoy. Not only are they already cut at the perfect length for surfing, but many of them also have floaties that run incrementally up the rope so you have a comfortable place to put your hands if you need to pull yourself in more. These floaties also ensure that you’ll never have to deal with a rope that sinks, as many ski and wakeboard ropes do, especially over time.

In addition to the nice features that a surf rope offers you, the biggest reason you may want to pick one up is that tying off your ski or wake line is likely to damage it. Each type of rope we’ve mentioned includes one or more designated tow points, and even if you’re a scout with your merit badge in knot-tying, creating your own tow point can weaken, fray, and sometimes completely break your line. And let’s be honest. You’re going to be out a lot more money if that happens than if you would have just got yourself a surf rope to begin with. So with that, even if you only surf occasionally when it’s too windy to do anything else, make the investment and get yourself a designated surf rope. They’re relatively inexpensive, and will last you pretty much forever.