Wake surfing is a water sport similar to wake boarding, allowing the rider to surf behind a boat with an inboard motor. Originally conceived by ocean surfers in the 1960s, wake surfing has exploded in popularity this past decade.
Many are jumping aboard the wake surfing craze simply because it is very user friendly. Surfers are riding the waves at a much slower speed than wake boarding (where riders are pulled directly by the boat). Wake surfers ride the wake created by a boat, allowing them to relax and ride the waves in an experience similar to an ocean surfing. Enthusiasts of all age and skill sets can perfect their technique without the pressure of high speeds.
Gabrielle Hockley of Rosen Lake, B.C., is one such surfer who made the transition from wake boarding to wake surfing, inspired by her husband Isaac. She loves the peaceful, easy feeling of wake surfing.
“Wake surfing is not scary or intimidating at all," said Hockley. "Surfing at speeds around 20 kilometres an hour, you have time to enjoy the ride.”
After getting the basics down, the list of wake surf tricks is endless. Pumping, stalling, the floater, lip side, spray, the fire hydrant, hang five, rail grab, the 180 spin, and the 360 spin are just some of the gnarly moves wake surfers work hard to perfect.
“Right now I’m working on an air double grab, alley oop and an air 180," said Hockley. "The sheer challenge of the sport is what kept me coming back for more."
Tips for beginners
Here are Hockley's top tips for new wake surfers:
- Don't overthink. Many golfers can relate to this concept: the more we concentrate and pressure ourselves, the more difficult it becomes. Relax and enjoy the moment. Getting upright on the board can be the most difficult task of all.
- Listen to those who are experienced. Surfer and boat passengers are relatively close in proximity, making it easy to take direction from mentors inside the boat.
Types of wake surf boards
There are two primary styles of wake surf boards. The surf style board typically has a fin size that is greater than two and a half inches, with a length of over five feet. This board gives an ocean-like experience, allowing the rider to utilize the wave for deep carving snaps and ollies.
The skim style board has a smaller fin, usually under two inches, and is smaller in length. It is a stronger board that can handle aggressive tricks. Riders enjoy more surface-oriented tricks like spinning and shove-it manoeuvres.
A third style of board is emerging called the Hybrid of Freestyle Twin. It is a combination of the surf and skim style boards and combines the playfulness of a skim board with the feel and responsiveness of a surf style board.
Boat set up is crucial for wake surfing. Not just any boat will work. The boat should only be an inboard direct drive boat or an inboard V-drive boat to insure safety. These boats have a propeller underneath the boat to protect surfers. Never wake surf behind a boat with an exposed propeller.
As with any recreational sport, remember safety first. Learn from those who are experienced and you will be hanging 10 in no time.