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Side by side of a man wakeboarding and a woman wakesurfing

Wakeboarding vs Wakesurfing: What's the Difference?

Both have similar names and involve following the wake of a boat, but they are two totally different sports, despite the similarities. Let's look at the differences between wakesurfing & wakeboarding.

Wakesurfing vs Wakeboarding Gear

It would appear that wakesurfers and wakeboarders use the exact same boards and ropes from a distance. However, if you look at the boards closely you will notice the differences between a wakesurf board and a wakeboard.

A person uses a wakeboard with their feet in boots or wakeboard bindings that are connected to the board. It's similar to snowboarding. Wakesurfing is similar to surfing in that your feet can move freely around the board.

There are also differences in the board sizes between wakesurfing and wakeboarding boards. A surf-style wakesurf board, for example, is longer than a wakeboard, however, a skim-style wakesurf board is shorter than a wakeboard.

Rope Usage & Rope Length

The rope that is attached to the boat is another difference. To keep their momentum going, wakeboarders must hold onto the wakeboard rope at all times. Wake surfers, on the other hand, can choose to let go of the rope after they have gained balance. Wakesurfing allows you to surf the wakes created by the boat and keep going forward.

You should also know the rope lengths for each sport. The rope length for wakesurfing ropes is approximately 10 to 20 feet. A shorter rope is helpful for the rider to be close enough to toss the rope back into their boat. With a longer rope, If the rider falls or gets tangled up in the rope, it could cause serious problems.

The rope for wakeboarding is much longer. The rope can measure anywhere from 65 feet to 85 feet in length. You can hold the rope while you wakeboard, but you don't have to be too close to the boat. You would also need more length to jump over wakes which is part of the thrill of wakeboarding.

Boat and Boat Speed

It is recommended that you use an inboard or V drive boat for wakesurfing. Because the propeller is under the boat, there is less chance of an accident for the rider. We have more information on how to set up your boat for wakesurfing.

There are also slight differences in the speed of the boat when wakeboarding or wakesurfing. The boat should travel between 15 and 25 mph when wakeboarding. This makes the wake firmer and more stable for the rider. This allows them to practice tricks and jump more comfortably. For beginners, it is best to wakeboard two to three miles below 15 mph.

You don't need to go fast when wakesurfing. The boat should travel between 10 and 14 mph. Start off slow and increase until desired speed. One other thing to mention, skim-style wakesurf boards perform best on the low end of boat speed, and surf-style boards perform better on the high end.

What's Easier?

You could argue that wakeboarding is more fun than wakesurfing. Wakeboarding is easy because your feet are in the right position and you only need to hold the rope. It is easy to jump and try tricks.

Wakesurfing is done without boots. To ride the waves properly, you must balance and move your feet around the board. It can be quite challenging but can be made easier if you practice.

What's more fun?

Both can be very enjoyable in their own way. It depends on which sport you find more thrilling. You can make really high jumps in the air when the wakeboard boats are going faster. You can pull off some amazing tricks with the air time.

Wakesurfing allows you to have more freedom and speed, even though the speeds are slower. You can move forward without having to use your arms to pull the rope. This allows you to perform some cool tricks like turning and climbing up the wake and pulling off twists and turns.

Wakesurfing vs Wakeboarding Tips

To improve your skills in both sports, it is important to practice and watch professionals do it. The difference between wakesurfing or wakeboarding is in the length of both the rope and board. As we said, a wakesurfing board does not have a foot strap. This means that your feet are free.

It takes practice and time to master any new skill. This is the lesson you learn when you try something new. While you will fall more often, you must persevere to get up again. Riding the waves and feeling more confident when you have found your balance will be easier. 

Check out this beginners guide to wakesurfing

Want to know more about Wakesurfing?

In our Ultimate Guide To Wakesurf Boards, we go more in depth about the sport, wakesurf board types, and picking the right wakesurf board for you. 

If you have questions or concerns before going to purchase your board, feel free to call or visit our San Diego Wakesports Unlimited location!

San Diego Shop: (858)-277-5757 
689 El Cajon Blvd.  El Cajon, CA 92020

Click here for Directions

Ross Villarino, owner of wakesports unlimited on the water

Written by Ross Villarino - Owner & CEO

Being on a boat since he was 2 yrs old and getting up on a wakeboard and waterskis by the age of 5, Ross has more than 3 decades of experience being on a boat and around the Watersports industry. Ross taught wakeboarding, waterskiing and wakesurfing lessons for the greater part of a decade before owning Wakesports Unlimited. 

Learn more about Ross Villarino.

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