On the Water
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The Art of Wakesurfing

Wakesurf's up! Catch some gnarly waves – on your lake
By Tim McKercher
Published: April 1, 2009
wakesurfing Joey Meddock Corey Bradley
Photo by Joey Meddock, www.meddock.com
Surfing is arguably the coolest sport on the planet. The word alone draws up images of beautiful beaches in exotic locations and buddies bragging about their gnarly wipeouts. Surfing culture aside, there is something wonderful about riding the curl of the wave’s swell before it peaks and breaks, crashing down into an explosion of white water.

Most people were introduced to the surf lifestyle through Hollywood – via “Gidget” and “Beach Blanket Bingo” – or through the music of surf song pioneers like The Beach Boys. If they were lucky enough to see it first-hand, it was probably during a vacation with their folks or during an infamous spring break that they’d rather forget. But the surfing lifestyle is infectious. Who wouldn’t want to try living large in board shorts and flip flops, the sun on your shoulders?

Trouble is, most of the country is landlocked, hundreds of miles from the closest ocean. How’s a person supposed to hang ten on a lake or river? Surfing at the cabin could never be a reality … or could it?

An Idea Is Born
It was the 1980s – a time when suit jackets were worn with the sleeves rolled-up, George Michael and Wham! blasted out of cassette decks and water-skiing was king of the lake.

In Southern California, a man named Tony Finn had an idea. An avid surfer and water-skier, Finn thought there might be a way to combine aspects of both sports into one activity and product.

Thus, the Skurfer – part surfboard, part water-ski – was born. “Skurfing” combined the towing aspect of water-skiing with the water carving action of surfing. Riders were pulled behind a boat on a miniature surfboard-shaped single ski that allowed them to freely cut in the wake water.

An Idea Evolves
Eventually the Skurfer ski evolved from a teardrop shape to one with twin tips and skurfing became wakeboarding. With this change in design came a change in the sport.

Wakeboarding has since become about grabbing big air and tossing in a dizzying array of spins, twists and inversions. Gone is the simplicity of riding the wake face and in its place is an energy drink-fueled aerial barrage of big, fast, hard-cutting tricks.

With today’s boats capable of packing up to 3,500 pounds of ballast, they’re producing huge wakes – and the miniature waves produced by these boats have grabbed people’s attention. When the ballast is offset to one side of the boat, the “wave” produced by the wake can actually be waist high – which is pretty good sized if you’re a five-hour plane trip from the closest ocean. Why not surf it?    

An Idea Is (re)Born
Today, wakesurfing has become more popular than ever. This “new” watersport has spawned organized competitions and even professional competitors. Wakesurfers can use a regular surfboard or even a long board, although numerous wakeboard companies now offer wakesurfing-specific boards.

The speeds are much slower than other towed sports, as the boat plows through the water to produce the biggest wake possible. The surfer uses a short rope to get up and then lets go of the rope and gives in to gravity and the shape of the wave/wake, which can keep them up and moving for a nice, long ride.

One of the major differences to take into account with wakesurfing is that riders are much closer to the boat than in wakeboarding and water-skiing and must be careful to keep enough distance between themselves and the boat to avoid charging down into the trough.

Surf’s Up!  
It doesn’t matter where you live – anyone can take their turn riding the waves.

Load the boat up with friends (aka ballast), grab your board and wax, and hit the wake. Ignore the rumble of the engine and imagine the salty air in your nose as you ride a smooth wave from the comfort of your own lake or river.

Living the surf lifestyle is as close as the end of your dock. Try wakesurfing and expand your summer fun, dude!

Tim McKercher is a Florida surf dude who rarely wears shoes and gladly trades paddling for an occasional engine-powered shred session.
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