A wave that never ends. It’s every surfer’s dream and one that is possibly already being ridden on a lake or waterway where you use your boat.
In what is known as Wake Surfing, new technology developed about two to three years ago has helped this dream of riding endless waves become a reality.
It’s different from the sport known as “wake boarding,” which has been around for more than 20 years and requires you to constantly hold onto a tow rope behind the boat. In wake surfing, there is no tow line used once the surfer is standing up and the rider becomes positioned in the wake of the boat, which creates a constant wave that curls or breaks for as long as the boat is moving.
To find out more about this new sport and to help you get the confidence to try it with your friends and family, we talked to the experts at Cobalt Boats, manufacturers of some of the best-known wake surfing boats on the market. George Muffick, regional sales manager for Cobalt, answered the following questions for us:
Q: Is wake surfing a sport that is hard to learn and does it hurt when you fall?
A: The learning curve is very small in the sport. A couple tries on an afternoon and you’ve got it. I’ve seen ages anywhere from a 6-year-old boy to an 80-year-old woman wake surf. Since you are going so slow, there’s basically no impact, so if you fall, it’s no big deal.
Q: How does a person start wake surfing behind a boat, do they get towed into the wake or jump off the transom?
A: The surfer typically starts with a short tow rope behind boat with their feet resting on the board in front of them. As the boat starts and gains momentum the board will stand up and the rider pushes against the board until it pops up on plane. Keeping your knees bent when starting out is one of the best tips anyone can recommend.
Q: Does going fast or slow make any difference?
A: The range of operation speed is somewhere between 10 and 12 mph. That’s all that is needed.
Q: Do you have any tips for the person running the boat?
A: For the person driving the boat, it can be tricky the first couple of times. Cobalt boats have an automated computer control surf system that adjusts special Bi-Axis Surf Tabs to create the optimum surf wake on either the right or left side of the boat, based on which foot the rider wants to have in the front of the board. There’s no need to shift weight around or transfer ballast load between tanks to achieve an optimum surf wake. This system makes it very easy for the person piloting the boat. You just engage the throttle when the surfer is ready and the system will take care of the speed, trim tab adjustments, and getting you to an optimum wake.
Q: How big can the wake or wave be?
A: It depends on the boat and how it’s set up, but some wakes can be as high as three to four feet. A more important question is, what kind of push the boat creates? This is how the wake is shaped and will determine how strong it will be to keep the surfer in place and moving forward.
Q: What should the person piloting the boat do when the surfer falls?
A: You want to first back off the throttle so you don’t create a large rolling wake back towards the surfer when you turn back toward them. Just stay on course, slow down, and make a U-turn back to retrieve them as if you were picking up a skier.
Q: Can any boat work for wake surfing?
A: No. The boat needs to be a surf specific boat with a forward facing stern drive and have the right trim tab combination. Cobalt Boats have three models, the R3, R5, and R7 Wake Surf Series of boats, that combine surfing with functionality and comfort that make for a great day on the water even if you aren’t surfing.
Q: Do you have any suggestions for people who want to try the sport, but don’t have access to a boat?
A: Yes. There are some great waterski schools that are now teaching wake surfing. These schools are a great way to try out the sport before you make an investment. A quick Google search for ski schools or wake surf schools in your area should come up with some recommendations.
Q: Finally, what’s next after you’ve mastered riding?
A: That’s when the fun begins. People do a lot of regular surfing-style tricks such as airs, 360s, cutbacks and basic carving up and down the face of the wake. It’s a lot of excitement for the person surfing, but also for those on the boat.
We hope this article has inspired you to give this relatively new sport a try next time you’re out on the water. Remember, just like any water sport, be safe!