How to pick the right wakeboard from the 2020 millésime, whatever your level and discipline.

(Use the table of content above to go straight to the cable or boat sections)

Damn, that winter felt like it’d never end, right? Oh, that first session I’m going to have after 3 months of having to jog like normal people do, I get all tingly thinking about it, man! I can already smell the neoprene breeze and see the early morning mist hovering on the lake, y’know? In that perfect window just after sunrise, long before it gets hot as hell and all you want to do is move in with your beers in the ice box.

So, I’m glad you and I made it through so we can talk a bit about wakeboarding gear today. I’ve been wakeboarding myself for over 20 years, first behind the boat and eventually riding cables exclusively, and here’s my pick of what I think are the best wakeboards for beginners & intermediate riders on the market right now.

Whether you’re a complete beginner buying a wakeboard for the first time, or you’re looking to replace your old stick and want to know where it’s at, here’s a quick brief on wakeboarding equipment that should help you pick the right wakeboard depending on your weight, level, discipline and personal preference.

In both sections, I’ll list different good fits for beginner wakeboards, intermediate wakeboards as well as a couple of high end, advanced boards for the most hardcore of you. Although these are all packages, nothing stops your from going for a different pair of bindings, as long as you remember about the 2 different systems and their compatibility, which I’ll talk about a bit further down.

Boat or cable?

Ok, so this might sound self-explanatory, but there are still a few details worth mentioning:

When browsing wakeboards for sale, you’ll see that models are either built for cable parks, boats, or in some cases, both. Mostly due to obstacles, a cable wakeboard will always have a special base and stronger edges and tends to have a softer flex, often with a continuous rocker ideal for pressing hammers on those rails — but not always, as air tricks are also a significant part of cable wakeboarding.

If you’re into kickers and especially air tricks, you may want to consider a slightly stiffer board that will be more polyvalent all around the park. In fact, cable boards could be used behind the boat occasionally (if not too soft), but a boat board should not be used on obstacles, as without a reinforced base, it’ll deteriorate too quickly or could even snap in the most extreme cases.

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Wakeboard size chart

Regarding wakeboard sizes, you can use the chart above as a reference point, but keep in mind that personal style also has a lot to do with what size of board you should go for.

If you’re an intermediate wakeboarder, then you may already know whether you’re into big or normal sized boards, and what stance width you like riding. (stay away from boards that are clearly too small for your weight as much as possible)

As a beginner getting your first board, I’d advise you to stick to the chart above or, even better, to the boards’ specific size charts which you’ll usually find on our partner’s product page. You could go for a slightly bigger size than suggested, but again, you really don’t want to go smaller.

tweak it like you mean it
Tweak it like you mean it! My Liquid Force Peak 2017 & Ronix Kinetik boots at Kite Cable Thailand

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Continuous or 3 stage rocker

The rocker of your wakeboard simply refers to its construction type. A continuous rocker goes from tail to nose in a single curve, like a banana, while a 3 stage rocker looks more like a modern skateboard, tips still curved up, but the base is flat.

This is independent of the board’s flex (which we’ll talk about shortly) and mostly affects the board’s pop, speed, and control.

A 3 stage rocker will give you that extra bounce in your pop, as it makes the board more responsive to jumps; but it also makes it a little bit slower, as it tends to push water instead of cutting through it. A flat base means a little less control in your turns, as it renders the fins and channels less effective, but also makes your landings a bit more intense.

Keep in mind that continuous rockers are typically better adapted to hitting rails, as the shape actually helps you push into those nose and tail presses, while a 3 stage rocker makes it more challenging.

It would then make sense that beginners would prefer continuous rockers, as they are just a bit easier to handle. But in reality, starting out with a 3 stage rocker isn’t that bad, and if you’ve never tried such a board I’d honestly suggest giving it a go. If you already have a basic level and feel more attracted to kickers, air tricks or boat riding, then don’t hesitate to go for 3 stage rockers.

Wakeboard Bindings

Even though I’ve only listed wakeboard + bindings packages here (so you won’t have to worry about whether they are compatible) it’s still important to know the different bindings systems that exist for the time you’ll want to buy bindings by themselves. Bindings usually don’t last as long as the board, so that time will inevitably come.

To keep it simple, in this list you’ll find either the classic M6 inserts or a rail system called Flex Track (for the board) or 4D (for the bindings) by Liquid Force. M6 is definitely the most common for many brands, but some models do offer the rail system, which allows for more precision in your stance setup (stance = width between both feet), and supposedly a better hold.

Important fact: you can put M6 bindings on Liquid Force Flex Track boards, but you cannot put Flex Track bindings on M6 boards. Ideally, though, you’ll want Flex Track bindings with their corresponding 4D bindings.

Personally I have never tried a rail system, I always rode M6 boards, so I can’t exactly confirm that the connection to the board does feel superior. I’d heard in the early days of this innovation (around 2012 if I’m correct) that bindings could sometimes slide along the rail when landing impacts were strong enough, but this issue have been fixed a while ago already, in regards to Liquid Force anyway, thanks to the addition of micro-teeth blocking any unwanted drift. If you’ve been riding this system, I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments section.

Fins and channels

Wakeboard fins serve a simple function, to add stability and lock in your board in the direction you’re going, which is very useful for beginners still grasping the sport. But you will find that once you’re past a basic level and are ready to experiment and really progress, they can quickly become more annoying than helpful. Which is why all fins are easily removable. Obviously, you’ll also have to take them off before you start hitting any kind of obstacles.

Channels, on the other hand, are a bit different. Moulded into the board, they’re here to stay — but are much more mellow than fins. Some boards have them, others not, no matter the level. Usually, soft, continuous rocker boards made to hit obstacles (rails in particular) will have a perfectly flat base to make sliding as fluid as possible; while stiffer, 3 stage rocker boards may feature light to moderate channels to help with carving and especially air tricks, helping you to lock in your edge and pop stronger and higher.

Best wakeboard brands

I chose to feature the following brands because either I rode their gear extensively, or have tested some of their models (except for Hyperlite). My setup of choice for the last 7 years has been the Liquid Force Peak with the Ronix One and later, Kinetik bindings. I also rode Ronix and Slingshot boards here and there, by testing out friends’ setups occasionally.

Ronix Wakeboards (founded in 1990) is a brand built up by a couple of wakeboarding legends, notably Parks Bonifay and Danny Harf, and has a strong lean on boat riding, making explosive boards on the wake.

Nowadays Slingshot (founded in 1999) makes all kinds of gear, whether that’s for kitesurfing, SUPing, foiling, and beyond. But its wakeboarding range has truly exploded with the rise of cable parks as Slingshot makes almost exclusively park boards. They’re especially known for their rail-hitting monsters ridden by the likes of the Shredtown crew, James Windsor or Steffen Vollert.

Finally, Liquid Force (founded in 1995) might be the best-known wakeboarding brand out there, thanks to their determination to make gear for absolutely everyone, boat and cable, air tricks and rails, wakesurf and wakeskate. Whatever you need, they’ll have it. I have been riding Liquid Force wakeboards for a while  now — 3 stage rockers mostly — and can tell you with total confidence, their boards are flawless, tough as hell, and will follow you til’ the end, for better or worse.

Hyperlite is the only manufacturer listed here which I haven’t tested personally (or might have but so long ago that I don’t remember). Knowing the history of the brand though, and its excellent reputation on the boat scene as well as being a favorite of yacht owners / captains for some reason, I feel more than comfortable recommending their products (I used to be a professional deckhand for quite some time and it’s crazy the dominance that brands like Hyperlite or O’Brien have in the yachting industry).

Best Wakeboard Packages – Cable

Best for beginners: Liquid Force Reverse + Tao 6X Bindings

  • Flex: medium
  • 3 stage rocker
  • Bindings system: M6
  • Base: Channels
  • Sizes: 138, 143, 148
  • All levels

First on the list is Tom Fooshee’s favorite cable board, the Reverse. Although it’s being ridden by the pros, this is actually a very fine choice for quick learning beginners and intermediate riders, thanks to a progressive 3 stage rocker and medium flex, as well as light channels that will help you keep your edges in place whenever you feel ready to ditch the fins. This board is just a great all-rounder at the park, and will serve you well all along your learning curve.

Coming with the Reverse in this package are the Tao 6X bindings. With a wide fit and featuring a super quick lacing system, these are Thai ripper Daniel Grant’s pro bindings. Daniel basically grew up on a cable park, and has become a truly explosive rider who’s just good at everything. Kickers, rails, air tricks — the guy even wins some comps in the wakeskate category… So it makes sense that his boots are able to handle it all.

Although clearly leaning on the softer side, when you couple them with the Reverse’s 3 stage rocker, you actually end up with the best of both worlds: a super flexible and comfortable foot placement, with a responsive board that’ll send you in orbit like Elon’s rockets.

Alternative option: Slingshot Terrain + RAD Bindings = Super soft wakeboard for beginners

Progress on obstacles: Slingshot Coalition + KTV Bindings

  • Flex: Medium soft
  • Hybrid rocker
  • Bindings system: M6
  • Base: Chined rails
  • Sizes: 141, 145, 149, 153, 157
  • All levels

Nicknamed the “hottest butter knife in the kitchen”, the Coalition is one of Slingshot’s flagship park boards. With a medium soft flex and nearly flat base (chined rails only), it’s designed with a slight preference for rails but can still hit just about anything. Whether it’s a brand new, oil slippery obstacle, an old dodgy looking kicker that screams 10 inch stitches, or a 20 feet long set of bricks, it will eat it all and ask for more. The hybrid rocker is really what makes it a great all-rounder here.

Much appreciated from Slingshot is the wide range of sizes available as well as additional 5th inserts on the inner side. In Europe and France especially, the trend is now shifting towards longer boards ridden with stances that just keep getting narrower and narrower (The “skinny” stance). Not quite my thing personally, but many youngsters these days seem to love the extra help in pushing those presses on the rails, or spinning faster rotations off the kicker.

Regarding the KTV bindings, do not get confused by the K9 label; this actually refers to Slingshot boots’ side rails where the screws come, which are M6. The KTV are meant to be the easiest and quickest boots of the Slingshot range, and that’s mostly achieved through a closing system made of 3 simple but strong as hell gummy straps. These are made of high-tension Thermoplastic Polyurethane. Basically the speed and simplicity of water-phobic Velcro, without the inevitable loss of stickiness over time.

Quite interesting as well is what Slingshot calls “direct connect” soles. By stripping off the hard shell on most of the inner part of the boot’s base and replacing it with 2 large soft soles, you get deeper flexibility under your foot also resulting in a much more intimate connection to your board. No funny business yet please, we’re not done!

Progress in air tricks: Liquid Force Peak + Peak 4D Bindings

  • Flex: Medium stiff
  • 3 stage rocker
  • Bindings: Flex Track (optimized for 4D but compatible with any M6 bindings)
  • Base: Channels
  • Sizes: 138, 142, 146
  • Intermediate – Advanced

Ah, here she comes, the love of my life. I’ve been riding the Peak for about 6 years now. I first bought the 2014 model, and then the 2017 model, which I’m still riding to this day. Even though I like to test other people’s boards once in a while, this bellissima tavola just fits my style perfectly, and once you find the one, you know, it’s hard not to get attached.

Now I wouldn’t recommend this board to complete beginners; it’s slightly on the stiffer side flex-wise and the 3 stage rocker is definitely felt in every situation.

But that’s why I think this is the perfect board for a rider who’s past the basics and ready to experiment with air tricks and kickers. Learning to pop air tricks, especially, can be a tough nut to crack; those very first botched raileys can definitely take a decent chunk out of your confidence levels, so having a board that’s really going to put all the chances on your side can be a game-changer.

Even though she behaves alright on the rails, that’s not quite her favorite mode of expression. She will demand more commitment and skill to reach the full potential there, compared to a continuous rocker softie.

German ripper Nico Von Lerchenfeld’s pro model also comes with pretty sick graphics this year, hand-drawn by the man himself. Nico’s a good example of someone who’s board-particular flex doesn’t stop him from shredding whatever comes his way.

To really get the best of the Liquid Force Peak, don’t hesitate to get the corresponding Peak 4D bindings included in this package. In addition to offering the most precise stance setup thanks to the Flex Track system, I particularly like the fact that these are being screwed on at a 45° angle and not perpendicular to the board, as it’s often a pain having to manipulate the screwdriver when it’s so close to the boot’s shell. Not an issue when you never take your bindings off your board, but if you’re travelling often and having to disassemble your setup regularly, I can see this simple idea being quite handy.

The Peak bindings lean just slightly on the softer side for a comfy but still firm enough hold, and feature removable liners for cases where you don’t want to walk around barefoot (obviously you can also leave them in the boot’s shell, it’s all up to you). Finally the fit inside these boots is indicated as medium, so it will welcome most feet shapes.

Best for Women: Liquid Force Virago + Vale 4D Bindings

  • Flex: medium soft
  • Continuous rocker
  • Bindings: Flex track
  • Base: Channels
  • Sizes:137, 142, 147
  • All levels

Anna Nikstad’s first pro model is, I think, a great choice for you girls who really got hooked to wakeboarding and feel ready to commit with a board that will stay relevant all along your learning curve.

With a medium-soft flex and continuous rocker, it’s very manageable for beginners, will do wonders on your first rails and kickers, and thanks to triple concave channels, will also allow you to take off those fins and still feel some grip when edging your way in and out.

As usual with Liquid Force cable boards, the Virago also comes with LF’s sintered grind base so you don’t have to worry about damaging your hull on obstacles.

Couple the Virago with Anna’s stylish pro bindings, the Vale 4D, of course designed with women’s foot in mind and a medium flex for a firm but comfortable foothold, and you get a park ripping machine that’ll see you progress faster than ever.

Like the Peak 4D, the Vale also comes with removable walk out liners, advanced lacing system and a medium fit that’ll welcome most foot shapes. Just remember that if Flex Track boards can accept both 4D and M6 bindings, 4D bindings are only compatible with Flex Track boards.

Back to the future: Slingshot Space Mob + Space Mob Bindings

  • Flex: Medium (soft nose)
  • Continuous rocker
  • Bindings: M6
  • Base: Flat – no fins
  • Asymmetrical
  • Size: 160
  • All levels

If the Space Mob was a car, it’d probably be the Doc and Marty’s Delorean. This thing just came out of nowhere, retro AF, but actually became one of Slingshot’s best-sellers this year, believe it or not.

Whether you’re feeling nostalgic reminiscing on your first skurfer board and are keen for a blast from the past session, or a freshly grown teen bored of conformity wanting to try something totally different, the Space Mob could very well grab you — and who knows, even become your go-to stick in your quiver.

In the true spirit of Slingshot’s out of the box, don’t-take-yourself-so-seriously philosophy, this is a board made for fun, and fun it delivers. Put the super tunable Space Mob bindings on that directional-asymmetrical-slash-gender-neutral-weirdo and ride it like a fresh powder gun, or don’t and go one foot in the air like you just don’t care. Send us the pics though and we might feature them in here crediting your name or crew.

Best Wakeboard Packages – Boat

Best for Beginners: Hyperlite Franchise + Team OT Bindings

  • Flex: Soft
  • Continuous rocker
  • Bindings: M6
  • Base: Tapered channels
  • Sizes: 134, 138, 142
  • All levels

Built for new wakeboarding converts willing to commit to the sport with an easy to handle, quick to grasp first wakeboard, the Hyperlite Franchise offers the traditional beginner mix: a soft flex with a continuous rocker and tapered channels in addition to your good old fins. If you’re looking for a cheap, but not that cheap wakeboard that you can share with your friends and guests whatever their level, this simple setup should serve you well.

As we’ve talked about before, continuous rockers have the advantage of being fast on the water and allow smooth carving, which makes this board great for practising those wide turns far out the wake, an indispensable step needed to later be able to approach back in with enough speed and pop your first airs off the wake. Extra juju points: it also makes your landings much softer and forgiving.

Bindings wise, the budget friendly Team open toes from Hyperlite might not be the highest performance boots out there, but if all you need is comfort, durability and sharability, then by all means, save the bucks and go for these. With tightening lace points both at the ankle and upper end point, and a soft foot bed laid on the whole inner part of the base arch, your heel will stay nicely down there and your sole comfortably supported.

Alternative option: Hyperlite 2020 Baseline w/ Team OT

Take it to the next level: Liquid Force RDX + Classic 6X Bindings

  • Flex: medium stiff
  • 3 Stage rocker
  • Bindings: M6
  • Base: Channels
  • 133, 139, 144
  • All levels (and groms!)

First, if you’ve never heard of Quebec’s phenomenon Raph Derome, please go watch this insane video, like now! Personally, I think this guy is just style personified, and certainly one of the pros I look up to in this sport. And yes, the fact that he’s from Quebec is part of it.

That’s actually the RDX from 2017 he’s riding in this LF edit. Raph’s pro model is a board that will take the intermediate rider to new heights and unknown borders. With a medium-stiff flex and an aggressive 3 stage rocker, it strikes the balance between accessibility and performance.

Even though it comes with a removable center fin, my guess is that you won’t even have to put it on, as the already quad molded fins at each corner in addition to the channels should be more than enough to get to the wake with a fast but firm grip and pop that cherry off like it’s 1969.

To equal the RDX’s stature, this pack comes with LF’s Classic 6x bindings, a medium range, closed toe pair of boots with a sexy sounding “Honeycomb Cushioning System” under the sole, dual lacing points ankle – top, medium flex and a slight wide fit. Personally, I’m falling for the dark leathery shell and seriously tough looking chassis.

Now if budget isn’t a factor and you’re looking for the next level version of this setup, then you may also want to have a look at the RDX: Aero version. Put simply: C4 Carbon on top and base, lightweight divinycell core, 1 kg lighter (2.2 lbs), heaps higher. But also Flex Track system and Idol 4D closed toe bindings (in this package), Raph’s as well, so you know you’re in good feet.

Push your limits: Slingshot 2020 Pill + RAD Bindings

  • Flex: Stiff
  • 3 Stage rocker
  • Bindings: M6
  • Base: Channels
  • Sizes: 138, 142, 146
  • Intermediate – advanced

You may have noticed by now, whenever Slingshot tries something new, they just go full on. No half-measures. The Pill might be the only boat board in their lineup, but man, it’s no compromise, no mercy, no surrender. Stiff as your manhood after a Viagra pill (I actually wonder if that’s where the name comes from), and with an aggressive 3 stage rocker, this all-in concept of a board will make you pop higher and further than nothing you’ve tried before.

Maybe the only board in this whole list I wouldn’t recommend to a complete beginner, it will demand a minimum of skills and experience to reveal its true powers.

Coming with the Pill in this wakeboard package is a pair of RAD bindings, the flagship performance model of Slingshot’s bindings range. Synthesizing everything they’ve learnt until today into this pair of low profile, no B.S boots, the particularity here is that they’ve combined 2 closing systems: laces all around and an additional gummy strap over the top, allowing for the closest adaptation to your foot, ankle, calf and tibia as possible.

Finally, as the alpha boot of the herd, the Rad is of course closed toe, for maximum precision and responsiveness.

Ronix Signature + Signature Women’s Bindings

  • Stiffness: Stiff
  • 3 Stage rocker
  • Bindings: M6
  • Base: channels 
  • 132, 136
  • Intermediate – Advanced

The Signature is Ronix’s intermediate to advanced women’s board, but I have a feeling she’d be accessible to slightly less experienced riders as well. In fact, I’m kind of surprised this comes only in 132 and 136cm, there are probably many ladies out there who might be too tall for a 136 in my opinion. Like, the Netherlands, for example, is only 4 hours drive from here; what about Dutch girls? You’re just going to ignore them, you slippery oysters! (But hey with all of Belgium on the way, sounds like a great road trip ain’t it).

Okay, I’ve drifted.

The Signature flex leaning on the stiffer side, combined with a 3 stage rocker, is actually pretty radical as a boat board. The concave base and what? Secret flex?… And what I do with that now?

So, concave base it is: this has an effect on the softness of your landings. Doing huge air is nice and all, but there comes a time where you have to land this stuff, and with a 3 stage rocker, you do want some kind of cushion effect to ease through the big ones.

The related Signature bindings coming in with this set is not just here to sweeten the deal, it’s Ronix’s most advanced female boot in their lineup, sculpted with all the finesse necessary to give justice to the female’s kick-butting footwear.

Heel pocket, check. Softer foam, check. AutoLock, check. Sick design, check. Hop in and carry on.

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Jim Thirion

Aka French Dawg - I like boards under my feet and wind on my face.  I also find my flow by wandering earth's wild corners, creating powerful visual content, discovering talented artists and athletes, and running Extreme Nomads to help fellow adventurers find the ultimate dream spot.

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