How to Choose a Wakesurfer & Size Guide

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Wakesurfing is a sport where a rider surfs the boat wake very closely behind an inboard boat. A good rider is able to stay in the sweet spot of the wave without holding onto a rope. 

Too many boats on the water? Windy? You'd rather avoid high speed face to water explosions? Wakesurfing is a fun way to spend the day, especially when you do not have glassy water to go wakeboarding. There is also plenty of potential for the passengers on the boat to have close up views of some great wipeouts. 

To choose a wakesurf board, consider:

Shape & Length

Wakesurfers span a wide array of shapes in order to accomodate for different riding styles and ability levels. Wakesurfers are measured in feet and inches like surfboards. There are no strict length recommendations. Below are guidelines for choosing a bigger or smaller wakesurfer.

Bigger wakesurfers have more surface area and more float, which means they work well for heavier riders. If you are riding behind a boat that throws a smaller wake, choose a bigger board. Larger wakesurfers move more slowly through the water and are easier for beginners to learn on.

Smaller wakesurfers are more maneuverable, spry and faster on the wave. These are an excellent choice for more advanced riders and lighter weight riders. Big wakes will support use of a smaller wakesurfer.

Wakesurf board shapes come from the surf and skimboard worlds, and tend to fall into 3 general categories: thruster style surf shapes, skim board style shapes, and "hybrid" shapes that combine the two.

Surf Shapes

These shapes are often reminiscent of surf shortboards but in a smaller package, with a directional shape and fish or square tail (but not always). These boards come in a wide variety of materials, lengths, and configurations. Surf style wakesurf boards are usually the largest in size and total volume. Surf style boards often have a lot of fin options, helping riders tighten up the on-water feel and to generate power and speed to pump the wave. The added volume of surf style boards helps them stay fast and on the surface.

SKim Shapes

Smaller in size and with less buoyancy, skim style wakesurf boards are made to be more playful in the water. They also have smaller fins and fewer bottom (hull) features, creating a board that is slippery and borderline rowdy on the water. Unlike surf style boards that track up and down the face of the wave, a skim board wants to spin, slide, and do anything but stay on the straight and narrow!

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Hybrid Shapes

Just what you might imagine: a mix between surf and skim. There are a huge variety of hybrid shapes, but skim style shapes equipped with surf fins and surf style shapes with smaller skim fins fall into this category, too. The goal of these boards is to combine the playfulness of a skim board with the power of a surf board.

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Less Rocker: This makes your board faster on the wake and give you a smoother feel.

More Rocker: This causes your wakesurf board to be slower and tend to plow through the water but react more dramatically with the wave.


Just like a surfboard in the ocean, a thinner rail on a wakesurfer bites into the boat wave and is faster, quicker and less forgiving. Thicker rails are slower and more forgiving.

Ropes and Handles

Wake surfing rope/handle combinations are shorter and thicker than standard wakeboard ropes. You will use the rope to get up and into the wake. The width allows you to use the rope to pull yourself forward into the wave. Once you are in the wave you can throw the rope back to the boat. Wakeboard ropes are too skinny to hang on to directly and they have the potential to tangle around your arms, legs or neck causing injury.

The Boat

Only wakesurf behind boats with an inboard engine. Outboard engines expose the surfer to the prop, which, as you might have guessed, is extremely dangerous. Say there was a fight between you and the prop… We’re putting our money on the prop. Sorry.

Boat Speed

A good wakesurfing speed is around 10 MPH, depending on your boat.

How does a boat throw a good wake for wake surfing?

You need weight or ballast. The optimal experience wakesurfing requires that you add additional ballast to one side of your boat to increase the wave size. The most common way to do this is by weighting down the port (left) side of the boat. The prop wash is spinning off in a direction that makes this side of the boat most desirable for surfing. Some boats have internal ballast systems which fill tanks with water to weigh down the boat. You can also add weight with external water ballast in ballast bags. Other forms of additional weight include your fat brother Bob, heavy bricks, bowling balls and anything else you can think of. The nice feature of the water ballast is that you can get rid of the weight easily and it doesn’t roll around like the bowling ball. Ok, seriously, maybe don’t use the bowling ball.

For more information on setting up and weighing your boat for wakesurfing, see our guide here.

Learn more with our other Wake Guides:

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