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A Brief History Of Wakeboarding : Slim Beginnings

Welcome to Wake Reactor, the best online location for everything about the awesome water sport of wakeboarding. We’ve got lots of great information, tips, tricks and surprises in store so bookmark this page and check back often. Today we’re going to start…at the start! What do you know about the history of wakeboarding? You’re about to know a lot more! ┬áSpecial guest writer Todd starts us off with this great short history on how wakeboarding came to be what we know it as today.

The history of wakeboarding isn’t as far back as the history of the Pyramids but it goes back longer than you might think. A number of years ago the sport of wakeboarding began it’s epic climb to the amazing watersport and recreational activity it is today. The best part about wakeboarding is that it can be traced back to a multitude of other sports that weaved in and out to bring us the perfect tapestry we know and love.

Beach dwellers loved to surf and for years and years that was the prominent beach activity for active lovers of great waves. Many historians note and recall those very surfers being towed behind boats when on the water and if possible by a truck that was on the shoreline. The activity of using a motorized vehicle to tow behind the surfer on his or her board started to influence surfing in an interesting way. Boards began to shorten in their style and size and these shorter surfboards became very popular. Most historians point to a single man who designed an interesting item from the growing rift between longer and shorter boards. In 1985 a man by the name of Tony Finn came up with an idea. He crafted a hybrid of a surfboard and a water ski. What did he call his this Frankenstein of style and function? The Skurfer! When you look at a Skurfer today it mostly resembles a small surfboard. The “skurfing” was achieved by having your friends pull you behind a boat on a line which was attached to a handle the “skurfer” would hold. While the boat towed the “skurf board” and “Skurfer” he or she would attempt carving moves very similar to that of a traditional surfer in the boat’s wake.

Imagine skateboarding today and the increasingly popular sporting style of trick snowboarding. The riding style of a Skurfer was very similar to that kind of movement. Since there were no bindings and no straps, riders of this new board creation pretty much stood wherever they could find balance. You can find plenty of traditional surf boards towed behind boats to this day.

That summer a huge change in the surfing world would make 1985 a pivotal year for wakeboarding. Two surfing enthusiasts came up with the same idea completely separate of each other : foot straps were drilled into the board. The Skurfer now had great balance and a way for the rider to stay on top during even the harshest wakes. Another surfing enthusiast, Mr. Jimmy Redmon of Austin, TX, began to experiment with his Redline water ski board. The Redline was already popular in Austin and was receiving rave reviews. Redline boards were distinctive by their smaller size much like the Skurfer.

The single most important invention in wakeboarding happens simultaneously by two men who had never met. Footstraps are extremely important in the history and evolution of the modern wakeboard. Adding these revolutionary foot straps to the board allowed for “big air” – moments where the rider could surf up a wake and achieve high-flying results. More akin to it’s sister sports snowboarding and skateboarding, wakeboarding was coming into it’s own nearly 30 years before today.

Tony Finn popularized and promoted his augmented board throughout the rest of the eighties. Skiboarding became it’s own sport offshoot during this time thanks to Finn’s tireless efforts to show and excite people the new possibilities with this innovative board design. The only problem was that by 1990 with ESPN televising the skiboarding championships, the sport was in big trouble. No one had augmented or innovated the board style or moves in over five years and the whole sport was starting to stagnate. The amount of energy necessary to pull off deep water starts restricted the best competitors to very strong individuals only. The Skurfers themselves had a design flaw : overly buoyant and still extremely narrow.

What could be done? Who would come up with the board we know today? Tune in next time to see what totally changed the game!