In the sport of wake surfing there are two styles to choose from and competition is divided into two separate divisions: skim and surf style. In the surf style division most athletes prefer a hand shaped board that is designed specifically for his or her riding style, meanwhile the average weekend wake surfer is starting to improve his or her skills and looking to buy an intermediate wake surfboard, perhaps a lighter, hand shaped board. The influence of ocean surfing is towards the popularity of hand shaped boards, a relationship with a shaper, and Sex Wax in replacement of the front pad. The downside: these boards are delicate, the wax melts in the boat rack and they can be fairly costly. The upside: a true surf style feeling behind the boat, bigger airs and a more aggressive riding style. Perhaps the biggest difference of a surf style hand shaped board is the board's weight. So the question remains, is lighter better?
The simple answer to this question: THERE IS NO BETTER THERE IS ONLY DIFFERENT COMBINATIONS! Just like all characteristics of a wake surfboard, the boards weight depends on the surfers style and the conditions of the wind and wave. When I went to my first pro contest I was amazed that the best wakesurfers in the world only ride one model no matter the conditions. Competing for the last three years, and seeing the different conditions behind different boats I am even more convinced that a wakesurfer should have a quiver of boards. Example; In perfect glass with no wind, a really light board works great. They feel super responsive in the tight part of the pocket, but can be hard to keep under the feet in the air especially if the wind comes up. The same board with a bit more weight will usually be a little slower, but stronger and the momentum it carries keeps the board under your feet through the air especially when throwing varial tricks.
Why is a light board light? Three things factor in to determine a boards weight:
1. The blank- Sticking to the basics the most common blanks are either Epoxy Polystyrene (EPS) or Polyurethane (poly) foam. The EPS is lighter and has more buoyancy than Poly. These qualities make it good when making a board for a big rider that still wants to rip a shortboard. Polyurethane is what most surfboards have been made from for decades. Poly is a little heavier than EPS but has really good flex, giving the board lots of drive, perfect for big power turns. Lets say I'm building a 4'3" for a young rider who is light but has, or wants to have, a power surfing style. I'm not worried about weight on such a small board and would choose poly for it's flex and drive as well as durability. Now let's say a 250 pound man wants to throw 360s and airs and rip it up with his kids. I want to make him a board that'll float him and be durable but still be light and responsive. In this situation EPS is the better material because I can make him a shorter thinner board that still give the flotation he needs without sacrificing speed and maneuverability.
2. Laminating material (cloth and resin)- When were talking about a boards weight this is the most important part. Although there are a lot of new types of resins and cloth on the market now, we'll keep it simple comparing Polyurethane and Epoxy. The cloth, normally S-cloth comes in different weights the most common being 4, 6, or 8 ounce in this industry. For example a board will get a 6oz on the bottom with one 6oz layer plus another 4oz layer on the deck for added strength. For a poly blank you have the option of using both types of resin. I use epoxy in the same way I use the EPS foam. More material, less weight. I've found that poly blanks laminated in 6oz cloth with epoxy resin to be my personal favorite combination. A lighter EPS blank gives u the option to bulk up your glass job and keep the same weight as the poly/epoxy combo. Very important to remember EPS foam and polyurethane resin does not mix like poly blanks and epoxy resin do. Trust me don't do it, you'll have a melted pile of foam on the floor and just a stringer sitting on the rack.
3. Fins and boxes- Chances are whatever your favorite fins setup might be you can find it made out of multiple materials. The lightest, truest, most responsive fins are glassed on in the lamination process. "Glass-ons" are connected directly to the board with the resin and cloth letting them flex as one with the board for seamless drive. Plastic fins and boxes add weight to the board but give the rider the option to choose the right fin for the right conditions. Detachable fins come in tons of shapes and sizes and can be made of super light honeycomb materials or just plain plastic. Basically removable systems are a little heavier while glass-ons don't travel as well and are less durable. It's all about the situation.
So why is a lighter board better? It's really about the combined weight of all three of these. A super light blank and glassed-on fins allows me to use more resin and cloth, making the board very strong while keeping the weight down. Like I said it's all about the conditions and the rider. There are a growing number of wake surfers who are going with lighter hand shaped boards that are designed specifically for them. Better? Perhaps. But most importantly, more combinations. The quest for the perfect run can never be satisfied in the eyes of a true competitor. Similarly, there is no end to shaping a perfect board.
So how is surfboard technology applied to tricks like boosting airs? Check out another one of my trick tips in this article called Boarders Boost.
by Todd Johnson