Wakeboarding vs Wakesurfing: Which Is Easier For Beginners?

As a beginner, you may be wondering which water sport activity is easier for you. Is it wakeboarding or wakesurfing?

In recent years, wakesurfing is increasingly becoming famous and gaining more traction than wakeboarding. Most riders are now choosing to surf behind the boats.

Does this mean wakesurfing is easier for beginners than wakeboarding? Generally, wakesurfing is accessible to all and more mellow. It is suitable for a beginner as it does not need mirror-perfect water, a little wave is enough for surfing behind a boat.

This article will look at the main differences between the two sports based on different aspects.

Wakesurfing vs Wakeboarding: Goals

With wakeboarding, you are getting momentum and speed from the boat, and holding the tow handle. Your goal is to jump or carve from wake to wake by drawing powerful lines across the wake of the boat.

With wakesurfing, your goal is to release the rope once you get into the boat wave. When you release the handle, the challenge is to maintain speed and remain in the wave behind the boat. This means that you ride the wave where it is largest and that is, close and right behind the boat.

In wakeboarding, the boat needs to drive faster at 15 to 30 mph because you are attached to it all the time. In wakesurfing, since there is no rope, the boat drives slower at 10 to 12 mph.

Wakesurfing vs Wakeboarding: Learning Curve

Once on the boat wave, most people find learning how to surf easier than learning how to cross wake on a wakeboard.

In wakesurfing, the feet are not bound to the board but are moving freely. The wakesurf boards have foam padding to make riding barefoot comfortable. This makes balancing easier for learners because they can put their feet anywhere on the board without binding issues.

Apart from freedom from binding, wakesurfing gives beginners a more secure feel and confidence when learning as it involves low boat speed.

Wakesurfing vs Wakeboarding: Getting Up

Both wakesurfing and wakeboarding involve getting pulled up by the boat and getting up above the water from a floating or sitting position.

The ‘deep water’ start is the same for both sports, but since your feet are not bound on a wakesurf board, it is easier to learn unlike the locked-in boots for wakeboarding.

There is a small learning curve in wakesurfing because it needs a bit of coordination. When the boat pulls, you should keep the board under your free moving feet. 

Getting up on a wakeboard is not easy as well because there is a tendency for the learner to extend legs, pull arms, or get up too early adding more resistance.

Nevertheless, some wakesurf learners struggle with the ‘deep water’ start.

Wakesurfing vs Wakeboarding: Injuries and Fitness 

Wakesurfing is easier on the body than wakeboarding. This is because of the absence of board bindings or boots, the lower speed, and the release of the rope after the start. It is like strapless vs strapped kiteboarding.

Most riders can wakesurf for a longer period. Wakeboarding for 30 mins or more involves straining the legs and arms and possibly more crashes. This can translate into 2 to 3 days of serious soreness after a weekend wakeboarding.

In contrast, you will only be sore in your legs for a short while after wakesurfing for 3 hours, assuming you are fit. Most riders take up to 4 or 5 pulls when wakeboarding but can go on and on when wakesurfing.

Riding without tow ropes and bindings puts minimum stress on your shoulders, back, arms and knees.

Wakeboarding comes with physically demanding tricks such as 180/360s, kickflips, and airs. Generally, there is a high impact with bad landings because your feet are bound tightly to the board.

In contrast, a 180/360 trick on a wakesurf board is more forgiving to the body.

Wakesurfing vs Wakeboarding: Boat

Another reason for the popularity of wakesurfing is the strong wake produced by the new wake boats.

Ironically, this drives riders from wakeboarding to wakesurfing. These strong boats make carving more dangerous because there is a lot more impact created by a huge wake.

Most wake boats have ballast systems to control the shape and size of the wake. You can also use wake shapers in addition to the ballast to improve the wake of the boat making surfing easier.

Wakesurfing vs Wakeboarding: Board 

Wakesurf boards are different from wakeboards in size and shape. Generally, wakesurf boards are directional and look more like skimboards (stubbier and wider) or surfboards (longer and thinner).

Beginner wakeboards have larger fins for a good grip in water when there is high speed. They are also symmetrically shaped allowing for switch riding and freestyle such as spins, surface tricks, air tricks, and inverts.

Summary Of The Main Differences Between Wakesurfing And Wakeboarding 

The table below shows the differences between wakesurfing and wakeboarding:



Main Goal

Pump for speed, surf the wave behind the boat

Wake to wake jumps, carving fast turns, getting air


Most conditions

Glassy water


Lower – 10 to 15 mph

Higher – 15-30 mph


Harder – prone towing or water start

Easier – water start


V-drive or Inboard, heavy ballast needed for bigger wakes.

Outboard, inboard, rope elevation by wake tower.


For getting up and into the wave

Attached to the boat and towed all the time.

Injury Risk

Low: subtle shifts, unbound feet, slow driving

Higher: wake crossing, extreme tricks, bound feet.


Skimboard or surfboard, unbound, style board.

Smaller fins, twin-shaped board, with bindings.

Physical Condition

Longer rides, Accessible with Joint and back issues.

Shorter Rides, harder on the body, injury-prone.

Final Thoughts 

Both wakesurfing and wakeboarding involve riding behind the boat. However, wakesurfing involves riding the boat’s wave while wakeboarding is a tow sport.

Wakesurfing is increasing taking on the lakes with the help of powerful waves created by the new boats and wakeboarding is moving to the cable parks.

The information given in this article shows that wakesurfing is easier for beginners compared to wakeboarding.

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