Wakeboarding keeps getting more and more popular in Europe – especially cable parks. The lack of suitable places to own a boat and high cost of ownership and the lack of an all round season make that less popular. Cable parks have the advantage of having permanent park set ups however and can invest in great features.
In kiteboarding the wakestyle movement has continued to gain momentum with riding in boots now at an all time high. People are riding larger boards too which is directly linked to this trend. The pro rider videos regularly show them riding kickers and rails. In the UK in particular – we are lucky to have some of the biggest names globally pushing this style of riding hard. Think Aaron Hadlow, Sam Light, Tom Court and James Boulding.
So where does this leave the quest for a board which does both well? A few years ago now we looked at kiteboards vs wakeboards – things have gotten a lot better. More and more brands have jumped on the bang wagon and have kiteboards in larger sizes, with more rocker and durable slide bases using the same materials as wakeboards. The compromise is a lot better than it used to be.
The truth is that these things are still a compromise – and not one we personally are willing to make. The boards are great for hitting features whilst using the power of the kite. They are better than ever at this element. The increased rocker however makes them a little sluggish for day to day riding. The slide base also makes them a little heavy.
At the cable park – they still lack the level of rocker seen on a wakeboard, so feel skatey and fast. The bases dont take the same level of abuse as wakeboards. They are often more expensive than wakeboards too. All in all – we will continue to buy dedicated boards. That said – if you are into this style of riding and traveling – carrying extra boards is a hassle so it could work.
If you are looking for one of these hybrid boards – check out the AXIS Bootleg, Billy and Tranq. If you are looking for a kite too we suggest the Ozone C4.
When getting started kitesurfing or wakeboarding a lot of people seem to think they can use the same board for both purposes. Wakeboards are typically cheaper and more readily available on the second hand market. Kitesurfers are often keen on giving the cable park a go and want to use their existing board too. Whilst it is possible to use a kitesurf board at a cable park and vice versa it is far from ideal.
The main difference between the two are that wakeboards have a lot more rocker. This in turn makes them sit deeper in the water and they displace more water as they travel. Kiteboards plane better. When at a cable park, you will find a kitesurf board travels too fast especially round corners. When kiting, wakeboards are very hard to go upwind on and you have to be very powered up.
Kitesurf boards have fins on the base to help them grip and track upwind, where as wakeboards have channels. The fins are obviously not great when it comes to switching and hitting obstacles. Without the fins the kitesurf board will feel very fast and skatey due to their lack of rocker. In turn kiting using a wakeboard will make getting upwind hard work as it does not grip so well.
Kitesurf boards are light and designed for riding at speed, in variable water conditions and kite assisted jumps. Wakeboards are heavy to help take the beatings involved with contantly hitting obstacles. They are also only ridden in flat water.
Bindings and straps
Kitesurfers use straps mostly. It provides greater freedom of movement and is much easier to get going with. You can also lose the board should you need to. Unlike wakeboarders, you cannot simply let go. The wakeboarder needs boots to hold more power and to be able to throw his legs back after releasing from the water. Jumping with a wakeboard is strenuous and fast – one foot coming out of straps can cause serious injuries very easily. Likewise kitesurfing with bindings can be dangerous if you get your board tangled in your lines. It is important to be very aware of how your safety system works and what you need to look out for.
As the crossover between the two sports has grown, and the wakestyle movement has gained momentum, brands have started to release hybrid boards. These are kitesurf boards, with more rocker and tougher construction, designed to be ridden with bindings. They work well behind a kite or cable. These often have small channels allowing them to be ridden with no fins or only with small fins too. A few major manufacturers including Liquid Force, Slingshot and Best to name a few have released hybrid boards in 2011.
It all comes down to getting 2 boards really. If nothing else it is a hassle swapping boots and straps round. Even kiteboarders who spend most of their time in boots need a board with straps too. If you are kitesurfing and into wakestyle we strongly recommend one of the new hybrid boards. If you are planning on getting heavily into wakeboarding either behind a boat or on a cable, then get a wakeboard. It will be worth it in the end!