A Quick History of Wakeboards

Published By: perry serwitz

(Some excerpts taken from BoardForce.net)

It’s always fun to go back and take a look at the evolution and history of a sport.  You get to see the advancements in the equipment as well as the tricks or skills that are constantly setting a new bar.   When it comes to wakeboarding, it is fascinating to know that 2 of the 3 inventors of the sport are actually still at it today behind one of the best brands in the business!.  

Surfing is one of wakeboarding’s closest relatives and was one of the main influences for the sport.  One of the earliest forms started with surfers getting pulled out to sea by boats to catch waves, or sometimes even from the shoreline by a truck. From this, shorter boards started being used. A San Diego surfer named Tony Finn developed one of the first wakeboards called the Skurfer, a hybrid of a water ski and a surfboard. In the early 1980’s he and his partner started mass-producing the Skurfer, which looked a lot like a mini surfboard.

Later, straps were added to allow riders to perform additional tricks. What makes this interesting is that this innovation came from two different people at the same time, who had no idea what the other was doing. Finn added the straps to his Skurfer, while Jimmy Redmon in Austin, Texas, added straps to his Redline design water ski board, which was a smaller version of a surfboard causing raves in Texas. The significance of foot straps can’t be overestimated in the evolution of wakeboarding. Foot straps allowed for big air to take place and made it more dynamic and free-flowing.

Throughout the 1980’s Tony Finn promoted, popularized and marketed the Skurfer, and the sport of skiboarding was born. In 1990 the first Skurfer championships were televised by ESPN and the innovation continued.  The boards and boat wakes were modified to allow riders to perform more spectacular tricks and gradually crowds increased.  Early wakeboards/Skurfers were difficult to ride.  Their high buoyancy made it hard to get up on. Only experienced or very strong riders could do deepwater starts on the Skurfer. Skurfers were narrow, very buoyant and required excessive energy to get them up on the surface.

The Redline design boards were lightweight and performance oriented, but lacked the durability needed for the constant poundings in the sport. Although these things limited the growth of skiboarding, the stage was set for a new and exciting water sport.

The Late Herb O’Brien, a household name when it comes to water sports, started tinkering with the boards at this time. He introduced the first compression-molded neutral-buoyancy wakeboard. With an innovative rider, Darin Shapiro, promoting and riding the new board the sport took off. Darin was known for getting huge air while being pulled behind a helicopter.
This innovation sparked the massive growth of what is known today as wakeboarding. (The term skiboarding stuck around for a few years, but wakeboarding ultimately became the official name of this sport.) The new neutral buoyancy designs allowed the rider to submerge it for easier starts. Wakeboarding became accessible to everyone from 4 to 80 years of age.

From competitors to manufacturers - There are many who continued to help the sport grow and evolve over the years.   Herb O’Brien passed away in 2012 leaving behind some of the most iconic brands in water sports including O’Brien, Hyperlite, HO, Ronix, and Radar.  

Jimmy Redmon and Tony Finn continue to drive the industry as the guys behind Liquid Force.   And now with the growth in Wake Surfing – how cool is it that this all evolved from a surfboard!

PULL Watersports is proud to offer the best brands on the water including the full line of wakeboards and wake surf boards from Liquid Force!