Wakesurfing is a water sport in which a rider trails behind a boat, riding the boat's wake without being directly pulled by the boat. After getting up on the wake, typically by use of a tow rope, the wakesurfers will drop the rope, and ride the steep face below the wave's peak in a fashion reminiscent of surfing. Wakesurfers generally use special boards, designed specifically for wakes.
The origins of wakesurfing are a subject of contention, as various individuals and companies lay claim to its inception. Some assertions trace the roots of boat-surfing or wake-surfing back as far as the 1920s, but there is a lack of credible evidence to support these claims. Visual records and written media from the 1950s and 1960s depict surfers actively riding surfboards behind motorboats in ocean settings. During the mid-1960s, numerous surfboard manufacturers began asserting their involvement in crafting boards specifically designed for riding wakes.
The trend of riding surfboards behind boats persisted throughout the 1970s and 1980s. The boards used in this practice gradually evolved into shorter forms, mirroring the progression of shortboards in traditional surfing. As boards became shorter, practitioners drew inspiration from windsurfing and sailboarding by introducing foot-strapping devices on the boards to secure their feet. Utilizing tow ropes and making sharp turns and jumps off wakes gave rise to sports like skurfing, skiboarding, and eventually wakeboarding.
The increasing popularity of wakeboarding prompted advancements in watercraft technology to amplify the size of wakes. This development subsequently paved the way for wakesurfing to step into the spotlight. Numerous trailblazers in the sport, including but not limited to figures like Tim Lopes, Jerry Price, Jeff Page, Rick Lee, among others, are recognized for their pivotal roles in shaping modern wakesurfing. The first US design patent for a wakesurf board was granted to Alfonso Corona in 1997.
With the rise of wakesurfing in recent years many individuals have attempted surfing behind boats ill-equipped to wakesurf. Boats with outboard motors or sterndrive propulsion are not suited for wake surfing and lead to heighted risk, possible maiming or even death. The only types of boats safe to surf behind are direct drive or V-drive boats, this is because the propeller is located far beneath the boat rather than behind the boat.
Another risk associated with ill-equipped boats is Carbon Monoxide Poisoning. Boats designed for wake surfing direct the boat exhaust downward into the propeller stream, pushing the exhaust far away from the rider.
Inboard ski or wakeboard boats are the most popular choice for this sport as the propeller is under the boat, and is less likely to make contact with the rider. Owners of inboard boats place ballast, such as water, lead weights, concrete, or other heavy objects in different sections of the boat in order to weight the boat down and create a larger wake. The best weight configuration for wakesurfing is to place the majority of the weight near the back corner side the surfer is surfing on. The deeper the boat is in the water, the bigger the wake will be overall. In addition, one will want to place a larger amount at the stern of the boat on the side which the rider is riding. This will ramp the wake up on the side the rider is riding and washout the opposite side. A rope length of 2.43 to 3.04 meters (8 to 10 ft) is recommended. Wakesurf-intended ropes are generally 6.1 meters (20 ft) long, making it ideal for boats that have a tower set-up. Long ski and wakeboard ropes can become hazardous for wakesurfing, because it usually involves winding up the rope or tying unnecessary knots.
Many riders perform a wide array of maneuvers or specifically named 'tricks' while wakesurfing, with most owing their origins to surfing, skating (both vert and street) and snowboarding, Some of the most well-known tricks are:
In 2013, Canadian musician Chris Hau recorded a video in which he plays a song on an acoustic guitar while wakesurfing.
In February 2015, Hunter Sims, a professional wakesurfer, received a world record for doing 106 shove-its.
Many celebrities have taken up the sport with P!nk, Julianne Hough, and Gus Kenworthy among the ones spending their summers trying the activity.
World Champion Skimboarder Austin Keen launched an interview series with celebrities wakesurfing in 2020. His first guest was Diplo.