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Wake surfing puts the cool back into watersports

Wake surfing puts the cool back into watersports

Who needs waves when you can surf behind a boat?

Think water skiing and the mind conjures images of muscle-bound men in the 70s and 80s when water skiing was primetime TV and drawing massive crowds. Mustaches, polished wooden skis, Fletcher speedboats, howling two-stroke outboards and incredible arcing 30ft high. Ski competitions were huge back then, and not just slalom. No waterway was complete without a jump – a floating wooden wedge over which skiers would hurl themselves into the air, gaining such momentum that they would sometimes overtake the tow boat. At competition level, the ski jumpers used the whiplash effect of the streaks over the boat at over 70ftph for 200ftt!

Waterskiing at this level was exciting, dangerous and oh so glamorous. In 1983, when James Bond needed to be introduced to his femme fatale Fatima Blush in Never Say Never Again, she was in her world on waterskis, skiing right in the waterside bar and 007. ‘How reckless of me, I made you all wet ! ‘. ‘Yes, my martini’s still dry’.

And then, it faded. The public moved on and ski reindeer and the skiers, no longer the stuff of headlines and Bond movies. Well, now it’s back. And then some …

In the same way that snowboarding revolutionized sliding down a mountain, wake surfing has brought a whole new dimension to water sports. From its early beginnings wake surfing has captured the imagination of a younger, hipper, audience. Suddenly beanie hats, long hair and board shorts are as fast as you can get in the ocean.

But it’s not just the sport that has changed, the boats have too. High speed and flat wake are the prerequisites for good water skiing, but the demands of wake surfing are almost polar opposites. Speed, still important, is less extreme, and you need to ride a decent curl, what you need to wash, and lots of wash.

Malibu Boats is one of the leading manufacturers of the load thanks to its patented Power Wedge. Now in its third iteration, this is effectively a huge inverted hydrofoil that lowers the boat and acts like a spoiler, pulling the boat deep into the water at speed. Remote control makes the water flow to the point where it is used, and it does not matter how much it works. Finally Surf Gate, another Malibu innovation, is a system of broad hydraulically actuated flaps that flies with the back of the boat until activated, curling a perfect long clean surfable wave.

To see a wake surf in action take a look at the video of Skimboarding world champion Austin Keen in action at the recent Malibu European pro weekend in Lacanau, France. As the music swells to match the 6.2-liter V8 engine, the stadium-style cockpit seating means the whole crew can watch the fun. This is why the new sport is growing so fast among families that want to play together and stay together.

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