For most wakeboarders, fall brings mixed emotions. On the downside, the riding season is over in most parts of the country. On the upside, all the newest boards suddenly appear on the market in the fall. And while it's no substitute for a sick trick, this annual explosion of new board shapes and fresh graphics can pump you up.
Want a preview of five hot models with a proven track record? We've assembled five designs certain to vie for your attention— and pocketbook — this Christmas.
World Champion Shaun Murray helped design his signature Belmont series in 2000, and for 2001, it's still one of the best performing, most versatile boards on the market. In fact, it's actually "four of the best boards on the market, available in a 128-centimeters, 134-centimeters, 140-centimeters, and for 2001, a 142-centimeters version. That's a size range that will handle almost anyone, from lightweight grommet to NFL lineman.
Hyperlite claims the Belmonts deliver a more "floaty, snowboard-like" feel. Translated that means a Belmont is more of a "free-ride" board, offering excellent pop off the wake while retaining a looser, skate/snow-influenced style. What gives the Belmonts this characteristic is their bottom design: twin molded-in side fins that are 9.5 inches long and .4 inches deep complimented by a tunnel that extends all the way out to the ends of the board. This combination, along with the Belmont's unique primary fin (which features a longer base) and two single channels, locks the board in when cutting and landing while still allowing this somewhat wide board to offer great acceleration into the wake.
Once the board reaches the wake, that width delivers excellent pop into the air and provides security for beginning riders. A slight V-radius in the middle of the board softens up the water on landings.
The Belmonts are offered in both foam and honeycomb construction. Unless you're ready to challenge for the Pro Tour title, stick with the foam; it's more durable and likely handles a wider variety of water conditions.
Hyperlite Belmont 134
|Width:||16.6 inches/42.2 centimeters|
|Rocker:||2.6 inches/6.6 centimeters (continuous)|
Liquid Force gained a lot of attention for 2001 with the early introduction of the Helix, a 136-centimeters "finless" wakeboard, but the heart and soul of the line likely remains the Trip series, the first triple-fin boards to hit the market. The original signature model for pro rider Gregg Necrasson, Trips are now the boards of choice for most of the Liquid Force pro team.
The Trip draws its inspiration from surfing, where triple-fin combinations have long reined supreme. The premise? Triple fins allow the designers to choose wider shapes, maximizing the board's pop at the wake while enabling that same board to retain a fast, hard-cutting feel on the water. A single-to-double concave hull and a batwing-shaped tip-and-tail configuration contribute further to this characteristic, giving the Trips a responsive feel that rivals the performance of the hardest cutters. Last year, Liquid Force reworked the original Trip, giving it more rocker in order to increase lift even further. It also recognized the popularity of the design and expanded it into sizes ranging from 128 centimeters to 143 centimeters.
You won't find honeycomb in Liquid Force's lineup. Instead, the company uses a proprietary foam-construction method that produces some of the thinnest, lightest boards on the market. Trip series boards retail for around $480.
Liquid Force Trip 13
|Length:||52.1 inches/132.5 centimeters|
|Width:||16.7 inches/42.6 centimeters|
|Rocker:||2.0 inches/5.2 centimeters (continuous)|
Just a few short years ago, "swallow-tail" wakeboards were a new phenomenon. Today, they're a mainstay in the wakeboard marketplace. Although the designs differ, the common denominator is typically a v-shaped cut out of the board's tip and tail, a design concept which promises to provide improved stability, as well as better cuts and acceleration. They also allow the board to stay wide at the tip and tail for maximum pop. Judging from the response it's gotten in the marketplace, O'Brien's Swindle looks to be one of the better swallow-tails around.
The popularity of the Swindle has resulted in three models being available for 2001: a 127 centimeters, 133 centimeters and 139 centimeters. Each uses a three-stage rocker pattern, utilizing a flat spot in the middle of the board. The goal of this three-stage pattern is to provide the best of both worlds. The Swindle can have the loose feel of a free-riding style board yet also have the aggressive cut of a carver. Further aiding in the Swindle's cut are molded-in side fins, similar to the Hyperlite Belmont. Besides enhancing the tracking ability and hard edge into the wake, the side fins also allow you to go to a shorter, wider board than normal, again maximizing pop off the wake. The Swindle even allows a slight variety in fin placement. Four holes allow you to move the fin out toward the tip for a harder edge or in for a looser feel.
The Swindle is available in O'Brien's "feathercore" construction, a foam base that retains a lightweight feel. Retail price is around $330.
O'Brien Swindle 133
|Length:||52.4 inches/133 centimeters|
|Width:||16.6 inches/42.2 centimeters|
|Rocker:||2.3 inches/5.8 centimeters (three stage)|
Blindside pro rider Charley Patterson designed one of the most user-friendly boards on the market for his pro model. Swallow or "bat-tail" boards are quickly becoming more and more popular. Combine the two design philosophies and Blindside delivers a board that offers the best of both schools of thought: the Stingray.
Rather than improve tracking through the use of additional or molded-in fins, the Stingray attempts to do it with hooked rails. These rails act similarly to an extra set of fins, offering superior hold and tracking while a flat spot in the center of the board keeps things loose when desired. Lay the board over and the rails grip with tenacity, improving edge hold and allowing the rider to carry more speed into the wake. Though it features some of the shallowest rocker of any of the boards profiled, a flat spot in the mid-section delivers enough pop to compare with any rivals. The bat tail also reduces swing weight, making spinning tricks easier to perform.
The Stingray is another board to utilize a lightweight foam core rather than go the more expensive aluminum honeycomb route. Blindside also uses a softer flex pattern. The board's memory theoretically returns energy leaving the wake. Retail price: 339.99.
Blindside Stingray 137
|Length:||53.94 inches/137 centimeters|
|Width:||16.54 inches/42.0 centimeters|
|Rocker:||2.15 inches/5.46 centimeters (three-stage)|
CWB pro rider Rob Struharik is a fast-rising star in the pro wakeboard arena, showcasing a flair and technical ability that has placed him firmly amount the top riders. In the wakeboarding community, with credentials like that, only one thing comes next: a signature board.
While many of the latest generation of wakeboards have similar characteristics, the CWB Rob Struharik Pro is unique in terms of one particular design concept: its parallel edges. Designed to mimic the edging capability of a narrower board with the pop-friendly performance of a wider design, the Struharik looks and feels different from most others on the market. Its bottom design and outline are unique as well. It's relatively smooth and flat, with a subtle three-stage rocker, and features linear tracking tunnels to enhance that edge to the wake, ending at the tip to maintain a flat surface for maximum pop. CWB even offers an extra or two along the way: "Techno Bolts" hold the binding plates securely to the board surface, and fiberglass fins come standard.
The Struharik features a Baydur polyurethane resin foam core with a graphite/fiberglass composite. Look for the 137 to ring in around $390.99.
CWB Struharik Pro 137