Can You Use a Surfboard for Wake surfing? (Everything You Need To Know)

Water sports are without a doubt an extreme freak’s dream. Whether you are surfing, scuba diving, wakeboarding, or wakesurfing, water bodies offer endless hours of fun.

Wakesurfing and surfing have a lot in common, ie. Both sports are built on the premise that you stand up and ride a wave on a flat board.

That being said, there are some key differences, both in the manner of surfing and in the boards themselves.

So Can You Use a Surfboard for Wake surfing?

As the two sports have similar fundamentals, it is possible to use a surfboard for wake surfing, however, a surfboard will be slower and less responsive than a wake surfing board.

Let’s take a deeper look into the difference between a surfboard and a wake surfing board, which boards are best for wake surfing, and some possible unanswered questions that you may have.

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Can You Use a Surfboard for Wake surfing?

Can You Use a Surfboard to Wakesurf?

Surfing and wakesurfing have many similarities at their core, but when you look deeper into each sport, they begin to seem further and further apart.

Although it is possible to use a surfboard for wakesurfing, it will by no means be as efficient, responsive, stable, or easy to use as a wakesurfing board specifically designed for the sport.

If you want to go out for a wakesurf but only have your surfboard then, as long as you are a seasoned surfer, you should have no problem.

Keep in mind, however, that you will want to be using a smaller surfboard (5ft – 6ft). As you will not need to paddle, the reduced buoyancy should not play too much of a negative role.

That being said, thanks to their size, volume, shape, and fin design, it will be a lot harder to wakesurf on an ocean surfboard than it will be to do so with a wakesurfing board.

Can You Use a Wakesurfing Board for Surfing?

Yes, surfboards can be used for wakesurfing, however, trying to use a wakesurfing board in the ocean will be much more challenging.

Because wake surfing boards are not made for paddling, you will find it extremely difficult to generate speed while paddling on one in the ocean unless you are surfing on larger, steep waves.

Furthermore, because the fins on a wakesurfing board are much smaller than those of a surfboard, your wakesurfing board will feel loose in the ocean and as though there is no power in your turns.

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The only time a wakesurfing board might work sufficiently in the ocean is when a small person, such as a child, uses one.

This is because they are generally shorter and lighter than adults, which better suits the size of the wakesurf board.

The Difference Between Surfboards and Wakesurfing Boards

As we well know, surfboards are designed for larger waves in the ocean. 

Not only are surfboards made for bigger waves, but they are designed to be efficient when paddling, as well as more stable when standing up.

As a result, surfboards tend to be longer, thicker, have more volume, and a larger rocker.

As an example, the following chart shows the suggested board sizes for each sport:

Weight of RiderSurf Style BoardSkim Style BoardHybrid Style BoardLongboardPerformance SurfboardFun Board Surfboard
Up to 110 lbsUp to 4ftUp to 4ftUp to 4ft10ft +6.2ft – 6.4ft7ft – 7.4ft
100 – 170 lbs4ft – 4.8ft4ft – 4.4ft3.9ft – 4.8ft10ft +6.4ft – 6.10ft7.2ft – 7.8ft
150 – 200 lbs4.8ft to 5ft4.4ft – 4.10ft4.8ft – 5.3ft10ft +6.10ft – 7.4ft7.6ft – 8.4ft
190 – 250+ lbs5ft +4.10ft +5ft +10ft +7.4ft +8.2ft – 8.8ft

As you can see from the table above, surfboards are always larger than their corresponding wakesurfing boards, when compared to the weight of the surfer.

Although this is one of the biggest differences between the boards used for each sport, the differences don’t stop there.

Below is a table further representing the difference between surfboards and wakesurfing boards:

Type of BoardSizeShapeVolumePerformanceType of WavesFins
Surf StyleLargest size when compared to other wake surfing boards.Similar to performance surfboards, usually with a square or fish tail.Largest volume when compared to other wake surfing boards.Buoyant and stable makes it perfect for beginners, however, it sacrifices responsiveness.N/ALonger fins for more hold in the water.
Skim StyleSmaller and more compressed.Thinner and more slim than surf style wakesurf boards.Greater volume than surf style wakeboards.Ideal for performing tricks and aerials.N/AShort fins to allow spins and other tricks.
Hybrid StyleVariates between skim style and surf style sizes.A combination between skim style boards and surf style boards.Volume depends on the board and surfers preference.Generally higher volume than a skim style, but less than a surf style wakesurf board.Good for performing tricks such as spins as well as aerials.Combines playfulness and maneuverability of the two other options.N/ADepends on surfers preference and what they plan to use the board for.
ShortboardShortest designed surfboards (longer than wakesurf boards).Streamline, narrow, and short boards.Similar to surf style wakesurfing boards but larger.HIgher in volume than wakesurf boards, but less than other surfboards.Perfect for performance surfing, tricks, getting air, and riding steep hollow waves.Fast, steep, large, hollow waves.Thruster, Quad fin, or 2 fin setup.
Fun BoardSlightly longer than short boards.Style changes depending on the board, but are often short and stumpy.Volume changes depending on the board, but is usually higher than shortboards of the same length.Ideal for messing around and having fun when you don’t feel like being too serious.Small, powerful waves are best due to the short length of these boards.Thruster, Quad fin, single fin, or 2 fin setup (depending on the board design).
LongboardThe longest possible surfboard.Long, wide, and thick surfboards (slightly smaller than SUPs).The highest volume of all mentioned boards.Great for long, slow, and laid back turns.The best boards for new surfers.Long, crumbling, rolling waves are best for longboards.2+1 or single fin set up. Large fins are used to ensure stability.

As you can see, there is an abundance of differences between surfboards and wake surfing boards, most of which have to do with volume, length, and fin design.

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This is entirely due to what the boards are made for, and the conditions in which they will be ridden.

What Type of Board Is the Best for Wake Surfing?

When choosing a wakesurfing board, it is important not only to choose a board with the correct size and volume for your weight but equally important to choose a wakesurfing board that suits your style.

Wakesurfing boards are specifically designed to be lightweight and responsive as this creates the best performance behind the wake of a boat.

Surf style boards are the most popular among wake surfers. Most of these board styles closely represent an ocean surfboard, but are simply shorter, thinner, and therefore have less volume.

These boards are perfect for all levels of wakesurfing, from beginners to the most advanced pro wake surfers.

That being said, if you are after slightly more “play” then a hybrid board designed specifically for your use case could be your best choice.

ocean surfing

ocean surfing
Different Types of Wakesurfing Boards

There are three main types of wakesurfing boards which include surf style boards, skim style boards, and hybrid boards (of which there are many different combinations of styles).

Surf Style Wakesurf Boards

Closely resembling the shape of ocean shortboards, but smaller, these wakesurfing boards generally (but not always) have a square or fishtail.

Surf style wakesurf boards are generally the largest of the wakesurf family, as well as have the highest volume.

These boards come with a variety of fin options that help riders remain stable and tight while riding a boat’s wake.

These boards are great for generating power and speed on the waves. 

These are the best boards to learn how to wakesurf on, especially if you have some ocean surfing experience.

Skim Style Wakesurf Boards

Smaller and with less buoyancy than surf style boards, skim shaped wakesurf boards are made purely for fun.

These playful boards are great for spinning, sliding, and performing various tricks that don’t include going in a straight line.

These boards tend to have smaller fins (sometimes on both the nose and the tail) and have less rocker to ensure the board slides over the surface of the water.

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These boards are not ideal for beginners as they tend to feel loose.

Hybrid Style Wakesurf Boards

As the name suggests, hybrid style wakesurfing boards are a combination of skim style and surf style boards.

These boards come in endless shapes, sizes, volumes, and with different combinations of fins.

The purpose of these boards is to combine the power and stability of a surf style board with the playfulness and agility of a skim style board.

This is done in variating combinations to create the best board for each individual.

The Pros and Cons of Using a Surfboard for Wakesurfing

Although using an ocean surfboard for wakesurfing is not ideal, and has any cons, there are a few upsides to using a surfboard while wakesurfing.

Below are some of the upsides and downsides of using a surfboard for wakesurfing.

Pros of Using a Surfboard for Wakesurfing

1. Added Buoyancy

Because surfboards are made to be efficient while paddling as well as riding waves, they have more volume and are therefore more buoyant.

As a newbie to wakesurfing, you may find the added buoyancy advantageous as you learn to stand up on the wakes.

2. More Hold

Surfboards are generally designed for larger waves, and therefore have larger fins and more hold in the water.

This could make wakesurfing (as a beginner) easier, as you won’t feel too loose on the board.

Furthermore, the larger fins will help you create more drive when turning.

3. Familiarity

Although this only applies if you have mastered the basics of surfing, using a surfboard for wakesurfing could be easier when transitioning between the two water sports.

This is because you will already be familiar with the size, feel, and performance of your surfboard.

Although it will not perform as well, it may help shorten your learning curve on the wakes.

Cons of Using a Surfboard for Wakesurfing

1. Less Speed

Surfboards are larger and have more volume than wakesurfing boards, which means you will need to work a lot harder to maintain speed and keep up with the wake.

This can make wakesurfing difficult for new surfers.

2. Less Responsiveness

Because surfboards are thicker and have larger rails, they tend to be less responsive.

As wakesurfing boards tend to have sharper rails, they stick in the water better when making turns which allows for faster, sharper turns.

3. Too Stiff in the Water

As surfboards are large and tend to be differently shaped than wake surfing boards, they tend to feel stiff in the water.

Wakes created by boats are a lot smaller than those in the ocean, which makes traveling along the wake a challenge.

If your surfboard is too long, you will feel “stiff” in the water, and as though all you can do is head in a straight line.

Wakesurfing boards are smaller to allow more movement on the smaller waves.

Is Wake Surfing Like Real Surfing?

Although riding on a wake may seem similar to surfing, the truth is that the two sports are rather far apart.

Surfing requires numerous other skills such as paddling, duck diving, and wave choice, while wakesurfing simply requires you to learn how to stand on and control your board.

That being said, when it comes to stance, turning, and weight distribution, the two sports are very similar, which is why a surfer may find it easier to learn to wakesurf, and vice versa.

Is Wakesurfing Easier Than Surfing?

It is usually agreed on that surfing is harder to learn than wakesurfing, and as you move up the learning curve you will likely find that your wakesurfing improves much faster than your ocean surfing.

This is due to two main reasons: Wakesurfing uses a boat to generate power, and it is possible to surf more while wakesurfing.

As surfing requires you to paddle past waves, duck dive under them, as well as generate enough speed with your arms to catch a wave, all before you even stand up, you will need a higher level of endurance, and muscle strength, as well as time to master all these necessities.

Furthermore, surfing in the ocean is 100% reliant on current weather conditions, as well as swell size, swell direction, wind speed, and direction, as well as the frequency of the waves and competition in the water from other surfers.

This means it is not uncommon to head out for a surf, spend 2 hours in the water, and paddle back in after catching only 2 or 3 waves.

Wakesurfing, on the other hand, uses a board to generate waves. This means you can surf as much as you like until you are tired, without waiting ages between each ride.

This will aid you in learning faster, simply because you have more opportunities to practice.

That being said, wake surfing is much more expensive than ocean surfing as you need a boat, rope, fuel, your board, and a flotation aid (such as a wetsuit or life jacket), which could limit how often you hit the wakes.

Conclusion

Using a surfboard for wakesurfing is not ideal as it will limit your speed, maneuverability, as well as the tricks you can perform on the wake.

That being said, it is possible to use a surfboard for wakesurfing, provided you make use of a shortboard, and do not have high expectations of your performance (unless you are a well-seasoned surfer).

It is always best to use equipment specifically designed for the sport, however, if all you have is a surfboard then you should not let up the opportunity to surf on the never-ending waves behind a wakesurfing boat.

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