Idaho Water Sports

Local Wakeboarders Share Tips, Trends and How to Break Into the Sport



By Tetona Dunlap -
Photo Credit: Drew Nash - Times-News


BURLEY • Blake Wasden of Nampa has been skimming the waters of Idaho since the tender age of 3.

He started out by first learning how to water ski and then made the progression to wakeboarding after learning on a skerf board, the predecessor to the wakeboard.

“It actually surprises a lot of people how much water is around here,” Wasden, 23, said. “The season isn’t as long but I put on my wet suit and still go out when it’s cold.”

Wakeboarding is the hybrid of water skiing and surfing and emerged on the water sports scene in the mid-’80s.

If you are interested in waking waves and breaking into the sport, here are some tips from boarders who have been waking for a while:


Start with a Boat

The first and most obvious thing you need to wakeboard is a boat.

There are specialized boats made exclusively for wakeboarding but they are pretty expensive at $30,000 and up.

Wasden said pretty much any boat that can pull you will work.

For Ben Orton of Burley, wakeboarding is a family activity that started with his dad.

“When my dad was a teenager he used to go down to the boat dock and bum rides from people and give them gas money. You can do that, too,” Orton said with a laugh. “If you have a friend with a boat it’s pretty easy to get into because all you have to do is buy a board and boots and you’re golden.”

If you don’t have friends or family with a boat, Wake Central Park in Caldwell is the perfect solution.

Riders are pulled by an overhead cable-ski system, so it is ideal for riders without a boat or limited access to one.

But whether you are pulled by a boat or a cable, Wasden said you have to let it do all the work.

“If you pull on the handle it shoves your body underneath the water,” he said.


Next, the Board

Orton said he learned how to wakeboard after watching his dad and brother try to stand up on the knee board, a board that is ridden in a kneeling stance. Eventually the family got a wakeboard and Orton started to experiment with the sport.

If you’re just getting into wakeboarding you don’t need a super expensive board, Orton said, because there are a lot of entry- level wakeboards that are cheaper.

In addition to a wakeboard you’ll need a helmet, life vest, handle and a wake surfer rope. This type of rope is made not to stretch so you can pop off the wake. Wasden estimates that a board, boots and bindings can cost $300 to $1,000 or more depending on how much you want to spend and the quality.


Learn Some Tricks

Have questions about tricks? Wasden said there are a lot of wakeboarding videos on YouTube made by professionals and amateurs that can give you guidance. There also are clinics that are held throughout the summer.

Wasden works for Idaho Water Sports at its store in Nampa and on June 26 was on-hand during a wakeboarding clinic taught by wakeboarding professional Gerry Nunn. Wasden said he has also taught people how to wakeboard during private clinics, which are $70 an hour if customers use their boat or $100 if they use boats owned by IWS.

“I’ll teach them whatever they want from beginner to advance,” Wasden said. “A lot of people who purchase boats want to wake board but they don’t know how.”

Wasden said wakeboarding is a good sport for the family because there is no age limit.

“With some of the younger kids I’ll get on the wakeboard with them so they don’t feel alone and if they ever fall I’ll be right there with them.”


A Popular Sport

Though wakeboarding is widely popular in states like Florida, Wasden said there is a big following in Idaho even though the community isn’t as connected.

“It’s just not that everyone knows everyone,” Wasden said.

Orton said he has noticed another sport starting to make waves in Idaho.

“You see a lot of people wake surfing, too; it’s like surfing but behind your boat that’s become real huge within the last five years,” Orton said.

The difference between wakeboarding and wakesurfing is distance and speed. With wakeboarding you are 70 to 80 feet behind the boat, flipping in the air and performing tricks. But with wakesurfing you are 10 feet behind the boat going slow, surfing the waves created by the boat.

“A lot of people like it. You can throw as many people as you want on the boat,” Orton said.


Hit the Waves

Looking for the perfect place to wake?

Wasden said he usually frequents Magic Reservoir, the Snake River and Red Fish Lake.

Jake Casperson, 17, of Twin Falls often wakeboards at Shoshone Falls because it’s close and well protected from wind. The perfect weather conditions for wakeboarding are when the waters are like a mirror.

Casperson has been wakeboarding for 10 years and learns more about the sport by looking up videos online or taking part in local clinics. He also has the WakeMD wakeboard instruction app by Shaun Murray downloaded. This app takes you step by step through more than 80 wakeboard tricks and tips.

Pinther, 29, a wakeboarder from Rupert took up the water sport in the late ‘90s.

“Everyone’s dream is glassy water, you want smooth water,” he said.

Because Idaho can get windy this often makes for rough conditions, so be wary of wakes that double up in size or completely disappear.

And all the wakeboarders agree that you only improve as long as your board is in the water.

“It’s like anything, if you spend enough time on a boat,” Pinther said.

Pinther also noted how wakeboarding technology and equipment has improved since the ‘90s, which makes for a better experience.

“For me wakeboarding ... it’s different than any other sport that involves aerial or tricks,” Orton said. “With wakeboarding all the tricks are engineered for the rope and you can learn tricks really fast if you know where to put the rope. There’s no other sport like that.”


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