Learn About These Prolific Wakeboarders and Wakesurfers


Wakeboarding and wakesurfing are two thrilling water sports that offer unique experiences on the water, attracting enthusiasts from around the world with their blend of excitement, skill, and connection with the aquatic environment. Wakeboarding, which emerged in the 1980s, involves riding a wakeboard over the surface of a body of water, towed behind a motorboat. It’s akin to a fusion of snowboarding, surfing, and waterskiing, where riders execute jumps, flips, and a variety of aerial maneuvers off the wake created by the boat. The sport has evolved rapidly, with riders constantly pushing the boundaries of what’s possible on a wakeboard, leading to its inclusion in extreme sports events and gaining a substantial global following.

Wakesurfing, on the other hand, is a relatively newer sport that has gained significant popularity in the 21st century. In wakesurfing, the rider trails behind a boat on a smaller board, surfing the boat’s wake without being directly pulled by the boat after the initial start. The essence of wakesurfing lies in its surfing-like experience, where riders can carve, pump, and ride the wake in a style that closely mimics ocean surfing. Unlike wakeboarding, the connection to the towing line is temporary, and once the surfer is in the wake, they surf the endless wave created by the boat, allowing for a more laid-back, free-flowing experience. Both sports, with their distinct styles and adrenaline-pumping action, have developed their own cultures, communities, and competitive scenes, making them a must-try for water sports enthusiasts.

When Did Wakesurfing Start?

When Did Wakesurfing Start

Wakesurfing, a thrilling watersport that combines the excitement of surfing and wakeboarding, has gained immense popularity over the years. Wakesurfing started in the 1960s, 1963–1964 to be exact, when Dick Pope Sr., who was an award-winning water skier, added wakesurfing to his shows in Florida. The sport was very well embraced by fans and started to become so popular that technology was needed for wakeboarders, such as an increase in the size of the wake, and better boats to get bigger waves.

Wakesurfers need a top surf boat model available to perform their best in the sport. That is why, as of today, boat companies have created the perfect boats, in terms of technology, modification, and upgrades for wakesurfing.

Today, the wakeboarding boat industry has seen significant advancements, leading to the emergence of top surf boats that are designed to optimize the wakesurfing experience. We’ll look into the lives and achievements of four prolific wakesurfers who have left an indelible mark on the sport, as well as the latest trends in surf boats and wakeboarding boats.

When Did Wakeboarding Start?

When Did Wakeboarding Start

Wakeboarding, a dynamic and thrilling water sport, traces its origins back to the late 1980s. It emerged as a hybrid of water skiing, snowboarding, and surfing, offering an exhilarating new way to ride on water. The sport’s genesis is often attributed to the development of the “skurfer,” a board akin to a small surfboard with foot straps, created by surfer and skateboarder Tony Finn in 1985. This invention laid the foundation for what would become wakeboarding.

Initially termed “skiboarding,” wakeboarding evolved as enthusiasts began to experiment with different board designs, incorporating aspects from snowboarding and skateboarding. The introduction of the twin-tip board design by Jimmy Redmon, later the founder of the World Wake Association (WWA), was a significant milestone. This design allowed riders to move and jump in either direction, greatly expanding the sport’s possibilities and appeal.

Wakeboarding gained momentum in the 1990s with advancements in boat technology. Wake-specific boats with ballast systems were developed to create larger wakes, enhancing the riders’ aerial tricks and overall experience. The sport’s popularity surged with the advent of these innovations, leading to the establishment of professional competitions and its inclusion in various extreme sports events.

Wakeboarding’s growth was further fueled by media exposure and the development of a dedicated community. Cable parks, which allow wakeboarding without a boat, also played a crucial role in making the sport more accessible. Today, wakeboarding is recognized globally, with a robust competitive scene and a passionate base of recreational riders. It stands as a testament to innovation in water sports, continually evolving and attracting new enthusiasts with its blend of excitement, creativity, and athletic challenge.

Prolific Wakesurfers

Prolific Wakesurfers

Ashley Kidd

Ashley Kidd is a highly regarded professional wakesurfer, renowned for her impressive skills on the water. She has been a dominant force in the sport, winning numerous championships and titles. Her style is characterized by fluidity, control, and the ability to execute complex maneuvers with ease. Kidd’s success has made her a role model in the wakesurfing community, particularly inspiring female athletes in what is often seen as a male-dominated sport.

Keenan Flegel

Keenan Flegel stands out in the world of wakesurfing for his exceptional talent and competitive achievements. He has a reputation for being a versatile athlete, excelling in both wakeboarding and wakesurfing. Flegel’s competitive spirit and dedication to the sport have led him to win multiple world championships. His technical skills, combined with a creative approach to the sport, have pushed the boundaries of what is possible in wakesurfing.

Bri Chmel

Bri Chmel is a celebrated wakesurfer known for her competitive spirit and significant contributions to the sport. Her presence in the wakesurfing community is marked by numerous victories and a passion for the sport that goes beyond competition. Chmel’s style is characterized by power and grace, and she has been an influential figure in promoting wakesurfing, particularly among women, helping to grow the sport’s popularity and accessibility.

Austin Keen

Austin Keen is a well-known professional wakesurfer and world champion, famous for his dynamic and innovative style. He is particularly noted for his ability to perform highly technical tricks and for his fearless approach to the sport. Keen’s influence extends beyond competitions; he is also recognized for his engaging social media presence and efforts to popularize wakesurfing through online content and public appearances. His charisma and skill have made him a prominent and influential figure in the wakesurfing community.

Additional Well known Wakesurfers:

  • Noah Flegel: Noah, the brother of Keenan Flegel, is also a prominent figure in the wakesurfing world. He is known for his versatility, excelling in both wakesurfing and wakeboarding.
  • Chase Hazen: Chase is another top contender in the wakesurfing community, known for his smooth style and competitive spirit.
  • Dominic Lagace: Dominic is a veteran in the sport, renowned for his extensive experience and contributions to advancing wakesurfing techniques.
  • Reed Hansen: Known primarily for his achievements in wakeboarding, Reed Hansen has also made a significant impact in wakesurfing with his skilled performances.
  • Jodi Grassman: Jodi is a talented wakesurfer who has gained recognition for her powerful and technical riding style.
  • Grant Witherell: Grant is a well-respected athlete in the wakesurfing community, known for his competitive successes and skillful riding.

Prolific Wakeboarders

Prolific Wakeboarders

1. Shaun Murray

The American wakeboarder hailing from California is renowned as one of the most exceptional athletes in the history of wakeboarding. With a remarkable career in this exhilarating sport, he boasts an impressive record of four World Wakeboarding Champion titles.

What sets Shaun apart is his unparalleled achievement of simultaneously holding the prestigious World, Pro Tour, and National Champion titles – a feat that remains unmatched to this day. Beyond his exceptional performances on the water, he has also made a mark as a highly regarded wakeboarding coach, earning the distinction of being one of the finest coaches in the sport.

Currently, Shaun is enthusiastically engaged in running a wake camp, a venture he embarked upon alongside his friend Travis Moe, where they continue to inspire and mentor aspiring wakeboarders, passing on their expertise and passion to the next generation.

2. Darin Shapiro

Darin Shapiro is a true legend in the world of wakeboarding, whose name is synonymous with unparalleled success. Hailing from the vibrant city of Orlando, Florida, Shapiro’s journey in this adrenaline-pumping sport spans over two glorious decades. Throughout his illustrious career, Darin Shapiro has claimed an astounding array of achievements, firmly cementing his status as one of the most accomplished wakeboarders in history. With an astonishing tally of 12 world titles and three prestigious X Games titles to his name, he has consistently outshone his competitors and set new standards for excellence.

Not stopping there, Shapiro’s dominance extended to the Pro Tour circuit, where he triumphed in over 70 events, solidifying his position as the uncontested king of the sport. His remarkable achievements and skills have left a mark on wakeboarding, inspiring countless enthusiasts to follow in his footsteps.

Recognizing his unparalleled contributions, Darin Shapiro was bestowed with a significant honor in 2010 when he became the first pro wakeboarder ever to be inducted into the esteemed Water Ski Hall of Fame. This prestigious accolade stands as a testament to his impact on the sport and his legacy as a true trailblazer.

3. Raimi Merritt

Raimi Merritt is an American wakeboarder hailing from the sunny state of Florida. Her passion for this exhilarating water sport ignited at the tender age of nine, when she discovered her love for riding the waves. Beginning her journey as an amateur, Raimi quickly proved her prowess, clinching victories in various amateur tournaments. From 2009 to 2013, she earned the prestigious title of Female Rider of the Year, showcasing her unparalleled talent and dedication. Moreover, her dominance extended from 2012 to 2014, when she held the top spot in the pro women’s division, leaving her competitors in awe of her skills.

The culmination of her achievements comes in the form of an impressive tally of 10 World Championships, firmly solidifying her reputation as one of the world’s finest professional wakeboarders. Raimi Merritt’s name resonates throughout the wakeboarding community, admired for her fearlessness and daring spirit, which shine through in every daring move she executes on the water.

4. Dallas Friday

Hailing from Florida, her remarkable achievements in the world of sports include clinching the prestigious ESPN ESPY Award for Best Female Action Sports Athlete, securing an impressive collection of 4 X Games gold medals, and claiming numerous World Titles.

At the age of 13, Dallas embarked on her wakeboarding journey, showcasing exceptional talent and dedication. Within a year, she went to the professional level, setting the stage for her incredible career. Notably, she made history as the youngest recipient of the silver medal at the X Games.

Throughout her career, Dallas has achieved remarkable milestones, standing tall as the Masters Champion, IWSF World Cup Champion, and World Cup Singapore victor in 2013. With an unwavering passion for the sport, she continues to excel, leaving an indelible mark since she first entered the wakeboarding scene in the year 2000.

Additional Well known Wakeboarders:

  • Parks Bonifay – The first wakeboarder to land a 1080 and a prominent figure in the sport, known for pushing its limits.
  • Harley Clifford – An Australian wakeboarder known for his impressive array of tricks and multiple world championship titles.
  • Rusty Malinoski – Known as “The Bone Crusher,” he is famous for his strong, aggressive style and has several major titles to his name.
  • Danny Harf – Renowned for his innovative tricks and having one of the most influential careers in wakeboarding.
  • Amber Wing – A trailblazer in women’s wakeboarding, known for landing several tricks for the first time among female riders.
  • Phillip Soven – Known for his consistent performance and competitive success, including numerous Pro Tour and World Championships.
  • Bob Soven – Notable for his unique, free-riding style and charismatic personality, both on and off the water.

Trends in Surf Boats and Wakeboarding Boats

In recent years, the wake boarding boat and surf boat industries have witnessed remarkable advancements to cater to the growing demand of wakesurfing enthusiasts. Surf boat manufacturers are now focusing on innovative hull designs and ballast systems that produce larger, more consistent waves. Additionally, many wakeboarding boats now come equipped with sophisticated technology that allows surfers to customize their wave preferences.

The integration of intelligent surf systems has revolutionized the sport, enabling surfers to fine-tune the shape, size, and power of the wave with a simple push of a button. Furthermore, eco-conscious wakeboarding boat manufacturers have made strides in adopting sustainable practices to reduce the sport’s environmental impact.

Wakesurfing has emerged as a thrilling and dynamic watersport, captivating enthusiasts worldwide. The sport owes much of its growth and popularity to the remarkable contributions of these new talented wakesurfers

As they continue to inspire and push the boundaries of the sport, the wakeboarding boat industry responds with cutting-edge surf boats that enhance the experience for all. With technology and sustainability at the forefront, the future of wakesurfing and wake boarding promise to be more exhilarating than ever before.

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