One of the most important things you can do to speed up your progression as a wakeboarder is to make sure you have the right equipment. And that first trip to the pro shop can be both exciting and a bit daunting. Nick Clasen, pro shop sales manager at Boatworks in Taylorsville, Kentucky, has helped hundreds of new riders buy their first boards, and he shares a few dos and don'ts to help you make the best purchase.
DO Tell Your Life Story
“When I talk to someone looking to buy a board, the first thing I ask is, 'Have you ridden a wakeboard before?'” says Clasen. “If so, then I ask what board they're currently riding. I try to gather as much information as I can and gauge their ability level.”
There are many factors that affect what board can serve you best, and any information you give a salesperson will help them understand your needs. Height, weight, riding ability and goals all have a strong impact on which board a rider should buy. Even information like the kind of boat you usually get pulled by and the water conditions you usually ride in can influence your board selection.
DON'T Judge a Board by Its Graphics
The number-one mistake that most new wakeboarders make (and a large number of experienced boarders as well) is buying a board because they like its graphics.
“A lot of people try to buy a board strictly on appearance. I don't know how many times I've seen it.”
We know how important it is to look good on the water, but look at it this way: You'll look a whole lot better landing all your moves clean than you will face planting all day. And besides, no matter how cool the board looks, you'll be tired of the graphic a month after getting it, anyway.
DO Make a Personal Appearance
“When I have someone standing in the shop, it's a whole lot easier than dealing with someone on the phone.”
It is easier for a salesperson to match a board to your body type when he can see you, and your ability to handle and compare boards in person is incredibly important. Especially when dealing with new wakeboarders, Clasen makes a habit of going over each part of a board from rocker to fins, explaining how each element affects the way it will ride. By ordering equipment over the phone or online, you could miss out on a lot of the knowledge and expertise a pro shop can provide.
Additionally, many newer riders who order from home don't understand how to set up their bindings, so they just hit the water however the board comes out of the box. Pro shop experts will adjust your bindings for you, so foot placement and spacing will be perfect.
DON'T Be a Stubborn Board Buyer
It's natural to have a certain board in mind when you enter the shop, or for a certain deck to catch your eye as soon as you see it, but don't close your mind to other options.
“People come in here, and we get some information about them and see what they're looking for. Too often they just get stuck on a particular board. We try to show them differences, give them features, recommend something other than what they have in mind, and it's hopeless. They ask for our opinion and then disregard it.”
Trust whoever is helping you at the pro shop because their business is matching boards to riders. It might be hard tearing yourself away from the new pro model, but the salespeople probably have your best interests at heart.
Most pro shops these days run some sort of demo program, and it's a great idea to find a shop that does. Usually, for a small fee they'll let you take a board home and try it out. If you decide it's right for you, then the fee will be put toward purchase. If not, then communicating what you did and didn't like about the board will help the shop match you with a better board more easily. It's a win-win situation.
Getting the Most Out of Your Demo
It can be a little daunting taking a board out for a demo, especially if you're new or don't know what you're looking for. We talked with the guys at Performance Ski & Surf in Orlando, who have demoed out hundreds of boards, to get their tips on smart test riding.
• Why Pick Just One? Especially if you're a new rider, there's nothing wrong with taking two or three boards out to demo at once. You can ride each and directly compare them against each other to see which you like the best.
• Trust Your Gut. Demoes usually last a full day, but it should take only five or 10 minutes of riding to get a feel for the board. Most likely, you'll know if it feels right after the first run, so trust your first impression.
• Complain Specifically. If your demo board feels great, well, great! But if it doesn't, take note of exactly what your complaints are. Give the guy at the shop specifics, like the board was hard to turn or you couldn't get as much air as you usually can. That will help him find a much better fit the next demo around.