Wakeboarding vs Snowboarding – Which Is Better?

Wakeboarding vs Snowboarding – Which Is Better?

You may be a snowboarder that wants to give wakeboarding a try. On the other hand, you could be a wakeboarder looking for something to do in the winter, and fancy giving snowboarding a try. This is pretty common and understandable, as there are some clear similarities between the two sports.

In this post, we are going to break down the similarities and differences between wakeboarding and snowboarding. You will get a good picture of what the sports involve, so you can decide which one is better for you.

What Is Wakeboarding?

Wakeboarding is one of the world’s fastest-growing sports. It looks a lot like water skiing at first glance, as it traditionally involves being towed behind a speed boat.

The main difference between water skiing and wakeboarding is that a wakeboarder stands sideways on a board rather than facing forwards.

A wakeboarder uses the wake behind the boat as a ramp. By hitting the wake, they jump across it while performing a range of intricate freestyle tricks.

Another way you can wakeboard is using a cable. The cable runs around a set course in a lake, towing the wakeboarder; often, cable routes have features to hit, such as ramps, rails and boxes.

Also Read: Most Expensive WakeBoard Boats

What Is Snowboarding?

Snowboarders ride the same mountain slopes as skiers. The difference is that snowboarders stand on a board with a sideways stance, similar to a wakeboarder, skateboarder, or surfer.

A snowboarder gets to the top of the slope using a ski lift that gives them access to a range of terrain. They can simply ride around the groomed slopes, perform tricks in the snowpark, or ride deep snow in the backcountry.

Wakeboard Equipment Explained

There are several different types of wakeboards designed for different types of riding. Here is an overview of the different wakeboards available:

Boat Wakeboards

Some wakeboarders only ride behind a boat; therefore, they need a suitable board for the purpose. The wakeboards they use are generally pretty stiff, which gives you lots of pop when jumping the wake.

Boat wakeboards are very durable, especially on their bases. The reason for this toughness is so they can withstand hard landings on the water.

These wakeboards have fins to help their riders to control them. The fins are either molded into the board or bolted on giving the rider traction on the water.

Cable Wakeboards

Some cable wakeboards have removable fins or don’t have fins at all. The reason for this is that fins make sliding on rails and hitting ramps very difficult.

The downside of not riding with fins is that the board has less traction and control when on the water. However, cable wakeboards are very strong but with lots of flex, making them forgiving for tricks.

Hybrid Wakeboards

You can buy hybrid wakeboards that are suitable for both cable and boat wakeboarding. These boards are stiffer in the middle and are more flexible at the tips, so you are not limited to one type of riding.

Different Wakeboard Shapes

Wakeboard manufacturers make different shaped boards with varying profiles that suit the rider’s preferences. One of the things you need to look at when buying a wakeboard is its rocker.

You can see a wakeboard’s rocker shape when it sits on a flat surface. The shape determines how the board handles and performs.

Continuous Rocker

Wakeboards with a continuous rocker are curved from tip to tip. The curve gives you a very smooth ride, less friction with the water, and softens landings.

If you are into your freestyle tricks, a wakeboard with a continuous rocker is a good choice. These boards are more forgiving on your knees, so you can go big and land on flat water while being able to maintain your speed.

Continuous rocker wakeboards are also great for beginners, as they let you get away with mistakes while you develop your skills.

Three Stage Rocker

Three-stage rocker wakeboards have a flat center, but the tips curve upwards. The advantage of this board shape is that you can hit bigger wakes due to extra pop.

These wakeboards are great for performing wake-to-wake tricks. However, they have a smaller area in contact with the water, making them a bit slower.

When you ride a three-stage rocker wakeboard, you will notice that they are less forgiving than ones with continuous rockers. Therefore, your landings will be harder, especially on flat water.

Hybrid Rocker Wakeboards

Wakeboards with hybrid rocker shapes can vary a lot. But they combine the best qualities of the two rocker types.

The advantage of riding a hybrid rocker wakeboard is that they are versatile. This means that they are great for all aspects of wakeboarding.

Snowboard Equipment Explained

Just like wakeboards, there are many different types of snowboards. Their shapes, flex, and size all determine how they ride and what they are used for. Here are the main types of snowboards available:


All-mountain snowboards are suitable to be ridden anywhere. Whether you like to ride groomed slopes, powder, or in the snow park, an all-mountain snowboard has you covered.

All-mountain snowboards can be regarded as directional or twin. Directional snowboards perform best when you ride them forwards, while twin snowboards work just as well when riding backward (or switch).

You will notice that most snowboarders ride all-mountain snowboards. They are attracted to them for their versatility, which also makes them a good choice for beginners who are still working out what type of riding they want to do.


Freestyle snowboards are twins, much lighter than other boards, and are much more flexible. These characteristics make them more forgiving for performing tricks.

The downside of riding a freestyle snowboard is that they are not very stable at high speed. When you ride fast, the extra flexibility causes them to chatter with the bumps in the snow.


Freeride snowboards are ridden by adventurous riders that like to hit the backcountry. Most freeride snowboards are directional and stiff, making them perfect for powerful turns.

Freeriders look for untouched powder and take on natural terrain. Their riding often means they need to drop off cliffs and take risks.


Powder snowboards are designed for riding in untouched snow in the backcountry. They are shaped to give you the best float possible in the snow.

Powder snowboards are often very stiff, making them challenging to ride on chopped-up slopes.


A splitboard is a fantastic invention that allows a snowboarder to tour into the backcountry.

These boards divide down the middle into two skis and have special bindings that can be mounted lengthways. Splitboarders attach the adhesive fabric to the base of the skis that only allows them to slide forwards, known as skins.

Splitboarders use their boards in “ski mode” to reach the top of the mountain. Once at the top, they rebuild their boards for the ride back down.

Splitboards are very stiff and perform best in deep powder. They can be challenging to ride if the conditions are not perfect.

Snowboard Shapes

Snowboards also have different profiles like wakeboards. They use rocker and camber shapes to give the board different riding characteristics.


A cambered snowboard sits with the center of the board raised when it is placed on a flat surface. The shape gives the snowboard a lively and responsive personality with lots of pop.

The cambered shape is popular with experienced riders that like lots of control and speed.


Flat-based snowboards have no camber at all and sit flush to the ground. These snowboards turn quickly and have lots of float in powder.


Rocker snowboards have the same shape as rocker wakeboards. But in this case, the shape makes the board great in powder and for performing jib tricks.

Snowboarders choose rocker snowboards for their surf-like feel and easy turning capabilities. They are popular with beginner riders, but expert riders can enjoy them too.


Snowboards with a camber/rocker profile have excellent edge hold and lots of float. They achieve this with two cambered sections under the feet and tips that curve upwards.

There are many variations of this profile shape. You need to check the characteristics of each board to see how much they vary.


Flat/rocker boards are flat between the feet to give excellent edge hold. The tips are raised so you can initiate turns easily in soft snow and powder.

There are also many variations of this type of profile. Therefore, you have to look at the board in detail to see the manufacturer’s intended outcome.

Where Can You Go Snowboarding?

You can snowboard in nearly every ski resort in the world. Some resorts, such as Alta in the U.S, don’t allow snowboarders because they are behind the times.

Ski slopes are graded according to their difficulty and color-coded so people can go to the slopes that suit their ability. Beginner snowboarders start on the easiest green slopes until their skills develop.

Once they get to grips with the basics, they will move on to more challenging blue runs.

If you don’t live near the mountains, you can learn to snowboard in indoor snow centers. These are man-made slopes covered with artificial snow and are perfect for practicing for a snowboarding trip.

Where Can You Go Wakeboarding?

If you want to go wakeboarding behind a boat, you can do it anywhere with open water, as long as it is permitted. You can wakeboard on the sea, on a lake, or even on a river.

A quick Google search will highlight water ski and wakeboard centers near to you. These places will have at least one boat and an instructor.

Wakeboard boats are specially designed to create the perfect wake. They have compartments in their bows that you can fill with water. The extra weight makes the wake larger, so you can make larger jumps.

Alternatively, you can wakeboard at a cable park. These give you lots of time on the water and are much cheaper than using a boat.

Which Is Best For A Thrill?

Both wakeboarding and snowboarding are action sports that get your adrenaline pumping. However, snowboarding has the edge for being the most exciting.

Wakeboarding is tough on your upper body, so you can only hold on to the rope for about fifteen minutes at a time. But snowboarding allows you to ride all day, thanks to ski lifts.

The ski lifts give you access to a wide range of terrain that provides you with lots of possibilities. Riding down a steep face in deep snow is regarded as the ultimate rush for most snowboarders.

Which Is More Dangerous?

When you first fall wakeboarding, you realize how hard water is, especially when you are riding fast. However, injuries are less common for wakeboarders than for snowboarders.

Wakeboarders wear impact vests, which protect your body from the slap of the water. They also act as a floatation device, so drowning is less likely.

One of the dangerous aspects of wakeboarding is the rope. When you spin in the air, you need to coordinate passing the handle around your body.

Getting caught up in the rope can be bad, but a good boat driver will stop in time before anything terrible happens.

There are more dangers involved with snowboarding, both natural and man-made. Snowboarders go much faster than wakeboarders, and when they fall, they land on snow and ice, which are less forgiving than water.

Snowboarders need to wear helmets to protect their heads, but they can also wear additional protection. For example, impact shorts and wrist guards help to prevent common snowboard injuries.

One of the biggest dangers of snowboarding is other people on the slopes. Many accidents are caused by people not paying attention to what is going on around them.

When in the backcountry, snowboarders need to be aware of the avalanche risk. Avalanches are a genuine danger that takes the lives of skiers and snowboarders every year.

Backcountry snowboarders need to have good avalanche awareness to stay out of trouble. They also need to have the appropriate equipment to perform a rescue should someone get buried.

Skiers and snowboarders can book avalanche awareness courses to get themselves educated. They learn how to avoid bad situations and how to use their transceiver, shovel, and probe.

Another natural hazard to snowboarders in the backcountry is tree wells. These form at the base of trees, and if you get too close to them, they suck you in.

Tree wells are very difficult to get out of, especially if you fall in headfirst. The snow builds up around you and gets into your airways, suffocating you.

With all this in mind, snowboarding is more dangerous than wakeboarding. But, you can manage the risk with education and common sense.

Which Is Easier To Learn?

How easy either of the two sports are to learn all depends on the individual. There are many factors that affect how you pick them up.

Learning To Wakeboard

When you learn how to wakeboard, you get tired very quickly; therefore, you only have a short window to pick up the basics. Most novice wakeboarders start by holding onto a bar mounted on the side of the boat rather than the rope.

The bar is more stable than the rope, and you are close to the instructor. Being close to the instructor allows you to hear what they have to say, so you can follow instructions.

If you do precisely what the instructor says, you stand a good chance of getting on your feet quickly. Once you can stand up using the bar, you will progress onto the rope behind the boat.

From this point, you experiment with turning across the wake, which most people are successful at very quickly. These turns are the basis of all the tricks you progress onto after a few sessions.

Another factor of learning how to wakeboard is your fitness. The stronger you are, the easier you should find it, as you will struggle with holding on less.

Unfortunately, some people never get on their feet on a wakeboard. Most of the time, this is because they don’t follow what the instructor is telling them.

Learning To Snowboard

Snowboarding is challenging to pick up in the early days. However, once you have mastered the basics, progression is reasonably swift.

The first few days of snowboarding are frustrating and painful. However, when you can link turns in control, it becomes very rewarding.

Before they learn to link turns, snowboarders start with the falling leaf technique. This is when you traverse the slope on one edge in one direction, then go the other way.

The falling leaf technique teaches you how to control your board’s edges. It also gets you used to shifting your weight around.

After you can link turns confidently, you move on to carve turns. Carve turns allow you to ride faster and more cleanly and are the basis of nearly all snowboard tricks.

At this point, you can ride pretty much anywhere on the mountain. This means you can leave the confines of the groomed slopes and go powder hunting.

Do They Get You Fit?

Wakeboarding and snowboarding are very physical sports. As a beginner at either of them, you will work very hard.

Wakeboarding is tough on your arms, shoulders, back, and core. These will all ache the day after a wakeboard session.

By wakeboarding regularly, you will become very strong in your upper body. This extra strength will make your wakeboarding easier, allowing you to push yourself harder.

Snowboarding works your legs and core the whole time you ride. As a beginner, you will get a good upper body workout from pushing yourself off the snow.

As you get better at snowboarding, your improved technique makes your riding more efficient. Therefore, you don’t tire as quickly unless you constantly challenge yourself.

Often, snowboarders will hike into the backcountry to find untouched powder. Hiking in deep snow is very tiring and requires lots of fitness.

You also need a good fitness level to go splitboarding. Splitboarding can involve several hours of hiking up a mountain for a short but rewarding ride back down.

To be good at either sport, you need to work on your fitness, rather than do them to get fit. By developing strong leg and core muscles, you will find both sports more fun, more manageable, and rewarding.

Your sporting history will have an effect on how you pick up wakeboarding or snowboarding. For example, if you are a surfer or skateboarder, you will find learning them easier.

On the other hand, if you don’t do any sport, or do sports such as football or tennis, you may find learning more challenging.

Final Thoughts

Wakeboarding and snowboarding have their similarities but are very different sports. Things like techniques, the stance, and jargon are common to both sports, but this is where the similarities end.

Just because you are an excellent snowboarder, it doesn’t mean you will pick up wakeboarding instantly. This is the same for wakeboarders trying out snowboarding.

But this doesn’t mean that you can’t have fun doing both. Many snowboarders wakeboard in the summer, so why not give it a try?

Images from Pixabay

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Peter Salisbury

Peter Salisbury

Pete is the Owner of KayakHelp.com. Born and raised in Cleveland, Ohio, he grew up kayaking, fishing, sailing, and partaking in outdoor adventures around the Great Lakes. When he’s not out on the water, you can find him skiing in the mountains, reading his favorite books, and spending time with his family.

Welcome! I’m so glad you are here :-) I’m Pete. I am the owner of KayakHelp.com. I was born and raised in Cleveland, Ohio, I grew up kayaking, fishing, sailing, and partaking in outdoor adventures around the Great Lakes. When I am not out on the water, you can find me skiing in the mountains, reading my favorite books, and spending time with my family.