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IN THE KNOW

Wakeboards For Dummies e realize that specialized ski boats command the wakeboarding industry. Names such as Air Nautique, Mastercraft, Malibu, and even Yamaha dominate the sport with boats touting swimmer-safe V-drive propulsion, onboard ballast systems for larger wakes, and advanced hull designs to create a more ideal wake shape – not to mention trick sound systems that rival some outdoor concert venues. Personal watercraft often are at the receiving end of wakeboarder criticism and jest, but are rarely given a chance to prove themselves in practice. With the advent of wakesports-specific watercraft (such as Sea-Doo’s WAKE Edition) and fistfuls of horsepower, PWC have consistently proved themselves as great platforms for the weekend wakeboarder. Even without a ballast system, the added weight of a spotter sitting atop the back seat of a standard three-seater PWC can generate a steeper wake, while trim systems and easily installed ski poles make towing a wakeboarder all that much easier. The maneuverability and economical nature of personal watercraft undeniably make them the everyman’s alternative to the costly full-sized ski boat. All grievances aside, wakeboarding is great fun – regardless of what’s pulling you. In fact, we here at Personal Watercraft Illustrated try our best to sneak in a quick wakeboarding session as often as possible between deadlines. While no one here may be the next Shaun Murray, we love catching up on our skills behind the wake of whichever watercraft we can get our hands on. Further, our enthusiasm for wakeboarding got us wondering what goes into the design, production and components of wakeboards. To get down to the nitty-gritty on wakeboard design, production and function, we contacted Jon Cottons from CWB Wakeboards’ engineering department for answers. Jon graciously guided us from conception to finish, with CWB’s “Absolute” and “Absolute Platinum” wakeboards.

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CWB Gives us the Cheat Sheet for Wakeboarding 101 TEXT BY JUSTIN STANNARD PHOTOS COURTESY OF JON COTTONS

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CWB

Prototyping Many versions of boards start as hand-built prototypes for CWB team riders to try, and are based mainly on the lessons learned from past models. The mastermind behind every board design is CWB’s Doug Cannon, who personally attends each team ride to tweak the prototypes where needed. They are hand-sanded and tweaked during the trial process until the team riders find the shape, bevels and rocker that they like. Next, the selected designs and specific details are entered into a computer and a drawing is created, with the help of Jon, to be sent to the highly experienced toolmakers.

Tooling Once the drawings are in hand, they are used to create a plug with the exact dimensions of the approved wakeboard. The precise tooling is created by compressing several layers of aluminum together, then cutting a proper-sized cavity from the sandwiched aluminum. This cavity is then filled with mud and the plug is compressed in the mud to form a female mold.

Step 1: Core

STEP 1 18 PERSONAL WATERCRAFT ILLUSTRATED • AUGUST 2008

A two-part foam is mixed while being injected into a mold. Next, the foam-filled mold is held under pressure and heat for a short period of time until the foam has cured completely. The mold is then opened and the hardened core is handed off to the glass room for wrapping.

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STEP 2

Steps 4-6: Finishing A freshly molded wakeboard requires a precisely executed finishing process before it can be ridden by the consumer.

Step 2: Wrapping Once the core is in the glass room, a special wrap is applied. The wrap consists of precut fiberglass and carbon layers, which add strength and structural integrity while still providing flexibility. These fiber layers are stapled to the core to keep them in place. Then the entire wrap is ready to be molded.

STEP 3

STEP 4 First, the rough flashing is removed from the board’s edges using a band saw.

STEP 5 Then, it is routed to remove what the band saw left behind and further smooth the surface.

Step 3: Molding Simply put, molding is a process of applying resin, heat and pressure to the wrap. First, the wrap is coated with a two-part resin to seal the board and bond it with the fiberglass and carbon-fiber layers. Next, it is placed in a preheated mold between two layers of material embedded with CWB’s current graphics, where it is held under pressure to “kick” (cure) the resin. Once the resin has kicked, the board is removed and is readied for finishing.

STEP 6 Finally, every board is hand-tuned to make sure the edges are smooth, symmetrical and ready for the rider to use.

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IN THE KNOW

Rocker The rocker is a wakeboard’s curve from front to back. The two most common types are continuous and three-stage. A continuous rocker carries the same curve from nose to tail. Three-stage rockers have two independent bends at either end – much like a snowboard or skateboard – although usually not as drastic. The more curved the board, the more rocker it is said to have. A board with less rocker will provide much more control and a faster ride, while more rocker makes the board feel more loose and gives the rider more “pop” on jumps.

Fins The fins help keep the board tracking straight in the water and are one of the most highly customizable aspects of a wakeboard. Fin configuration can transform a board from feeling slippery and free to feeling stable and planted. Molded fins help keep the board tracking straight, but still give it a slippery feel and force the rider to utilize the edges of the board when carving. Most boards also offer removable center fins (and outer fins, in some cases), which greatly increase the stability of the board for beginners and helps keep an edge during hard turns. The ability to add or remove fins between sessions enables the rider to potentially progress from beginner to advanced, or the ability to ride in almost any condition on the same board.

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Channels If you were to turn the board over, you’d notice channels running from tip to tail. The design of these channels – if present at all – are the unique signature of the brand’s wakeboard shaper, and are rarely the exact same between brands and models. Acting much like long fins, each channel performs a completely separate function, and can work to determine the overall nature of the board. Pros tend to prefer shallow channels, because they offer a slick feel and good release for tricks; deeper channels make the board track straighter and are great for beginners still learning to proficiently edge.


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IN THE KNOW

Length Factory sizing charts usually dictate which board will work best with a rider’s weight and height. However, sometimes going a bit longer or shorter can make a big difference in handling. For instance, a wakeboard that is just a bit shorter than the recommended length will feel lighter, be more responsive and spin faster, but will sacrifice stability and can make landing air tricks a lot more difficult. Using a longer board can smooth out the rough edges and make for clean, deliberate style, but can be a bit slower and cumbersome to ride.

Width The width of a wakeboard will affect how high it sits in the water while ridden, and thus directly influences how it rides. The width is usually measured at the center, the nose and the tail. A wide-centered board is great for beginners and heavier riders, since they are easier to get up on and are very stable. A wide center not only sits higher, but achieves more “pop” when jumping off a wake, resulting in more air. The width at the nose and tail of the board generally influences how the board turns. Narrow tails and tips allow for more aggressive carving and faster, harder turning. Wider-tipped models provide for easier surface tricks and better release when a rider is throwing spins off of the wake.

Bindings Here’s the tough one. Entire encyclopedias could be written about binding selection, binding installation and their degree angles on the deck. For the sake of the PWI staff’s sanity, we’ll keep it simple here. The bindings are the rider’s connection with the board. Bindings now range from supersimple neoprene styles to complicated tensioning systems that use surgical-steel wire and cost hundreds of dollars, keeping the rider’s ankles and feet firmly planted. Their configuration on the deck is as much trial and error as it is confusing for the beginner wakeboarder. Most beginners prefer to keep their front foot angled outward (toward the direction of travel), with the rear-foot perpendicular to the board. More advanced riders, however, usually keep their binding angles symmetrical – at least nine degrees out for both feet – to make for easier backward riding (known as “fakie”).

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Wakeboards for Dummies  

August 2008 Personal Watercraft Illustrated Tech article outlining the interesting, complicated process of making a CWB wakeboard -- from co...

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