How To Surf Behind A Boat - Green Iguana Surf Camp

How To Surf Behind A Boat

Known as wakesurfing, surfing behind a boat is a super fun experience that every wake, wave, and boating enthusiast needs to try. Whether you’re already an experienced wakeboarder, water skier, or ocean surfer, your set of skills will make light work of wakesurfing.

Even if you’ve never had the pleasure of trimming along the water before, after this wakesurf-centric article is finished with you, you’ll be ready and raring to give it a go and learn tomorrow. 

how to surf behind a boat

Of course, acquiring the right boat and gear is your first big hurdle, but with an endless amount of family fun to be had, the investment is totally worth it. So, without further ado, let’s dive right in and grab that tow rope. 

What Is Wakesurfing?

Wakesurfing can be considered a hybrid of wakeboarding and surfing. Although its official origins are a little unclear, in the last 15 years wakesurfing has surged in popularity to become one of the most popular wake sports in existence. 

Why this monumental rise to the big time you might ask? The leading reason is, of course, it could only be one thing – fun.

Unlike wakeboarding and water skiing which require a rider to be strapped in, keep hold of a tow rope, and hurtle along the water at speeds of up to 30 mph, wakesurfing is all very free and easy. 

Allowing a rider to actually surf the wake without a tow rope, and without straps, wakesurfing is wakeboarding’s fun, younger cousin, and it is here to stay.

However, like any sport, there are things you must have and things you must do to make the best of wakesurfing and shred the waves in a safe and legitimate way. 

Find The Right Boat

There’s no denying that premium surf boats do not come cheap. Brands like Centurion, Supreme, Malibu, and Tige are all ahead of the wakesurf curve with inbuilt ballasts and wake-tuning systems that will get a wake truly signing.

Picking up a surf boat from any one of these high-spec brands will have you surfing the wake in a safe, assured and totally epic manner. 

If buying a premium surf boat isn’t on the cards for you right now, then you can certainly still wakesurf behind an all-around wakeboard boat, and the tips below will help you to do this. 

Bring Friends Along

The trick to getting enough wake from a wakeboard boat is weight. Bringing along your friends and having them sit at the back of the boat will help bring the wake closer.

Extra people-power weight should also add height to the wake, which, in turn, will hopefully give you the push needed to surf the wake. 

External Ballast

Just because your boat doesn’t have a ballast system built into its hull doesn’t mean you can’t wakesurf. There is the option to buy one and sit it down at the end of your boat which will roughly offer the same effect.

Once filled with water and placed down the back of your boat, these heavy-duty plastic sacks will have your wake raised and waiting to be surfed. FatSac is the O.G wakesurf ballast brand so picking one up from them is highly recommended. 

Never Use An Outboard Boat

Wakesurfing requires a rider to surf up close and personal with the back of a boat. This close proximity makes any outboard an extremely dangerous prospect to wakesurf behind. The only two boat types that should be used for wakesurfing are inboard direct-drive and V-drives.

Keeping the boat’s engine and propellers under the hull and well away from riders, these boats are certified safe to keep you and your family safe when surfing the wake. 

Get The Right Gear

how to surf behind a boat

The Board

Unlike wakeboards which are designed to move across the water at high speeds, wakesurf boards are solely designed to surf the wake.

If you’re a beginner, you can’t go past a wakesurf board like the Hyperlite Landlock. The length and width of the Hyperlite coupled with its forgiving rails make it a stable and forgiving ride.

Learning to wakesurf on a short, performance-driven board will equal a less enjoyable learning experience. And at the end of the day, wake surfing is about fun, remember? 

Tow Rope

As we pointed out, in wakesurfing, a rider will be surfing the wake just a couple of meters from the back of the boat. This means to wakesurf you will need a shorter tow rope than you would to wakeboard.

Purpose-built wakesurf ropes are made thick and short, with a heavily-padded handle for comfort’s sake. Some of the best even have knots built into them that help new riders pull themselves into the sweet spot of the wake and find their groove before letting go.

Life Jacket 

Just like wakeboarding, water skiing, and general boat use, wearing a life jacket while wakesurfing is essential. When things go wrong there is a chance, however small, that a wakesurfer could hit their head on the back of the boat and knock themselves out.

A life jacket, therefore, could be the difference between a life and death situation, as the spotter can easily locate you and bring you aboard.

Thankfully, these days, life jackets have ditched the thick foam blocks for slim-fitting designs that don’t hinder performance and maneuverability. Not one bit. 

How To Wakesurf?

Now that the formalities have been ticked off, it’s time to dig the heels in and start surfing. Because wakesurfing requires a lower boat speed and no tow rope (once you’re up and riding), it is less physically demanding than water skiing and wakeboarding.

This makes it the perfect family activity as young and old can learn the skills and join in on the fun. 

Goofy Vs Regular

One thing that every rider must figure out before jumping overboard and grabbing the rope is whether they are goofy or regular-footed.

This is important because it will determine which side of the boat you will surf on. Goofy footers surf with their right foot forward, which means they are best suited to surfing the wake on the starboard side.

With their left foot forward, regular footers will be more comfortable surfing the port side. This is the case because facing the wake on your respective side will be both easier to learn and is more enjoyable. 

One way to find out which side you ride is the age-old “get pushed in the back test”. By getting one of your friends or family members to give you a gentle push in the back, you will naturally put your more dominant foot forward to stop your fall.

This means you will put your right foot out if you’re regular and vice versa for a goofy.

Of course, if you’ve ever surfed, skated, or snowboarded before then you will already know whether you’re goofy or regular. For everyone else, the push-in-the-back test works a treat (most of the time). 

Getting To Your Feet

Getting to your feet is the process of starting in the water and letting the tow rope pull you up and out of the water so that you’re trailing behind the boat. This sounds easy but it can take some getting used to if you’ve never done it before.

The tricky thing about getting to your feet on a wakesurfing board is that you’re not strapped in (unlike wakeboarding).

So you have jumped in the water with your board and found the end of the tow rope, good work. First things first, you will need to grab the rope and face the boat with your backside down below the water.

The next step and the big key to getting up on a wakesurf board is to dig your heels into the side of the board that is underwater. Once the boat starts moving this pressure will allow the boat to pull you up with the nose of the board facing ahead.

One tip is to keep your elbows locked and refrain from bending them to pull yourself up. Let the process naturally happen and just focus on keeping your heels dug in so that you don’t catch an edge and nosedive forward as a result. 

Getting Into the Wake Face

Now that you’re up and trimming, the next step is to pull yourself into the wake face. Thankfully the boat won’t be going very fast so you don’t need arms of steel to do this. Just pull yourself along the rope a little and connect with the wake itself.

Now you should be surfing. Keep hold of the rope while you practice pumping with the wave to gain and keep speed.

Just like ocean waves, the fun in wakesurfing is being able to stay in the pocket of the wave where the energy is. Pumping involves pushing from the bottom of the wave up the face, trimming briefly, then allowing yourself to ride back down the face.

This takes some practice but once you crack the code, you will officially be ready to let go of the tow rope and wakesurf. 

Learning Turns

Once you can do little pumps and keep up with the speed of the wake, the natural progression is learning how to turn. Turning a wakesurf board is a lot like turning a surfboard in the ocean and is essentially just sharper more technical pumps.

In the same way that you would put pressure onto your back foot and inside edge to pump, turning involves putting more pressure onto your edge and leaning into the wave in a more aggressive nature.

A cutback is a basic turn where you would pump ahead of the wave just a little then press on your heel edge rail and lean back to cut back against the forward progression of the wave.

To counteract this maneuver, once you get back to the breaking section of the wave you will need to transfer your weight onto your heel edge and perform a similar turn with a similar amount of power.

This will enable you to find the sweet spot of the wave and stop you from falling off the back of the wake into no man’s land. Learning the cutback will set you up with a good foundation of movement to practice sharper carving turns in the pocket and, eventually, maybe even airs.


Learning how to surf behind a boat can be one of the finest experiences in life. Not only does it allow you to make incredible memories with your family and friends, but it’s also a great sport for bringing you into the present moment and enjoying every second of it. 

Whether you’re looking to take lessons, go out on a friend’s wakeboard boat, or invest in a primed and ready wakesurf boat, we wish you the very best wakesurfing adventures ahead. 

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