Beginner's Guide to Buying Wakeboard Tow Ropes
Wakeboard Tow Rope Design and Characteristics
Choosing the correct Wakeboard Rope can genuinely improve your learning curve while you're getting the hang of the basics, but also dramatically improve your overall performance as you progress. Choosing the wrong one can have the complete opposite effect. Waterski ropes and handles may look the same as wakeboarding ones but the different needs of the Wakeboarder mean that the rope and handle are significantly different.
Unlike water skiing, wakeboarding requires a wide handle and a rope with minimum stretch in order to "load the line" and perform tricks and get the maximum amount of air. Waterskiiers are generally doing everything they can to remain in contact with the water, whereas experienced wakeboarders are normally doing the complete opposite. For this reason, specific wakeboarding ropes and handles have been developed that service these needs.
Wakeboarding ropes are made out of two main materials, low stretch polyethylene (AKA poly) and zero stretch Spectra / Dyneema. Poly ropes provide a small amount of stretch but Spectra / Dyneem ropes do not stretch at all. In short, zero stretch ropes allow all of the power from the boat to be translated into momentum, which is highly desirable for serious boat wakeboarding.
However, not all of the characteristics of a zero stretch rope are desirable when you are a beginner. For a start, zero stretch ropes take no prisoners and a slightly stretchy poly rope will be much more forgiving when you get the dreaded wobbles or allow any slack to develop in the line. Poly ropes also take a little bit of the edge off the power running through the handle, which is very desirable during the early deep water starts and on practise landings. Zero stretch wake ropes are also expensive though and until you can truly benefit from the advantages they provide there really isn't a great deal of justification. Most intermediate to advanced wakeboarders will opt for zero stretch rope if given the choice, but even a beginner will notice the difference between a low stretch rope and a zero stretch rope.
To summarise, a really good boat wakeboarder who performs a variety of tricks with confidence (and success) can benefit from zero stretch rope. The rest of us will get on just fine with a good poly rope. Like golf clubs, spending more does not necessarily make you a better player and can often achieve the complete opposite effect!
The majority of Wakeboarding Tow Ropes are between 60 to 70 feet long but with sections along the first 20 feet or so of the rope to vary its length (known as take-offs). Rope length is a matter of personal preference but beginners usually prefer shorter ropes as the boat's wake is narrower and less choppy the closer to the boat you are. Experienced wakeboarders generally prefer longer ropes (up to 85' in some cases) as they can generate more momentum and therefore perform a wider variety of airborne tricks.
Wakeboarding Handles are 13-15 inches wide as opposed to Waterski handles which are 11-12 inches wide. The reason for this is quite simple - a wider handles make it easier to perform tricks that require the handle to be passed behind the rider's back! In the same way that stretch in wakeboard ropes is not desirable, the same is true of flex in the handle itself. The more you spend on a wakeboard handle the less it will flex, which results in more power and a better feel. Basic handles are generally made from steel or strong nylon, mid range handles from hard machined EVA, and elite handles from zero flex lightweight materials such as extruded T6-6061 aluminium.
We hope you found this article useful but if you have a question that is not covered here or you just need some advice then please do get in touch and one of our friendly and knowledgeable staff will gladly assist you.