It is difficult to consider wakesurfing a towed water sport. The average wakesurfer will use the surf rope for less than thirty seconds simply as a means of getting on plane while waiting for the boat to attain speed and the wave to take form. Once riding the wave, the wakesurf rope is then casually tossed over the whitewash, coiled and dropped on the platform, or handed off to an observer on the boat until the rider falls. Due to perceived minimal use, most boat owners purchase the cheapest model available and dismiss the rope and handle as inconsequential equipment. However, a high-quality wakesurf rope can be one of the most vital tools in helping all levels of wakesurfers progress their riding. The surf rope is initially used as a leverage point for balance and a recovery line for falling back too far but a well-designed wakesurf rope may also be used to teach tricks like airs, floaters, ollies, snaps, shuvits, and even transfers. The sections below discuss the particular components of a high-quality wakesurf rope and why each are essential to advancing your wakesurfing skills.
Varying attachment points allow customization of rope length without having to tie additional knots or loops in the surf rope. These sections can vary from three to eight feet in length and are typically removable accommodating for shorter waves. Wakesurfers of various abilities or working on different tricks will want to use certain portions of the wave making varying attachment points ideal for training.
A high-quality wakesurf rope - especially the handle - should float. A wakesurfer can easily locate a floating rope and handle thus shortening time spent picking up a rider. Floatation and visibility on the surface also help prevent entanglement with the boat propeller. Wakesurf rope manufacturers use a variety of methods to accomplish floatation from affixed EVA (Ethylene Vinyl Acetate) foam floats to manufacturing the rope with a floatable EVA core. Floatation aids should be readily visible or listed on the packaging.
A high-quality surf rope will offer numerous points for grip preceding the handle allowing a rider to precisely pick their distance from the boat platform. Wakesurf rope manufacturers will typically offer either a spiral rope braided section extending forward of the handle by a few feet or several three inch diameter grab knots located on the latter half of the rope. Comfort levels may vary depending on the size of braids or knots in contrast to individual hand size. Try holding the rope at various sections to feel if the grip points are a proper fit for you.
Wakesurf handles can vary in size from eight to ten inches. A longer handle length will accommodate using two hands for popping-up without cramping the knuckles. The grip is typically wrapped in imitation or synthetic leather with varying stitch patterns. The internal handle is typically constructed of an aluminum tube - durable and lightweight - then covered by molded PVC (Polyvinyl chloride) end caps (or cups) to prevent the aluminum from impacting the gelcoat.
There are three main styles of wakesurf handles available:
1) No-Handle - Some wakesurf rope manufacturers offer ropes with strictly large grab knots but no handle. The concept of No-Handle surf ropes is to prevent limbs from becoming entangled in the handle. Larger grab knots will ease some of the required grip strength for popping-up but this can be a difficult rope to use when first learning to wakesurf.
2) T-Handle - This handle is simply an aluminum tube covered with grip then attached to the wakesurf rope at the center of the tube (forming a “T”). The concept of this design is to avoid limb entanglement while still providing an easy-to-grip handle. The T-handle leverage point is centered in the handle allowing it to cant left or right, which can be difficult for some beginners when first learning to wakesurf.
3) Triangle Handle - The Triangle Handle uses an aluminum tube wrapped with grip affixed to the rope via Y-style connection at the outer edges of the handle providing a very stable pull. This handle design is the easiest for use popping-up especially with beginner wakesurfers. However, it does have the potential to become entangled with a limb should someone improperly place their arm through the triangle portion.
The wakesurf rope and handle should be fairly lightweight when wet. Avoid purchasing ropes with highly porous floats as they become heavy once saturated.
Many beginner to intermediate wakesurfers lack the ability to comfortably ride the entire wave. They typically concentrate on wakesurfing just a few feet behind the boat platform but miss out on surfing in the pocket (also called the curl). By using a wakesurf rope as long as your wave, this turns the rope into a training tool for riding the back half of the wave. And by lengthening the rope beyond the curl, a wakesurfer can learn how to pump back into the wave without repeatedly having the boat turn around. Surf ropes twenty-five feet or longer will typically accommodate all surf boat waves.
Wakesurf ropes can be constructed from polyethylene or polypropylene. The materials are fairly similar in regard to physical properties but for the sake of chemistry, here are the differentiations:
Polyethylene will withstand colder temperatures but hardly anyone is wakesurfing in a dry suit. Polyethylene is considered a more sturdy material and also a good insulator just in case you decide to test it in a lightning storm.
Polypropylene has a high resistance to cracking, acids, and organic solvents and is also considered the lighter material. Polypropylene is also considered a more durable, non-stretching material.
Packaging may sometimes list these materials as Poly-E or Poly-P but either material is quite adequate for wakesurfing use.
Bungee line is an option on many high-end wakesurf ropes that reduces the load on the body when initially popping-up by replacing a short section of the rope with a very dense bundle of rubber twines. While under load, the rubber stretches easing the load placed on the upper body of the wakesurfer especially if accidentally yanked when falling back too far on the wave.
Choosing a wakesurf rope and handle is not rocket science but selecting one with the key features listed above will help better utilize your purchase for additional skill development behind the boat while making wakesurfing more enjoyable for everyone. The feature image for this article is a Proline LGS2 surf rope and handle with bungee, which has been our personal wakesurf rope and handle selection for the past two years. Enjoy your time on the water and be safe!