Preface: there is not a perfect board in existence which bests all other wakesurf boards. There are no incantations which will mystically cause the 360 to happen every time. There is absolutely no enchanted skimboard with an anti-wipeout hex. Let us dispense with pleasantries and dispel all pretenses pertaining to ghouls, goblins, ghosts, witchcraft, and magical wakesurf boards named Excalibur... Seriously, Phase 5 doesn't have a single board named Excalibur. Committing to a particular wakesurf board is similar to picking a favorite flavor of ice cream; you know it when you find it. But what about the indecisive individuals? The intent of this article is to help discern the differences between these four popular wakesurf board models, and ultimately, give some guidance in choosing which board is the best selection for your personal riding preferences.
**Notation - The Phase 5 Hammerhead has been excluded from this comparison because of the newer sidecut radius or peanut-shaped rail. There is no inherent or intended bias against the Hammerhead - we are actually quite keen on its performance and have recommended the board to several of our students - but we felt it is too dissimilar to warrant inclusion in this particular comparison.**
Prior to inhaling massive amounts of numerical data from various board measurement spreadsheets - we will cover that material later - let us talk about the pro wakesurfers who developed these boards. Understanding their background and riding style provides insight on why each Phase 5 model is manufactured in a slightly different way.
Phase 5 MVP | John Akerman | Come Out Swinging
The MVP (Most Valuable Player) belongs to none other than 2018 Wakesurfing World Champion, John Akerman. Akerman is a thoroughbred water sports athlete extremely proficient at all forms of board sports including foil boarding, ocean skimboarding, ocean surfing, skateboarding, as well as wakesurfing. His skimboarding and surfing roots served as a training ground for developing agility and speed due to the sometimes erratic and irregular conditions of the ocean. Akerman wakesurfs with unbridled power while still maintaining the precision of a seasoned artist's brush stroke on a fine work of art.
Akerman's aggressive riding technique requires a board design able to match his intensity level. The MVP is equipped with a full deck EVA (Ethylene Vinyl Acetate) pad covering the top tip-to-tail with traction while providing versatility by placing kicktails at both ends of the board. The MVP is the only board in the Phase 5 lineup with grab rail channels wrapping the outer edge of the board. This unique rail design provides a more robust area at the board edges for performing grabs during aerial tricks. The grab rail also distributes additional mass at the board circumference affecting angular momentum around the Y-axis... In essence, it came as no surprise when Akerman landed the first and only 720 shuvit on his newly redesigned MVP wakeskim board in Spring of 2020.
If you haven't figured it out, we are huge fans of Akerman's explosive riding style. The MVP will accommodate any skill level but it is most hungry for hard hitting, high energy, shuvit veterans. All wakesurfers sharing genetic lineage with Tasmanian Devils, individuals with experience dancing on lightning, or those with similar thrill seeking aptitudes are encouraged to apply.
Phase 5 Key | Sean Silveira | Technical Trick Surgeon
The Key is an innovation of three-time consecutive Pro Wakesurf Tour Champion, Sean Silveira. Silveira is no stranger to competitive board sport podiums having been the six-time Flowboarding World Champion before transitioning to wakesurfing in 2017. Silveira grew up skateboarding vert at Vans Skatepark then later transitioned to Flowboarding due to sustained injuries. Flowboarding provided Silveira an avenue to continue skateboarding based tricks without the impediment of kissing the concrete.
Silveira completed his first competitive wakesurfing season in 2017 before joining the Phase 5 Team. He then rode the Phase 5 Matrix to numerous podiums in the CWSA and Pro Wakesurf Tour during the 2018 and 2019 competitive seasons. Silveira's wakesurfing became renowned for linking a barrage of rapid-fire technical combinations in both regular and switch stance like someone playing for high score on Tony Hawk's Pro Skater. The Key was designed to spin like a waterspout - it is shorter than the Matrix with wider nose and tail sections allowing it to rotate faster without sacrificing surface area or volume. The snubbed board ends quickly release from the wave face smoothing transitions between combination tricks. The result is a handcrafted hotrod down the line with ample pop and a high-speed spin cycle setting.
The Key lives up to its name because the design was truly instrumental in releasing Silveira's full potential on a wakesurf board. This board is the perfect accessory for any skill level rider but especially caters to finless fanatics, those confused about which stance they prefer forward, or just anyone who simply enjoys chasing their own tail... And if you actually have a tail, we would like to hear more.
Phase 5 Matrix | Parker Payne | Setting the Standard
The Matrix has appeared on more podiums in all divisions of competitive wakesurfing than any other wakeskim board in existence. This board is the O.G. of modern competitive wakesurfing. Pro riders like John Akerman, Sean Silveira, and Parker Payne all began their competitive careers with the Matrix, and many of the talented up-and-coming Amateur and Outlaw wakesurfers are following in those footsteps.
The Matrix includes all the necessities any competitive wakesurfer could desire from their wakeskim board. The Matrix is full epoxy construction and utilizes the lightest glassing technology making it the lowest weight board in the Phase 5 lineup. The carbon fiber stringer in combination with a continuous core helps generate excellent pop from the wave lip. The thinner core provides better board feedback helping the rider feel more connected to the wave face. The symmetrical pintail layout is quite nimble transitioning from rail to rail and the board is extremely fast down the line of the wave.
This is not a China stamped board available at the local Costco. The Key and MVP draw genetic lineage from the Matrix design. The Matrix is the weapon of choice for Parker Payne who is well known for his calm demeanor and precision trick execution. It even has a cool name... does it really need any more of a sales pitch? The Matrix is the board for any skill level rider seeking a reliable and tested building block to take their skim style riding, from start-to-finish, to the pro level.
"Unfortunately, no one can be told what the Matrix is... you have to see it for yourself." (Morpheus 2003)
Phase 5 Diamond Turbo | Drew Danielo | Go Big or Go Home
The Diamond Turbo is but one of many creations from the mad scientist mind of seven-time Wakesurfing World Champion, Drew Danielo. Danielo's face will hopefully never end up on a milk carton but after seven world championship titles, his face should be on a box of Wheaties.
Danielo arguably has one of the highest wakeskim airs on the planet and his board is an important factor. The Diamond Turbo is designed with a larger tail footprint which increases volume beneath the rear foot while simultaneously requiring less front foot pressure to accelerate down the wave. The result generates an enormous amount of pop off the wave lip with minimal effort. Despite this larger semi-hexagonal tail shape, the board is highly dynamic and capable of pro level shuvit based tricks. If in doubt, don't forget to count... 1... 2... 3... 4... 5... 6... 7 wakesurfing world championship titles.
The Diamond Turbo is the only pro level wakeskim board with a tri-fin configuration which allows the user to supplement numerous fin arrangements. The ability to adapt fin setup for varying rider capabilities is invaluable from a professional coaching perspective and makes it an indispensable asset for any boat where multiple wakesurfers share a single board. Danielo is part of a small niche of professional riders still using a fin for wakeskim, thus he would absolutely strangle this author for enlisting the Diamond Turbo as one of the easiest wakesurf boards to learn finless riding.
Regardless of your perfect fin orientation (or lack thereof), the ingenuity and versatility of the Diamond Turbo is absolutely brilliant… our hats are off to you, Mr. Danielo.
Phase 5 Board Technologies | Declassified
Phase 5 includes Construction Features for each wakesurf board model in the lineup. The information can be quite useful for a professional board shaper but slightly confusing for the average consumer. This section is specifically written to demystify some of the materials Phase 5 uses to construct these weapons of wave destruction. Technology geeks, science buffs, and pocket protector wearers, this section has your fix.
**Notation - To those who nod off easily or just want to know what size board to order, we take no offense. Jump ahead to the next section so we can help get you en route to the lake.**
The first step in constructing a quality wakesurf board begins with high grade building materials. The following terms provide a brief description of each material and how it is implemented in Phase 5 board construction.
Black Carbon - Black Carbon (or Carbon Fiber) is composed of bonded carbon atoms formed together to create a highly strong, lightweight, and chemically resistant material. Carbon Fiber is popular in aerospace, automotive, engineering, and various sporting industries. Carbon Fiber is the stiffest glass offered from Phase 5 and is primarily used in the construction of premium model wakeskim boards.
Epoxy - Epoxy resin offers increased strength and stiffness over Polyester especially when combined with Carbon Fiber but can be prone to some yellowing discoloration from extended UV exposure.
Flexspine™ Carbon Stringer - Stringers were originally composed of thin wood inserts placed in the foam core of surfboards to increase the rigidity from nose to tail. The Flexspine™ Carbon Stringer is a lighter weight strip of carbon fibers inlayed from tip-to-tail for enhancing overall performance and stiffness of Phase 5 boards.
GatorSkin™ Glass - GatorSkin™ Glass is a woven combination of Carbon and Aramid Fibers. Aramid Fibers are a class of heat resistant and strong synthetic fibers used in the aerospace industry. Aramid is also used in military applications such as a ballistic-rated armor fabric, which would have made great underwear for Ironman. GatorSkin™ Glass is the strongest material Phase 5 uses producing an extremely durable, fast, lightweight, and stiff wakesurf board.
Polyester - Polyester resin has been employed in the manufacture of ocean surfing boards since the 1950s and is the most widely used resin in the composite industry. Polyester resin provides quality, strength, and durability.
Pro-Formance XL™ Glass - Pro-Formance XL™ Glass is a specific combination of extremely lightweight and durable board construction glassing technologies exclusive to the Matrix. This is why the Matrix is the lowest weight board in the Phase 5 lineup.
Ridge Grip™ Rail Channels - The Ridge Grip™ Rail Channels are an enhanced rail design at the board circumference providing an ergonomic grasp region for aerial grabs. Ridge Grip™ Rail Channels are exclusive to the Phase 5 MVP.
Techno Grip™ Traction V2 - Medium density EVA pads with horizontally grooved channels and dimple dots for maximized foot traction. The Techno Grip™ Traction V2 is thinner than V1 allowing increased board responsiveness and sensitivity.
V.R.T.™ Technology - Vacuum Ribbed Technology produces a parabolic stringer effect using a refined vacuum assisted hand lamination process with built in glass/bar stringers on the bottom edge of the board. This creates extra strength at the rail edge with minimal weight making the wakesurf board flexible, highly responsive, and loaded with pop (the catching air/non-soda brand of pop for the Midwesterners reading this).
Continuous Core - Continuous Core is the same foam thickness from nose to tail of the board. This will increase volume and add float on 3/4" boards. All 5/8" boards are continuous core for best performance.
5/8" - The thinner 5/8" foam construction is always continuous core. A thinner foam continuous core means the wakeskim board has less float but increased pop and sensitivity, and is more responsive.
3/4" - A thicker foam core means the wakesurf board has more float but is less responsive. The 3/4" foam is offered as continuous core or tapered.
PolyLam™ Gloss - PolyLam gloss provides a very clean and attractive looking board with a glassy smooth finish and is featured on premium performance Phase 5 skim style boards.
PROPEL™ Bottomsheet - The PROPEL™ Bottomsheet is a proprietary material used to create digital graphic inlays, which basically means the bottom of all Phase 5 boards are going to look really pretty and the rest is on a "need to know" basis.
Textured - The textured finish is used on select premium models to decrease weight and increase wakesurf board performance by providing a little extra traction beyond the EVA pad edge.
Phase 5 Board Specs | Choose Wisely
Just some basic physics without the hassle of mathematics. Only three steps left...
Pick your favorite board
Select the size appropriate to your height and weight
Go shred on your new Phase 5 wakesurf board