Freshwater Surfing

Oklahomans ride the wakes at Lake Skiatook.

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Photo by Marc Rains.

Photo by Marc Rains.

Summertime in Oklahoma means the lakes are filled with people casting a line, zipping by on jet skis and bobbing around on inner tubes. Now another warm-weather activity is emerging – one that may initially seem more at home on saltier waters.

“Wakesurfing is basically using a surfboard similar to those used in the ocean but a little smaller,” says Craig Warnock, an avid wakesurfer. “You’re not being pulled by the boat like wakeboarding but riding the wave once you get pulled up. Wakesurfing gives you more of a free feeling.”

As a slower-paced alternative to wakeboarding, wakesurfing is gaining traction with lake-goers who want to be active without the physical wear and tear.

“My body wouldn’t allow me to wakeboard anymore,” Warnock explains. “I had a friend who introduced me to wakesurfing, which was a lot easier on my body and a lot more fun. With wakeboarding, you are traveling at speeds from 20 to 23 miles per hour and wakesurfing, depending on the boat, you are traveling 9 to 11 miles per hour. [You] don’t take the falls like you do in wakeboarding.”

Wakesurfing is also easier to learn, making it appealing to people of all ages and skill levels.

“It doesn’t take too long to get up, but it takes longer to find the sweet spot to be able to stay behind the boat without the rope,” he says. “It really depends on the individual, but it’s not nearly as hard as you would think to pick up.  My 7 year old picked it up in one summer. By the end of summer, she was surfing better than most without the rope. I have my 74-year-old father surfing as well. It took him a few times, and by summer’s end, he was throwing the rope.”

The wakesurfing community is developing at Lake Skiatook through a group of pioneering families who fell in love with the pastime.

“We have a few excellent families that promote the sport with their children,” Warnock says. “They are able to promote the sport due to their passion, which enables them to teach the sport to new riders. We have a lot of people drive beside us just to watch my daughters ride, so there is definitely a curiosity.”

To get started, riders will need a surfboard that is suited to their body size and a boat equipped with a surf system. This summer, Warnock and the team at Cross Timbers Marina are offering Demo Days so people can test out boats and try wakesurfing. There will also be a nationwide event on July 24 called Pass the Handle where new people can give it a go.

“Wakesurfing is a great family sport and a fabulous way for everyone to bond,” says Warnock. “It helps keep the kids off of their electronic devices as well as them getting exercise. It teaches them about getting out and learning to respect one of Mother Nature’s greatest gifts to us. Also, it’s a fun way to meet new families and make friends on the water. Wakesurfing is making waterskiing and wakeboarding a thing of the past with its fast growing popularity.”

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