While a life jacket is extremely important when you are on the water, choosing one doesn’t need to be difficult. Fitting your life jacket is actually pretty straightforward, and manufacturers provide a good amount of guidance about how to choose your vest.
The first thing to consider is if you want a Coast Guard approved vest or a competition/impact jacket. Competition vests are not Coast Guard approved, and are not designed with the same life saving standards as CGA vests. They are lightweight, comfortable and flexible, and are recommended for use by people with extensive watersports experience. If you are looking for a life-saving vest, make sure you are looking at CGA vests. They are easy to identify, as they are labeled with a fairly large safety booklet.
Next, most vests are made of either nylon or neoprene. Nylon vests are very affordable and are great for recreational boaters. Watersports enthusiasts may opt for softer, more form-fitting neoprene vests.
Sizing your vest is the most critical part of your purchase. A properly fitted life jacket will keep your head above the water, and can possibly save your life. If your vest is too big, it will ride up around your face. If it is too small, it will not be able to keep your body afloat. Children’s vests are sized by weight range and adult vests are by chest size. Make sure that your vest fits properly. If your vest has a zipper, pull the sides of the vest together. If the zipper overlaps easily, it is too big. You want the sides to just barely meet, but still zip up easily. To test the fit of your child’s life jacket, have your child hold their arms straight up over their head, grab the life jacket by the shoulders, and gently pull up. Make sure there isn’t excess room above the openings. and make sure the life jacket doesn’t ride up over their chin, ears, or face. If it doesn’t ride up, then it is properly fitted. Make sure your vest is properly fastened.
The USCG guideline is that children under 13 years old must wear a life jacket unless they are below deck or in an enclosed cabin, when a vessel is underway. However, states differ with regard to life jacket laws, so make sure you check the laws that apply to you.
Remember it is always important that you wear a vest, no matter how old you are, or what water sports activity you are involved in. Note also that you cannot operate a PWC while wearing a NCGA vest, and that if you wear one during watersports, you still must have a CGA vest onboard the boat.
At Sun Sports+, we carry vests from several manufacturers and not all brands fit exactly the same way. We are happy to help you find the vest that works best for you. Stop in, put a few vests on and have our staff help you get your true fit anytime.
Have fun and be safe on the water!
Ropes for wakeboarding and waterskiing are not the same. Ski ropes have some stretch to allow skiers to more comfortably carve through their turns; wakeboard ropes have virtually no stretch, maximizing riders’ pop during tricks. If you are in the market for a wakeboard rope, here are a few things to think about.
Material – Wakeboard ropes are typically made with a few different materials. Poly E ropes are great for beginner riders. They have a small amount of stretch, making them more forgiving when cutting through the wake. They are also less expensive than some other ropes. The downside to Poly E ropes is that their stretch will not be desirable as a rider’s abilities progress. A rider looking for a more taut rope should consider a Dyneema rope. Dyneema ropes are exceptionally strong and lightweight, and have no stretch.
Length – Wake ropes range in length, typically falling between 55 and 80 feet long. They are often adjustable, so you can easily change the length for different riders or abilities. Shorter ropes put riders in the narrower part of the wake and are good for newer riders. Longer ropes allow riders to get more speed and to spend more time in the air, in the wider part of the wake.
Handles – There are several choices for wake handles as well. EVA foam, aluminum and carbon fiber are the typical materials used for handles. Grips can be rubber or chamois and may be textured. Lighter, stronger handles are going to be the most expensive. Wake handles are wider than ski handles, making it easier to pass the rope during tricks. Note that wake handles come in different diameters. Make sure you can comfortably grip the handle and that it isn’t too big or small for your hand.
Your ocean surfing experiences may have left you with memories of sore arms from paddling, a bruised ego from falling, and a lasting distaste for saltwater. If that sounds familiar, you may be a bit sceptical about wakesurfing, which is, basically, surfing in the wake behind your boat. But before you write off wakesurfing forever, consider this. Once you get the hang of it, you can surf on a consistent, never-ending wave, without paddling, without waiting on tides, right on your local lake. You don’t have to worry about the choppy water on a busy or windy day, because you are surfing right behind the boat, on the wake. If that sounds good to you, a wakesurfing board could be in your future. Here is what you need to know to choose the right surfer.
Size – Wakesurf boards come in different sizes, and the right size for you depends on your skill level and surfing style. If you are a beginner, or a bigger rider, you will want a bigger surfer, with more surface area and float. The surfer will move a bit slower through the water, but will allow for a more consistent ride. A smaller surfer will be more maneuverable and faster, and will also work well for a smaller rider.
Shape – There are two basic shapes of surfers – surf and skim style. Surf style boards are usually larger and thicker than skim boards. They look more like a surf shortboard, and give the rider a bit more stability. The thicker profile will make the board turn more gradually. They usually have more fin options as well (see Surf Fins: How to Choose for more info on fins). Skim style boards are smaller, thinner, and are designed to be fast, responsive, and maneuverable.
Rocker – A flat, low rocker board will move more quickly and smoothly on the wake, while a board with more rocker will move a bit more slowly but will give more pop off the wake. You should think about the type of riding you will do when choosing a rocker style.
Ropes and Handles – You will only need a rope and handle to get you up and out of the water, so you will want something a bit different for surfing than for wakeboarding. Wakesurfing ropes are shorter and thicker, so that you can pull yourself forward into the wake comfortably and then throw the rope back to the boat.
Boat – Since you want to be close to the boat and right in the wake, only use an inboard boat when you are wakesurfing, so you don’t risk being close to the prop. Speeds for surfing are nice and slow – about 10 MPH – making a pleasant ride for both the surfer and boat passengers. Depending on your boat, you may need to add some weight, or ballast, to get the perfect wake. Ballast bags and wake shaping tools are available to help with that.
Ready to give it a try? Stop in at Sun Sports+ and let us help you find the perfect wakesurfing setup for you and your family!
Surf sessions are every Tuesday and Thursday during the summer from 6-8pm. These nights are a great way to demo equipment and have a ton of fun! Learn to surf, improve your skills, try out the latest gear – all behind our brand new boat! Space is limited! Book your spot here or call 207/693-3867 to make a same day reservation.
The Wake Wizard Junior sees a new ski in your future! Come down to Sun Sports+ and check out HO’s Omni ski, or their new Hovercraft!
Hovercraft – With a surface area comparable to two skis combined, the Hovercraft provides get-ups easier than on a wakeboard and once up, it rips turns like a surfboard! It’s a great choice for beginners all the way to experts who want fun surf-inspired open water ski sessions. Great control and better balance in a low effort waterski that works great at low speeds. The days of tug-of-war deep water starts are over, as the Hovercraft lifts skiers out of the water like they’ve been given a helium injection. Widetrack Frame: Extra stable platform for easy deep water starts. The fuller ski outline means clear directional getups…less wobble & less spray in the face! More surface area also allows for smoother getups at slower speeds!
Omni – The All-Over Ski
A resounding improvement on crossover skis, the OMNI is optimized for the skier who needs one ski to do everything. Developed for high versatility, the OMNI marries high performance skiing with the efficiency essential for open water skiing. The Omni’s Flex-Frame provides increased torsional flex for the maneuverable feel of a traditional ski with the added speed & stability of a wideride ski. This allows the ski to twist creating tighter turns while added width provides the stable platform skiers need. The Omni was designed with a Hybrid Waist Width, halfway between those typically found in traditional skis and those in wideride skis. This provides for smooth instinctive turns at a wide range of speeds. Clean Edge Technology.
We love our Sun Sports+ customers! That’s why we started our new Loyalty Program. Earn points with every purchase, and get 50 free points just for signing up. Go here now and get started!
Wakeboards come in a variety of sizes, and it is important that you have a board that is large enough for you. Manufacturers will give you size charts to get a sense of what length is good for you, but here is some advice to help you fine tune sizing.
First of all, if you are sharing a board, it is important to buy a board to fit the biggest rider in the group. Riding on a board that is too small is an exercise in frustration for a wakeboarder, while a smaller rider can generally enjoy a ride on a bigger board.
In general, shorter boards are easier to spin and maneuver in the air. However, they are slower and take more energy to push through the water (the more surface area the board has on the water, the faster it will move across the surface). The decreased surface area makes landings harder and the nose may tend to dig in.
Longer wakeboards are typically easier to ride and learn on, and they have a solid feel that will really boost you off the wake. They sit on top of the water nicely and move quickly through the water. The increased surface area of a longer wakeboard will also offer softer landings. Their weight can make tricks a bit tougher, however.
Choosing a wakeboard is a personal preference and should be fun. The more boards you have an opportunity to try the better. Get on a friend’s board if you can, and keep in touch with us at Sun Sports. We offer several opportunities for you to try out manufacturers’ products every year. We typically have pro riders at the store two or three times each summer, and would love to have you join us. It’s a great opportunity for you to network with riders and to get some tips from the pros.
Try a few different shapes and check out the latest graphics. At Sun Sports+, we are always happy to answer questions anytime, so stop by and let us help you find the right board!
Your level of riding and the type of riding you do make a difference in what type of wakeboard you should buy. Boards for the park are a bit different than boards for riding behind the boat. There are several things to keep in mind when you are looking to purchase a wakeboard. Let’s start with a primer on the vocabulary of wakeboards.
Flex – Flex is important for the style of riding you do, but is also a matter of personal preference. If you are popping off the wake of a boat, you may want a stiffer flex pattern to get more height. Softer flex allows you to absorb the flat landings of riding in the park and allows you to press the nose and tail on the rails.
Rocker – This is the curve of the board. There are two major types of wakeboard rocker: continuous and three-stage. A board with continuous rocker has one smooth, fluid, curved shape that translates into fast, smooth rides and gentle, carving turns. Three-stage rocker boards have three different planes on the bottom of the board, allowing for more height when you hit the wake.
Edges – Sharper edges provide improved acceleration and overall speed, but are less forgiving than rounded edges. If you like tricks, look for rounder or variable edges. If you like an aggressive, hard carving ride, get sharper edges.
Fins – Fins can be molded directly into the base, bolted on or a combo. Some boards have channels or concave or convex areas that help direct the flow of water across the base of the board for traction and stability. Fewer features and smaller fins are better in the park, and give riders a looser feel on the water. Larger fins and bases with multiple features have a more locked-in feel, but can make tricks more difficult to execute. Beginners often benefit from longer, deeper fins.
Now that you have the terminology down, think about what sort of riding you are going to do. Are you riding behind a boat on the lake, or will you be in the park? Here in New England, most riders are looking for boat boards, since our park opportunities are pretty limited, but if you live in other parts of the country or the world you may be doing more park riding, or a bit of both. Here is what to look for in whatever type of board you may need.
Boat boards have stiffer flex patterns, giving them more energy as you ride up the transition of the wake and boost off the lip. They typically have a more heavy-duty construction to put up with the wear and tear of landing in the flats. They have features on the base to help with edging in the wake and to soften landings, and come with a variety of fins.
Wake Park Boards have softer flex patterns and a more relaxed feel on the water. They better absorb flat landings off the kickers and allow you to press the nose or tail of the board on rails. They usually have featureless bases and removable fins (or no fins) to make it less likely you will get hung up while sliding on rails and boxes. You will, however, sacrifice traction on the water. They come with more durable bases and reinforced sidewalls to withstand the abuse of everyday park riding.
Hybrid Boards – if you don’t have the budget for two different specific boards for boat and park riding, a hybrid board is the perfect option. Many feature softer flex through the tip and tail, but are stiffer between the bindings, still allowing for good pop off the wake. They have durable simple base designs with removable fins, which provide good traction into the wake and still slide well.
Once you have a sense of the type of board that you want, you are also going to want to make sure you have the right size wakeboard. See our blog post “What Size Wakeboard Do I Need?” (coming soon) to get more info on the size options out there. At Sun Sports+, we can give you expert advice on just what type of wakeboard will be best for you. Stop in and let us help you find the perfect wakeboard!
Ever wonder what the pros do in the winter months? They aren’t just lounging around! Top water skiers, wakeboarders and wakesurfers are doing all kinds of things to keep themselves in shape during the off-season. Some athletes focus on other sports that are similar to their summer sports, but others like to mix it up. Here are a few ideas for ways to keep yourself in shape during the winter, so that you have the best riding next summer!
Lift weights – One thing that almost all pros seem to have in common is that they lift during the off-season. While it may not seem like you need to do a lot of weight training to enjoy water sports, you will find that all-around strength, flexibility and explosiveness will make a huge difference in your riding, surfing and skiing – and will keep you looking good in your swimsuit! If you haven’t lifted before, talk to your local trainer to set up a routine that works for you.
Do some cardio – Some sort of regular cardio is also on the agenda for the pros. Running, hockey, swimming, racquetball, jumping, basketball – anything that gets the heart pumping is going to keep you in shape and give you much longer sessions on the water next summer.
Work on your balance – Balance boards, Bosu balls, snowboards, skateboards and trampolines will all help you maintain and improve your balance, and may even help out with switches and tricks if you are a wakeboarder or wakesurfer. They will also improve your ankle and core strength, helping prevent injuries that could cut your summer season short.
Stretch – Don’t forget to stretch! We all have tight muscles, and a full body stretch is a great way to finish any workout.
Rest – Everyone needs a rest day. Make sure you give your body some rest every week so that you don’t overdo it. Itching for something to do in those down hours? Take a look at your gear and make sure it is ready for summer. If you need to update anything, the off-season is a great time to get deals on closeout products or to learn about the latest gear for the coming season. Run down to Sun Sports+ and let us help you with any updates you may need to do, so you are ready when the weather warms up!
Here at Sun Sports+ we are thinking summer! We are just a few weeks away from opening day at our store on the Naples Causeway. We can’t wait to see you.
A huge shout out to HO skier Rob Hazelwood, who tied the British U21 Slalom Record on 3/3/19! Rob tied the 16yo record set by his cousin, another HO pro, Will Asher. Water skiing sure runs in the family. His uncle, Mike Hazelwood, is also a world champ. Check out his record run here. @skirobhaz @willasher #mikehazelwood Photo: John Mommer. (Hazelwood was injured while skiing just a day later. Here’s to a speedy recovery. We look forward to lots more great skiing from Rob in the future!)