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Wakeboarding is a sport that is a combination of elements from other sports like water skiing, surfing, and skating. For this reason, there is no clear starting point for the history of wakeboarding. There is also no clear single inventor of it, either. However, there are prominent names and events in the history of wakeboarding that shaped the entire sport.
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Evolution of Surfing
Although it has elements of several sports, wakeboarding mostly evolved from surfing. In surfing, surfers usually just paddle out to the waters to meet the waves. However, there are some waves that are so large and far that it requires boats to pull surfers into them. This was most likely the first few instances of wakeboarding. However, a significant event in the mid 80's gave wakeboarding its own personality.
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The Skurfer and the Redlin Ski Board
Developed by San Diego surfer Tony Finn, this surfboard-water ski hybrid was introduced in 1985. The surfboard-like board was towed by a boat and the rider was free to stand on any part of the board due to the lack of straps or bindings. Shortly after its introduction, straps were introduced. Unknown to Tony Finn, though, there was another man in Austin, Texas who was doing a similar thing. Jimmy Redmon developed the Redline ski board, another surfboard-like board with straps, around the time Tony Finn introduced his Skurfer. Both boards experience popularity right into the early 90's when ESPN televised the very first Skurfer championships. The lack of development on both boards slowed down the popularity, though.
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The Birth of Wakeboarding
A successful businessman who dealt with sports, specifically water skiing, named Herb O'Brien, started to tinker with both the Skurfer and the Redlin ski board. Before long, he introduced the Hyperlite, the first compression-molded, neutral-buoyancy wakeboard. This was the spark needed to make wakeboarding grow into the water sport that it is today. Pretty soon, other board companies got into the action and manufactured their own wakeboards. For a time, the sport was called skiboarding, but eventually, everybody settled on calling it wakeboarding.
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The World Wakeboard Association
The formation of the worldwide governing body of wakeboarding happened in 1989 with Jimmy Redmon as its founder. This organization developed the rules of wakeboarding. It is also responsible for the integrity of wakeboarding to this very day. Once it had a worldwide governing body, all wakeboarding needed was media coverage to strengthen its position as a legitimate sport.
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In 1992, Florida-based event organizer and sports promoter started holding professional wakeboarding events, giving the sport the chance to flourish as a professional sport and gain media attention. Pretty soon, wakeboarding began to gain exposure on ESPN and its offshoot channel, ESPN2. Eventually, a national publication solely dedicated to the sport was launched. Wakeboarding Magazine hit magazine stands in 1993.
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The Pro Wakeboard Tour was the first professional wakeboarding competition and it has grown ever since it started in 1992. After a few years, towards the end of the 90's, two more major pro wakeboarding series were introduced: the Wakeboard World Cup and the Vans Triple Crown of Wakeboarding. These three pro wakeboarding events are considered the biggest and most important events of the sport.