Boards. Wakeboards are typically made of fiberglass and feature special flexible materials for softer and more forgiving landings. Look for a board between 130 to 134 centimeters long, depending on your height and weight.
Boards are made with two different types of rockers, or arches, which run from the tail to the nose on the bottom. A continuous rocker has one long arch, allowing you to edge fast, though when jumping you'll sacrifice some pop because the board isn't shaped to give you an extra kick. On the other hand, a three-stage rocker, with three separate arches cut into the board, will slow your ride a bit but you'll get much more air off the wake. Wakeboards are priced anywhere from $200 to $600.
Bindings. A binding should fit tight but comfortably around your ankles and feet. You have a few styles to choose from. Some bindings offer softer toe and heel pieces to make for gentler landings, but the drawback is your board won't be as responsive since the bindings won't catch every movement of your feet and legs.
A binding with dual laces allows you to tighten it around your foot and leg separately to create a more customized fit. Single-lace designs tend to tighten more around your ankle. No-lace bindings, though less expensive, offer less support around your leg, but do allow more freedom of movement for advanced tricks.
Beginners should stick with single or dual-lace bindings because they fit better and are easier to get on and off. It's a good idea to try on several styles of bindings before buying. Costs range between about $100 and $400.
Rope and Handle. Don't use a waterskiing rope for wakeboarding because they stretch and bounce too much. The best wakeboarding ropes are made of non-stretch, high-performance materials like urethane and spectra. Handles come in a wide variety of grips. Find one that feels snug by gripping it firmly with both hands and trying to twist it as if squeezing water out of a towel. The harder it is to move in your hands, the better. You don't want to lose the handle while you're riding, so choose one that seems to stick to your palms, while still feeling comfortable. Ropes run about $70 to $100 depending on the length and material, while handles cost anywhere from $60 to $140, depending on the size, grip and material.
Life Vests. In many rivers and lakes, you're required to wear a U.S. Coast Guard-approved vest while wakeboarding. Always try a vest on before you buy it. Make sure you can breathe easily and move your arms in full circles. The vest should sit comfortably on top of your shoulders, not above them. Vests cost anywhere from $20 for one that simply keeps you afloat to $130 for a less bulky, more flexible jacket that provides better range of movement, back support and other high-end features.
Board Shorts. You risk losing more than just your pride in a wipeout. Even if you're wearing the most high-performance, sport-specific swimsuit there is, if you hit the water just so, your bottoms will ride up, or worse, get pulled off. A good pair of board shorts will keep you covered in style.
Based in Orlando, Barrett Perlman is a professional wakeboarder, instructor and freelance writer. For information on summer clinics shell be coaching for the Maven Sessions, visit LiquidForceMaven.com.