The Role of Air in Wakesurf Board Performance
Performance Series
By Dakota Smith

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Performance = f(Speed, Agility, Air)

In one of our first posts, we started to unpack what it is we mean when we are talking about wakesurf board performance. In it we defined performance as being a function of the combination of wakesurf board speed, agility, and air. By defining what exactly is meant by performance we could then start to optimize for performance and make measurable gains in that direction. In our most recent article we took this a step further and started to unpack Speed in particular. In this follow up, we’ll take a deeper look into Air and what makes up Air as a performance metric. 

To start, let's take another look at why it matters that we define performance. If you read our most recent article on Speed feel free to skip to the next section. 

Revisiting the why

I think it’s important to take a minute and go back to why it matters that we define performance and the parts that make it up. By defining performance in terms of Speed, Agility, and Air, we are able to set up tests and simulations that measure those specific aspects. With our tests and simulations in hand, we can then start to ask questions such as: “if I change the width of the board what will that do to the board's speed?” or “if we use a lighter material, how much will the agility of the wakesurf board increase?”. By running these through our tests and simulations we can quantitatively (fancy word for saying we can get a number as opposed to a “feel”) say whether or not we are improving performance. This is why it is so important to define performance, because without it we are making changes to our wakesurf board design with no idea whether they’ll be effective or not.

What is Air

When we talk about air what we’re really talking about is the maximum achievable air that a board can reach i.e. how high your board can get into the air. A board that has greater Air is going to be able to jump higher than a board with less Air. Pretty straightforward, right? Taking it a step further, Air can be broken down into two separate pieces: the Static Vertical Distance and the Air Translatable Force. Neither of these terms are something that you need to worry about but they are the terms that we use when talking about the different parts of Air. For our purposes let’s call it the max height and the translatable force. 

Max Height

The max height is the distance between the center of gravity of your wakesurf board and the top of the water where you took off. Now you may be asking yourself, isn’t this the same as max Air? Yes and no. When we break down Air, it’s useful to break out the max force required to reach a max height therefore, Air is a function of the translatable force on the board that is able to get it a max height. If this is all too confusing don’t worry, max height helps us with some of the math on the back end when we are simulating and creating models. 

Translatable Force

Translatable force on the other hand is much more interesting. Translatable force is described as the force required to achieve the max height. In simpler terms, how much force do I have to input into the wakesurf board to get it to achieve its max height. Translatable force is all about how much you can accelerate your board to launch it off the wake. A board that has a high acceleration has a greater translatable force and can reach a higher max height. The other piece of this equation is how much force, or effort, the rider can put in the board to make it launch. A rider that can get more force into the board can in theory get the board to a higher max height. For the purposes of designing a wakesurf board, this is a little more nuanced and has more to do with being fit into the right sized board than it has to do with actual board design. 

Tying things back together

So why does it matter that we break down Air into its individual parts? It’s a great question and one that we get all the time here at Smith Board Co. What it all boils down to is teasing out the different aspects that affect board performance so that we can push the boundaries and what a wakesurf board can do and you can push your own boundaries. By defining air in the way that we have we’re able to test our different features, materials, and more and determine whether or not they will have an impact on performance even before the board is out on the water. This is key to what we are doing here at Smith Board Co. By iterating our boards faster than ever we can test ideas even faster and make measurable improvements year over year. 

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About The Author

Dakota Smith
Author Photo

Dakota Smith is the original founder of Smith Board Co and is deeply involved in every aspect of the company. The idea for Smith Board Co came about when Dakota, who stands at 6’5” and weighs 230 lbs, couldn’t find a wakesurf board that was both big enough for him and fun to ride. With his background in product design and innovation, he recognized that the wakesurf industry was ripe for someone to apply engineering principles to create exceptional boards for everyone.

Dakota holds a B.S. in Chemical and Biological Engineering and an M.B.A. with a focus on Entrepreneurship. He channels his education and passion into bringing new ideas to life at Smith Board Co.

In his free time, Dakota enjoys reading, competing in CrossFit, writing about his passions, and spending as much time as possible out on the water. He lives in Erie, CO, with his wife and two dogs.

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