Inventions & Innovations of Towed Water Sports

Have you ever wondered when and how your favorite towed water sport was invented or innovated out of creative boredom? Actually, all of our beloved water sports have been innovated simply by people having a whole lot of fun on the water. But talented people can get bored once they've mastered something. So through trial and error, using what's available and what they know, often actually combining sports, our fun on the water knows no bounds.

To the best of my internet research abilities, I've found the following timeline of water sports inventions. If you have a greater knowledge of things not reported on the internet, or you've witnessed an innovation to any of these sports, please let us know. We'd love to hear your input, and better yet, see your photos.

Water Skiing: 1922

"Water skiing came about on June 28, 1922 when eighteen-year-old Ralph Samuelson of Minnesota, proposed the idea that if you could ski on snow, then you could ski on water. Ralph first attempted water skiing on Lake Pepin in Lake City, Minnesota, towed by his brother Ben. The brothers experimented for several days until July 2, 1922 when Ralph discovered that leaning backwards with ski tips up lead to successful water skiing." Read more of this story at

Water skiing was definitely the first towed water sport, but it has spawned into so many other water sports over the decades, including Wake Surfing, Wakeboarding, and Wake Skating.

"The origin of wakeboarding has long been shrouded in mystery. The fact is, no one really knows where and how wakeboarding got it’s start. It seems the best answer is that wakeboarding started organically, as a logical progression from skiing and surfing. In the late 60’s water skiing was having its heyday, and nothing was off limits. Groups of skiers got into the mind frame that you could ride anything behind a boat. If an object displaced water, they tried to ski on it. So it was not uncommon to see people riding on table tops, snow skis, tennis shoes, and naturally -- surfboards. Little did these riders know that they were in the process of starting the next generation of water sports and spawning the sport that would become wakeboarding [and many other water sports]." Read more of this author's opinion at

Wakeboarding: 1985

 "A San Diego surfer named Tony Finn began the wakeboard revolution in 1985 when he developed the Skurfer - a cross between a water ski and a surfboard. Finn diligently promoted his Skurfer, and was quite successful in raising people's level of awareness to the new sport. However, it took the design skills of Herb O'Brien to truly send the sport off into new heights. O'Brien, owner of H.O. sports, a leading water ski manufacturer, took an interest in advancing the sport in the late 80's. Before long he changed the wakeboard industry by introducing the first compression-molded neutral-buoyancy wakeboard, the Hyperlite. This innovation led to a massive growth of the wakeboarding marketplace that continues to this day. The Hyperlite's natural bouyancy allowed easy deepwater starts, which in turn made wakeboarding accessible to virtually everyone." Read more here:

Although Wake Surfing was probably innovated before Wakeboarding, as can be seen in old movies from the 1950's, the boom that came out of wakeboarding, the bigger boats and bigger wakes, allowed Wake Surfing to make a boom of its own.

Wake Surfing: 1940's - 50's & 2000's

"First, a little history: The beginnings of wakesurfing started with early pioneers of the sport using old surf boards behind their boats. As people continued to ride they realized that they needed something more specific to what they were doing and decided to create more and more specialized boards. This helped to create the early versions of the wakeboards we ride today. In fact, Jimmy Redmond was one of these early pioneers living in Texas who decided to start designing his own boards and that's part of how Liquid Force Wakeboards was born." More on this article at:

The official intentional innovation on Wake Surfing and wake surf boards and boats has only recently transformed this sport into what it is today in the past decade. “Anybody can say their sport is super cool, but when companies start selling super expensive boats just to wakesurfers … you can tell that the sport is definitely on the upward trend,” Weigman said. (From article at:

Wake Skating: 1970's - 90's & 2000's

Whereas waterskiers who progress to wakeboarding are used to binding their feet to the board, wake skaters tend to come more from the skate boarding side of innovative progression. They don't have a need to bind their feet to the board, and in fact prefer the freedom without bindings.

Forum writers at share their first "wake skating" experiences when they: 

  • stood up on kneeboards and edged outside of the wake in the 80's and 90's
  • made their own wake skate boards out of whatever they had
  • added grip tape and starting wearing shoes to improve traction 

Pro wake skater Brian Grubb has taken wake skating to a new level with snow wake skating. Who knows what will be next?!

Please feel free to share your innovation photos and memories with us, and remember to tag us at #TheBoardShop. 

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