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Kneeboarding Vs. Wakeboarding: What’s The Difference?

If you are just beginning to get into the world of water sports, you have probably heard about kneeboarding and wakeboarding.

The two sports might seem similar at first, so it is easy to get confused.

However, as you come to learn more about them, you’ll learn that they actually have important and distinct differences. 

This knowledge will also help you form a more solid opinion about the sports so you can decide which, if either, is right for you! 

What Do Kneeboarding And Wakeboarding Have In Common?

Kneeboarding and wakeboarding are similar in many ways.

Both sports are the same basic activity of being secured to a board and holding onto a rope attached to a boat.

The boat pulls the rider around a large body of water (usually a lake or ocean), allowing them to “ride” the surface of the waves behind it. 

From afar, you might not even be able to tell whether someone is wakeboarding or kneeboarding unless you catch a glimpse of their stance. 

There are a few strong similarities between kneeboarding and wakeboarding.

These include:

  • The basic method of the sport 
  • Equipment 
  • Sportswear 
  • Physical ability


Both kneeboarding and wakeboarding are done by pulling a person behind a boat by a towline, letting them ride across the surface of the water on a board.

For both activities, the boat needs to drive fairly quickly — at least 15 to 20 miles per hour — in order to let the rider rise and stay above the water. 

guy on kneeboard
guy on kneeboard


Both sports require the use of a special board with straps and a towline with a handle.

There are a variety of boards available.

These generally vary on strap placement and the way you are secured.

Any type is acceptable.

You may need to try out several types to find out which one makes you feel the most comfortable and secure in the water. 


For both kneeboarding and wakeboarding, you will wear a rash guard, which protects your skin from the sun and the water.

This can be especially helpful if you fall, as you might hit the water at a hard angle, which can be painful on the bare skin. 

You will also need a special helmet, though you may have seen others doing these activities with no headgear.

This is the best way to protect your head, especially since it is possible to be thrown into the air. 

Physical Ability

Both activities require significant upper body strength and good balance.

You must be able to hold on to the towline firmly while keeping yourself upright on the board.

This might be difficult at first. As you practice, you will build strength in your arms and shoulders that will help you improve your form and ability. 

What Is Kneeboarding? 

In kneeboarding, the rider is towed behind a boat while kneeling on a special board.

This lets them balance with a low center of gravity, keeping them closer to the water.

Many people prefer this, especially at the beginning, because they feel safer closer to the water. 

You may also feel more secure while kneeboarding because, if you do fall, you won’t fall far.

Because so close to the water means you’re less likely to go flying, which many people find reassuring. 

What Is Wakeboarding? 

In wakeboarding, the rider stands on the board instead of kneeling.

To do this, they need a special board that secures their feet.

Wakeboarding gives you more freedom and many people find it more exciting. 

Wakeboarding also gives you the opportunity to do tricks.

Some people enjoy the extra freedom and have fun learning how to do different activities on the water. 

man riding wakeboard
guy on wakeboard

What Are The Biggest Differences?

The biggest differences between kneeboarding and wakeboarding come down to a few small things.

The main one, obviously, is the difference in the stance you take on the board.

In kneeboarding, the rider stays in a kneeling or crouching position.

Alternatively, in wakeboarding, they stand with one foot in front of the other. 

The other main difference between the two activities is the type of board that is used.

Kneeboards are slightly longer to accommodate a person sitting rather than standing.

Additionally, there are different straps or secures on the various boards that hold onto the legs or feet, respectively. 

Which Is Easier? 

In general, kneeboarding is considered the easier of the two activities.

This is because the rider sits lower, making it easier to balance.

Most people feel more secure with a lower center of gravity, especially as beginners. 

However, some people find wakeboarding easier because they start out in a standing position and don’t have to shift or change their stance. 

Ultimately, the only way to decide which one is easier for you is to give both activities a try. You may be surprised by the results. 

How Do I Choose Which Is Right For Me?

Many people prefer to start out with kneeboarding before branching out into wakeboarding.

They might feel a bit more confident kneeling in the water with a lower center of gravity.

This can also be a good way to start since you will 

Many people eventually try to stand up on their board, since this is more interesting and provides the opportunity to see and do more.

Wakeboarding provides the opportunity to do tricks and feels quite a bit more dynamic than kneeboarding. 

If you have any sort of knee or joint issues, kneeboarding might be difficult or painful for you.

You may need to go straight to wakeboarding, which will put less strain on your joints. 

On the other hand, if you have other physical issues that make it difficult to stand or balance for long periods of time, you might find kneeboarding easier to maintain. 

The Bottom Line

Both kneeboarding and wakeboarding are fun, exciting activities that almost anyone can do.

Ultimately, deciding which one you want to do is up to you.

It is easy to switch between the two activities as you test how you are more comfortable in the water — and of course, as your abilities improve.