Shawn Watson: new toys, same rad vibe.   words/photo: Cortese

New stuff is always exciting. Yes, it looks cool. And yes, it’s got some new technology or designs. But the most exciting part is always how you can use it and ultimately how it can help you. That’s why we’re always so anxious around Surf Expo – keen to get our eyes on the latest and greatest products, upon which we immediately start thinking, “oh man, if I had this, maybe I could try that…” New gear represents new possibilities, and that is never a bad thing. Of course there is also the feeling that comes with just having the freshest goods, but hopefully that’s not the reason you’re into wake sports or reading this magazine.

This year’s Gear Guide issue, if nothing else, is chock-full of that potential and possibility that you find yourself thinking about this time of year. Brands from across the sports have been hard at work to continue developing products that cater to you and your vision of what’s next for you. In going through loads of new boards, bindings, boats, surfers, wakeskates, and more being offered in 2016 there are a few things that really stood out to me.

  1. A Return to Specialized Wakeboards

For a few years it seemed like the goal of many of the board manufacturers was to create the best all-in-one wakeboard; one you could shred behind the boat one day and charge at the park the next. This category or goal hasn’t died off, it just doesn’t seem to have the importance it did a couple years ago. For 2016 there seem to be more boards specifically catered to park riding and boat riding separately. The testers in our annual Board Test noticed this, too, and for the most part the results were good. If you’re a rider who really likes spending a lot of time on both boat and cable it might be worth looking into two boards for your quiver.

  1. More High Performance Wakesurfers

As the number of people riding the ridiculously tunable, endless waves of today’s wake boats continues to grow, so too does the demand for boards that can do more. While some riders are still comfortable just standing a few feet behind the boat without the rope until their quads burn in agony, most are starting to realize just how much fun it can be to start doing legit airs, slashes, and other tricks. Board shapers have responded in kind by pumping out boards with more advanced shapes (better turning and maneuverability, more speed). If you want to do more than power squat an endless wave this year is a good time to look into a high-end wakesurf board.

  1. Bells and Whistles of Boats

Wake boats these days continue to blow me away with the advancements in technology, comfort, and ease of use. From touch screen dashboards, to customizable wake/wave enhancers/shapers, and much more; boats have it all, and options are available from the highest end down to price point models. Every wake boat these days can be ordered with a serious wave-making system. And big boats are back in a big way with nearly every major manufacturer offering a 25-foot or longer wake making machine. Whatever your budget there is likely a new boat out there that you and a bunch of your friends and family are going to have a blast in this year and well into the future.

  1. Vests and Wetsuits Progress

Most of the time the majority of our focus is on the progression of new boards and boats, but that doesn’t mean the vest and wetsuit companies are sitting idly by with technology from 2001. In fact, given the growing push for more companies to go green while providing a high-performance product, manufacturers of vests and wetsuits have taken huge strides the past couple years. Some of the vests that are CGA approved this year will amaze you with both their material comfort and fit. At the same time some of the wetsuit technology is also pushing boundaries – to the point where I feel like some wetsuits should be called drysuits because of how warm you stay and how little water gets in.

  1. Cameras get Even Better. And Smaller

This really isn’t much of a surprise these days given the advancement of camera technology over the last half decade. But as a photographer at heart I have to mention this because just when I think cameras can’t get better AND smaller, they do. The ways in which we can capture ourselves and each other having fun out on the water are seemingly unlimited. Whether you’re looking to make the next great, legit web edit of your riding or just snap a couple shots to share with your riding buddies over Instagram, there are all sorts of fun cameras and tools that go with them to help you do so.

In the pages that follow you will see all types of examples of the things I’ve mentioned above, and much, much more. From the top-of-the-line pro model boards, to the latest hand-shaped wakesurfers, to the insanely fun boats that make all of it possible; this issue of the Gear Guide has everything you need to keep thinking about what you’re going to do next and how you’re going to get there.

Enjoy the ride, GC