Wakeboard Bindings are designed to hold your feet firmly to your wakeboard and to support your ankles, but in such a way that they will release in the event of a hard tumble. Many Wakeboards come complete with bindings and these will be carefully matched to suit the board. Cheaper wakeboards will have more basic bindings and the more advanced boards will have proportionally superior bindings.
Wake Bindings are either open-toe or closed-toe. Open Toe Wakeboard Bindings (where the toes of the bindings are literally cut out and your toes are visible) are best suited to recreational beginner to intermediate riders as they offer slightly less rigidity than close toe boot type bindings. However, open-toe bindings are much more versatile as they are designed to fit a foot size range (e.g. UK 7-11) rather than just one size. This makes them perfect for shared / family setups (wakeboards that are likely to be used by more than one person). Closed Toe Wakeboard Bindings offer the best support and "feel" so are the best choice for intermediate to advanced riders that do not share their board.
Bindings tend to be either lace-up or velcro (or both). Laces give you more change to get a nice tight "locked-in" feel but are more difficult to do up when in deep water. Velcro bindings won't offer quite the same level of locked-in feel as lace-ups, but they are much easier to do up when you're in the water. Many boards at most watersports schools have velcro bindings for exactly this reason, regardless of skill level.
Wakeboards have a row of metal "nuts" moulded into the top of the deck, known as inserts, which enable bindings to be securely screwed to the board. There are normally multiple inserts set in 2 rows to enable bindings to be mounted in different positions. Most wakeboards these days have inserts that take M6 screws, which are metric. These often have a red dot of paint on them. Older boards tended to have inserts threaded for 1 inch screws, which are imperial. These often have a blue dot of paint on them. Although they look almost identical, the threads on these two types of screws are fundamentally different, but more importantly M6 screws are shorter than their 1 inch predecesors. This evolution occured as boards became thinner over the years. Attempting to thread a 1 inch screw into an M6 insert will not only damage the threads, but the longer screw may push through the bottom of the board. If you find the screw you are using quickly locks up in the insert as you attempt to tighten it then it is almost certainly the wrong thread for your board. Unless specified, most bindings are supplied with M6 screws to fit the majority of boards currently on the market.
Wake Bindings these days tend to have a 6 inch base plate which is compatible with most standard wakeboards. Basic wakeboard bindings have tend to have various pre-drilled holes either side of the base plate for mounting to the board in a number of pre-determined positions to suit the required stance. As the price of bindings goes up these simple holes are often replaced with a more advanced toothed system, which enables much more infinite adjustment.
To summarise, the inserts on the board define how wide apart your feet are and the mountings on the bindings define the amount of toe-out you have for each foot (the amount of angle of each foot). The combination of these two factors is known as your stance.
IMPORTANT: - Some manufacturers have developed their own mounting systems. For example Jobe have a system known as EVO and Liquid Force have a system known as 4D. Hyperlite also have their own system. Manufacturers with their own systems will supply bindings that are specifically designed just for boards compatible with their specific system. THESE BINDINGS WILL NOT FIT ON NORMAL BOARDS. However, boards with a manufacturer's specific system will usually take normal bindings. In other words, if you're buying bindings, please check that they are compatible with your board. If you are buying a board, it is likely that most bindings will fit on it regardless of system. If in doubt, please get in touch and we'll be happy to advise you.
Wakeboard Bindings MUST be properly set up as this will improve your learning curve and reduce the risk of injury. The 2 main objectives when setting up your bindings are ensuring a snug fit (but not tight) and being able to adopt a comfortable stance commensurate with your personal preference and skill level.
In order to set up your bindings properly you must first determine which of your feet will be positioned at the front of the board, and this is not necessarily the foot you would expect. I for example am right handed but lead with my right foot (known as "goofy"). Many other right handed people that I know lead with their left foot. The foot you lead with is entirely down to your own personal preference and what "feels right". Nobody knows why some lead with the left and some with the right, but when you are aware of which is your natural leading foot and set your board up accordingly you will feel more comfortable and in control and your learning curve will improve.
There are two good ways to work out which is your leading foot. The first is to stand with your feet together, eyes closed, and then get someone to give you a gentle shove from behind without warning. Which ever foot you move forward first to catch your fall will be your natural leading foot. Another even simpler test is the pants test! Whichever foot you lift first when putting on your underpants will be your natural leading foot. Funny, but true!
The next step when setting up your bindings is setting the correct stance. Wakeboard binding plates (the plate on which the binding is attached) come with numerous pre-drilled mounting holes that allow easily adjustment of the position and angle of the Wakeboard Boots relative to the board. The width at which the bindings should be set apart can be easily determined simply by jumping up in the air. However your feet land will be the way your body naturally steadies itself and is a good indicator of how your stance should be configured on your Wakeboard. Remember that you will be travelling sideways like a skateboarder so set the angle of the bindings so that the feet "toe out" by a few degrees as this will be more comfortable at first.
To fine tune your stance you need to revert to trial and error i.e. get out on the water and just see what works best for you!