How Surfing Behind a Boat Quickly Started a Sport.

Most people would be shocked to learn that people have been surfing behind a boat since around the 1960's! Back then, they just had to use their ocean board!

However, the sport of wakesurfing is quite a new thing. Today the Competitive Wake Surf Association is proud to say that it is the biggest and fastest growing group of wake surfers in the world.

It all started in 2012 when a small group of grassroots event organizers decided to get together to figure out how they could collaborate with one another for the betterment of the sport.

The Beginning of Wakesurf Boats

It was the mid 90's...

Inspired by these old films from 30 years prior, Tim Lopes, Rick Lee, and The Rusty Surf Boards Surf Team spearheaded the inception of the sport.

In 1996 this group headed out on a boat in Mission Bay California and what started off as leisure turned into competition, where Tim Lopes eventually emerged as the very first World Wake Surfing Champion.


For a while, the sport calmed down until 2003 with the second World Championship at Lake Yosemite, California outside of Merced.

This was the first competition with separate male and female divisions, however surf and skim style boards were still used in a combined division format.

As popularity of the sport began to rise, so did the formation of new grassroots events and the American Wake Surf Association (AWSA) in California to handle the increasing demand.

In 2004, Worlds was held in Stockton, California where it was combined with the Wakeboarding Event, Boardstock.

In 2005 and 2006, this combined competition was moved to Kelseyville, California on Clear Lake.  Due to harsh drought conditions in 2007, Worlds separated from Boardstock and went back to Lake Yosemite in California.

In 2008 the AWSA began to form surf and skim divisions, criteria for number of falls, course length, and other rules to begin a process of standardizing events. The individuals involved with the formation of Texas grassroots events adapted these rules while conceptualizing a blended system of judging competitors based on objective and subjective trick based scoring.

For the first time ever, Worlds was held outside of California in Nashville, Tennessee.

In 2009, the economy crashed and there was no Worlds, but in 2010 Worlds had a comeback and was held in Minneapolis, Minnesota where the blended system of competition scoring the Texas boys formed was adopted.

In 2011 and 2012 Worlds was in Parker, Arizona which at the time saw record funding, cash purse, and participation.

Everything seemed to be going extremely well for the sport, but there was still a looming issue that needed to be solved.

Competition rules were in its infancy, but there was no governing body as a whole to expand and enforce these guidelines...

Something had to be done!

Forming The CWSA

After the 2011 Worlds competition, a group of 11 wakesurf event coordinators gathered to discuss how they could best bond together and form an association.

This included event owners/coordinators of what are now the 10K Lakes Wake Surf Open, the NWWSA, Wake the Desert, and Worlds.

As a group, they needed to decide whether to align with another pre-existing entity (USA Waterski / WWA), or if they wanted to form a separate own entity.

USA Waterski really wanted wakesurfers in their fold. However, one major holdback was that they have a HUGE governing board that includes waterskiing, kneeboarding, barefooting, show skiing, and other watersports disciplines.

The number of board positions that a discipline holds is based on overall membership. At that time, show skiers had the lions share of the board seats by far.

The sport was in its infancy. Limited wake surfers meant they would have had limited influence on the board.

Another issue that needed to be solved was insurance.

There was historical data for waterskiing, wakeboarding, and other disciplines, however wakesurfing had no data. It is also different in that it has significantly less exposure to danger.

In order to have the ability to self-insure, they needed to develop a track record for the analysts. 

Chris Kinsey, Dennis Horton, Scott Culp, Todd Gaughan, Todd Flegel, Jeff Walker, and Chris Bank ultimately formed The CWSA with the purpose and mission of promoting the sport, providing recommended, consistent, and fair standards for governing events and tournaments, and to provide effective communication regarding events, membership, and significant issues of interest to stake holders in the industry.

The Benefits of Our Organization.

There were many benefits that have come with the formation of The CWSA.

Under this group, the formation of the World Series was born as a build up to the Worlds.

We also saw the development of criteria for consistent judging and event formatting.

In 2014, the current D.I.V.E. system was created to judge athlete's passes based on 4 separate criteria; Difficulty, Intensity, Variety, and Execution of their tricks.

The D.I.V.E. system was embraced by competitors and judges immediately. For less experienced athletes, it was easier to follow and understand and professional level athletes, the D.I.V.E. format opened the door to progression.

In 2015, the CWSA took over management of the World Series and the inception of the World Ranking System began.

Event levels were formed in 2016 to differentiate between the prestige of an event by dictating the amount of points awarded to a competitor and the minimum pro cash purse required to host the event. Worlds moved south and was held in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

Doubling down on necessary infrastructure, the CWSA conceptualized a statistical model for ranking a competitor in their division based on their previous years points and types of events they have competed in that year. Worlds was again held in Parker, Arizona.

In 2017, events were further classified in to 2 separate groups; WRS Qualified Events, and World Series of Wake Surfing Events. New rules for competitors were created to qualify for an invitation to compete in Worlds.

This dual-tier classification recognized the need to assist in the development of smaller, grass roots type events. At the same time, it worked to further promote the larger, more established competitions, and make Worlds a truly prestigious event.

Worlds was taken out of the USA in 2017, when it was held in Calgary, Canada.

This was a huge milestone for the organization in that this was the first year Worlds was held outside of the United States.

Since 2012, our non-profit, with the assistance of the most experienced judges, athletes, equipment manufacturers, and others involved in the sport have carefully developed comprehensive competition rules, event guidelines, scoring tools and methods for the betterment of the sport we all love.

Throughout the past 3 years, the CWSA has seen exponential growth in both sanctioned events and overall membership, and today proudly has over 800 members, in over 25 countries.

With that growth, the sport has seen a tremendous leap in competition from even 5 years ago, and with that competition amazing athletes come out of the woodworks to dethrone the usual champions.

How You Can Get Involved.

Our organization is actively involved in educating and furthering the development of judges worldwide, and for numerous events, it provides qualified judge teams.

The CWSA is charged with staffing, scoring and executing and scores the athletes competing at the World Wake Surfing Championship.

While we have come very far, there is still much room to grow the sport we have all grown to love.

Our future goals include live event scoring, livestreaming at all events, and of course growing our grassroots events to make wakesurfing accessible for the masses.