The 8 Best Kneeboards

Updated March 28, 2018 by Brett Dvoretz

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We spent 39 hours on research, videography, and editing, to review the top selections for this wiki. Whether you are a beginner or an advanced stunt performer, something from our comprehensive selection of kneeboards is sure to give you the most fun you can have on the water. We've taken care to include both models designed for comfort and ease of use, which are ideal for families, and some better suited to advanced riders, who want an intense experience and the ability to perform tricks. When users buy our independently chosen editorial picks, we may earn commissions to support our work. Skip to the best kneeboard on Amazon.

8. O'Brien Radica

The O'Brien Radica has four molded fins that make cutting an edge nearly effortless. It offers a very stable ride that makes it a smart choice for beginners, but can still handle the demands of intermediate riders who may be a little more aggressive.
  • padding is firm but comfortable
  • can accommodate heavy users
  • made from low quality plastic
Brand O'Brien
Model 2151210
Weight 14 pounds
Rating 4.0 / 5.0

7. Driftsun 2017

The Driftsun 2017 is a good low-cost option that still handles as well as some premium models. It has an integrated hook at the front that makes it easier for beginners to get up, rather than wasting all their energy on the take-off.
  • rides low for tight cuts
  • suitable for riders of all levels
  • not super durable
Brand Driftsun
Model pending
Weight 14.6 pounds
Rating 4.7 / 5.0

6. SereneLife Thunder Wave

The SereneLife Thunder Wave may not be up to the standards of serious riders, but for the casual enthusiast who just likes to enjoy getting out occasionally, it is more than up to snuff. At nine pounds, it is super light and easy to load into a trunk or truck bed.
  • made from reinforced polyurethane
  • finless for easier 360s
  • graphics are lackluster
Brand SereneLife
Model SLKB10
Weight 12.7 pounds
Rating 4.1 / 5.0

5. Connelly Thing

You can ride the Connelly Thing standing, kneeling, or even lying flat as you get pulled behind the boat, thanks to its particularly wide body. As an added bonus, it can be attached directly to the tow rope for hands-free fun.
  • includes removable fins
  • bright and vibrant colors
  • doesn't have a knee strap
Brand CWB
Model pending
Weight 75 pounds
Rating 4.4 / 5.0

4. O'Brien Rush 5150

The O'Brien Rush 5150 is gentle on beginners, while allowing advanced users to catch some serious air. It's able to go forwards and backwards, for some of the smoothest transitioning and wake popping you've ever experienced on the water.
  • aggressive rocker style
  • designed to reduce water drag
  • hand-shaped bevels
Brand O'Brien
Model 2171224
Weight 15.7 pounds
Rating 4.4 / 5.0

3. O'Brien Voodoo

The O'Brien Voodoo has an integrated hook for towing and a beveled edge for increased cutting power. It also comes with a lot of padding for aggressive riding, but is suitable for new riders, too, making it a good all-purpose choice for a variety of users.
  • durable roto-molded construction
  • quick edge-to-edge transitions
  • high level of buoyancy
Brand O'Brien
Model 2151208
Weight 15.1 pounds
Rating 4.5 / 5.0

2. Leader Accessories

This model from Leader Accessories comes in two color choices, both of which feature cool graffiti styling, making it appeal to the younger generation. The soft knee padding is 3/4 of an inch thick, so it is very forgiving if you land hard after a stunt.
  • feels stable in the water
  • great beginner board
  • budget-friendly price
Brand Leader Accessories
Model pending
Weight 13 pounds
Rating 4.7 / 5.0

1. O'Brien Ion

The O'Brien Ion has an aggressive rocker line, giving you a high pop off the waves, and making it perfect for tricks, stunts, and intense riding, all while being easy to maneuver. An adjustable padded strap helps keep your knees firmly in place.
  • all-foam design
  • shock-absorbing knee wells
  • flexible for soft landings
Brand O'Brien
Model 2161226
Weight 14.4 pounds
Rating 4.8 / 5.0

History Of Kneeboarding

Unlike modern day surfing, which has its origins in the late 1700s, kneeboarding can be considered a newcomer to the sporting world. The first commercially produced kneeboards weren't available until the 1950s. These first models were designed for wave riding, as opposed to towing behind a speed boat as is often associated with the sport today.

Over time as water skiing gained in popularity, riders started to experiment with different riding positions, which led to the birth of the water ski kneeboard in 1972. It was co-invented by Bud Holst and Mike Murphy, who named it the Knee Ski. Hulst was a surfer who manufactured wave riding kneeboards under the name El Paipo, which was a tribute to the original paipo boards the Polynesians had been riding for centuries. Murphy was a professional show skier.

Similar to a boat hull, the original Knee Ski was manufactured from molded fiberglass, giving it a neutral buoyancy. A neoprene pad was used to cover the deck and provide cushioning for the rider. There was also a Velcro strap designed to go over the knee and keep the rider firmly on the board.

In 1973, just one year after the commercial release of the Knee Ski, a former employee named John Taylor decided to leave the company and produce his own boards under the name Glide Slide. Instead of copying the fiberglass construction of the Knee Ski, he tried a new approach and manufactured his boards out of a plastic shell with a foam filling. The Glide Slide was molded into a tear drop shape, which unfortunately produced an unstable ride. The unstable ride coupled with the 1973 oil crisis' affect on the water sports industry spelled disaster for the Glide Slide and the company soon faltered.

In what could be considered karmic justice, a former employee of Glide Slide named Danny Churchill, bought the failing company and turned it around. He redesigned the Glide Slide, making it more stable, and renamed it the Hydroslide in 1976. Under his leadership, the company prospered and is credited with popularizing the sport over the following decade. Hydroslide is still in business manufacturing top-quality kneeboards today.

Professional Kneeboarding

Competition kneeboarding started to develop in the early 1980s when Rolan Hillier, a Masters Overall Water Ski and National Slalom and Trick Champion, formed the International Kneeboard Association (IKA). He created rules and regulations for both boat towing and cableway towing kneeboarding. For boat towing, he created three competition events, wake crossing, slalom, and trick. There was also a special event called the Flip-off, in which a rider tried to complete as many flips as possible in twenty seconds. This actually proved to be one of the most popular events with spectators. For cableway towing, Hillier only created the trick event and included the use of ramps for flips and spins. This is due to the fact that cableway towing does not create wake for competitors to utilize when performing tricks as boat towing does.

In addition to founding the first competitive kneeboarding association, Hillier also wrote and published the first kneeboarding book, entitled "Kneeboarding A - Z". He then went on to broadcast the National Kneeboarding Championship on ABC and PBS, which was the very first broadcast of its kind. The following year, in 1973, Orlando's Sea World approched Hillier to hold the National Championships at their park, but under one condition, the IKA's original sponsors could not participate. Hillier declined the invitation as he felt strongly that the IKA's original supporters should be included.

Hillier's refusal to Sea World paved the way for the creation of the American Kneeboarding Association by a group of water skiers from the lower Midwest region. They came together to charter its founding in 1973 and produced trick and slalom events modeled after the USA Water Ski events of the same names. They tried including two other events, wake crossing and turns, but these did not catch on at the pro level and have since become novice only events.

Recreational Versus Competitive Kneeboards

Recreational boards and competitive boards are designed with different riders in mind and are manufactured to different specifications. The average recreational board is roto-molded, which is a readily available and low cost manufacturing method. They also have soft, wide edges to offer beginner riders more control and easier turning. A recreational board is generally thick and extremely buoyant. This allows them to double as a flotation device for riders who fallen off. Depending on the type of recreational board you purchase, it may or may not have bottom fins to aid in turning.

Competitive kneeboards are more expensive as they are compression-molded, making them more durable and better suited to the high speed runs of professional riders. They will also be thin and lightweight with sharp edges designed for tight cornering and radical tricks. Since they are thinner, they are less buoyant than recreational boards. This allows high level riders to dig deeper into the water for better starts and trick launches.

Both recreational and competitive boards can be found in slalom and trick board styles. A trick board will have a rounded bottom and edges. Slalom boards need to be capable of tighter turns and have sharper edges allowing them to cut deeper into the water and hold better around curves.

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Last updated on March 28, 2018 by Brett Dvoretz

A wandering writer who spends as much time on the road as behind the computer screen, Brett can either be found hacking furiously away at the keyboard or perhaps enjoying a whiskey and coke on some exotic beach, sometimes both simultaneously, usually with a four-legged companion by his side. He hopes to one day become a modern day renaissance man.

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