Wakeboard Boats – How To Choose The Right Used Boat

The cost of a new wakeboard boat can often be upwards of $50K, so many people are turning to used wakeboard boats. As with anything used, the buyer must beware as there can be many pitfalls. Wakeboard boats are particularly risky as the cost of repairs can be astronomical.   There are many considerations that must be take into account when selecting a used wakeboard boat and we hope to address some of them, to get you out on the water in the most painless way. The two main wakeboard boat areas are model choice and the condition of the used boat.

What Is The Best Boat For Water Skiing and Wakeboarding?

General Considerations:

So, now is time for you to buy a wakeboard boat. Gone are the days when you could just buy a boat for a single sport. Most wakeboard boat buyers now want a boat that it is a bit more versatile, that can produce a flat wake for water skiing, a small wake for trick skiing and bigger wakes for wakeboarding. Some boat owners just want to tow inflatables at high speed, so the occupants can fly off at the U-turns. A boat that can do all these things are often referred to as a three-event or three-sport boat and any boat that does this, gets a much higher resale value when it comes time to part with it. Boats with outboard engines and I/O drives are quite dangerous for any of these waters ports. These boats are just not suitable when anyone is in the water and should be avoided as a ski, wakeboard or towing boat. Even towing inflatables from these boats is tempting injury or death in so many ways. With a prop sticking out at the back of the boat, safety becomes a big issue and boat buyers who intend to put anyone in the water behind them should do well to avoid these types of boats. Also the wake produced by outboard and I/O drives is messy and inconsistent ruining any chance of good skiing or wakeboarding behind them.  Most lakes do not care what kind of boat you use for towing, but they really should care, as every year hundreds of people across the US are injured by boat propellers. While Lakes do not care too much about safety, the do care about the wake of the boat. Many lake rules stipulate that boats cannot use any wake altering devices like water bags and pumps. No word yet if fat people will also be disallowed lakes, as a boat full of lard-asses will greatly improve the wake and the fun, of which your local lake may also have a rule about that too.

Open Bow Versus Closed Bow Ski/Wakeboard Boats:

ski nautique 200 closed bow waterski boatDepending on the primary intended use of the boat, buyers need to be careful about which wakeboard boat format they pick as there are usually no refunds on boats. Smaller closed bow boats are often preferred by water skiers as it makes the boat lighter and stiffer, minimizing the wake. The  open bow variety of boats are generally preferred by wakeboarders, as it can can carry more passengers, thus more weight and therefore more wake. The following boats are all top-of-the-line ski boats and it is quite rare to find them in shorter lengths on the used boat market. Many of them come in the two formats “closed bow” and “open bow”. When you do find shorter length versions, they are often owned by water ski aficionados and are therefore often of the closed bow variety. This means that the amount of people that any of these boats can safely carry is significantly reduced. The open bow versions of these ski boats are usually rated for eight people, while the closed bow version is usually rated for five people, because there are no seats in the bow area. With a water skier being towed properly from the center ski pole, the passenger numbers are now legally reduced to five people on the open bow version and just three people on the closed bow. This will have a dramatic effect on people looking to have family fun. To add people, the skier could be attached to the wakeboard tower or the back hook, but the hard-core skier will not be happy with this, due to to less-than-stellar setup ski session, that will be unbalanced and rocky for their ride. For wakeboarders, they will usually be attached to the tower and will prefer the open bow boat, so they can load the boat with people to get the largest wake.

V-Drive Versus Direct Drive:

V Drive Ski Nautique wakeboard boat
V-Drive Ski Nautique 200

If you put the technical differences aside, people just prefer V Drive over direct drive because the layout of the boat has the engine at the back of the boat which makes the boat feel much roomier. The boat setup also provides a sun deck over the engine for people who want to lay out. For die hard wakeboarders, the V-Drive provides a better wake, as the weight of the engine is nicely distributed at the back of the boat. For water skiers its just OK, far from the luxury they have come to expect from a dedicated ski boat. Overall, the V-Drive format is much more controllable than direct drive, especially while docking, in rough water and reversing the boat. Die-hard bare-footers and water skiers will not get as smooth as a ride as a traditional setup on direct drive, but the boat just became a Swiss army knife, that makes it far more practical for families and towing inflatables as well as wakeboarders and knee boarders.  Unfortunately, the V Drive format can only be found on boats in the last few years, making them exorbitantly expensive. As older ski boats are eventually scrapped, it will get harder for water ski aficionados to find the flatter wake ski boats that have direct drive that they have been accustomed to, but all good things must end.

Other Wakeboard Boat Considerations:

 Some Boat Options That Just Make Water Skiing and Wakeboarding Better

  • Wakeboard tower –  provides “lift” to the wakeboarder gets all the equipment off the floor, stored in its rack. Ideally this should be factory stock fitted as getting a new boat cover will be easier than getting a custom cover made.
  • Perfect Pass Pro, Zero Off –  Speed Control with slalom, trick/surf, & wakeboard modes – no more guessing the right speed and getting distracted by the speedometer. This cruise control for boats is serious requirment for any hard-core wakeboarder, as any rider knows that when the speed is going up and down, its not much fun getting towed.
  • 3-vent Heater – The heater makes the water sports season last significantly longer by making spring and fall days warmer
  • Hot water shower – The same as above, but you can also wash the dirty kids on the back of the boat, although soap is outlawed on most lakes. The shower is a great way to fill up with heat inside the wetsuit, without restorting to peeing in there. Makes those cold November days so much more tolerable.
  • Depth finder, to avoid those pesky underwater farmers walls and submerged mountains that seem to be super-magnets for propellors. If the exist, the prop will hit them.
  • Digital servo speedometer with dual pickups, helps with getting an accurate indicator of speed without having to clean seaweed from the pickups every five minutes
  • Wakeboard Wedge – provides a cleaner wake for the hard-core wakeboarder in your life, comes standard on the Malibu wakeboard boat
  • Mushroom Anchors – The only kind of anchor allowed on many lakes, as they do less damage to the lake bed than the traditional kind.
  • Stowe Away Cleats – Avoid opening up your groin on these potential harbingers of doom

Michael Rogers

Having never been a member of the 657 crew and still a frequent guest at the Jolly Sailor, Mike likes to travel back to his old stomping grounds once in a while. Rogers has been writing for twenty years about things that really don't matter for such publications as Good Housekeeping and The Radio Times. Married with two dogs and a cat, he will often be found at his desk looking for writing inspiration in the most random places, often in the waste paper basket for something he wrote last week.