CAN YOU WAKESURF BEHIND ANY BOAT?
Like both waterskiing and wakeboarding, wakesurfing makes good use of the wake generated by a towboat.
But can you wakesurf behind any kind of boat?
The simple answer is no. Unlike other towed watersports, wakesurfing happens close behind the boat, where the wake is at its largest and offers the best shape to propel riders forward. That location, often as little as 5’ - 10’ behind the transom, means that your average sterndrive or outboard-powered boat is simply not a safe choice. A sterndrive or outboard propeller, attached to a drive or motor mounted on the boat’s transom, is in close proximity to the rider and, as such, poses a serious threat should the rider fall.
So what type of boat can you wakesurf behind?
Inboard boats are the safest and most logical choice. Inboard-powered boats position the propeller below the hull and well forward of the transom where it is safely out of a surfer’s reach. Inboard boats designed with wakesurfing in mind also typically offer additional systems to produce wakes of substantial size and ideal shape.
What to Look for in a Boat for Wakesurfing
The ideal wakesurfing boat will be either a direct drive, or V-drive inboard, featuring a relatively deep-V hull design and a combination of ballast and wake-enhancing hardware.
Here’s what to look for…
Inboard Direct Drive/V-Drive
Waterski purists have long favored the direct-drive inboard, in part thanks to the location of its engine. Mounted roughly in the center of the hull, the engine’s location allows the boat to run at a flatter running angle, reducing the size of the wakes. This is ideal for water skiers crisscrossing back and forth, but wakesurfers will note they often need to get more creative with ballast to increase wake size.
A V-drive inboard naturally creates this ballast and moves the center of gravity aft by positioning the engine at the back of the boat, where it allows the hull to settle deeper into the water and run at a steeper angle. Rather than spin a driveshaft that exits directly through the hull behind the centrally mounted engine, the V-drive engine is essentially spun 180 degrees. Its driveshaft is attached forward, but power is redirected aft through a gearbox below the cockpit floor. The configuration loosely resembles, you guessed it, the letter V.
In addition to naturally settling the hull in the water in a manner that helps boost wake size, V-drives have the added benefit of not crowding the cockpit. There’s no engine box smack in the middle of the floor for passengers to negotiate when moving about the boat. Rather, the engine is positioned aft and typically covered by a sun pad, with welcome storage located to each side.
Deep-V Hull Bottom
Wakesurf hulls tend to have a deeper-V hull bottom. You can see this angle by viewing the hull out of the water from the stern. From both the left and right sides of the hull, follow the bottom surface as it angles inward and down before meeting along the longitudinal ridge known as the keel. The sharpness of this angle dictates a lot about how the hull will ride through the water.
Waterskiing enthusiasts long favored boats with a relatively shallow angle to these hull surfaces because, along with a direct-drive inboard’s central engine placement, that shallower angle typically contributed to small, soft wakes. Wakesurfers, however, have an almost completely opposite goal in mind. They want those wakes to be as large as possible, and with firm, clean, ramp-like faces.
Sporting a sharper, deeper angle, the deep-V hull settles deeper into the water and, in turn, displaces more of it. The result is a much larger wake with a more ramp-like surface. Deeper-V hulls also have the added benefit of handling rougher water better, as they knife through the waves rather than bounce atop them.
Weight is an important factor in building the ideal surf wake. While passengers can further settle the hull deeper into the water, additional ballast is often necessary for those seeking to bring out their boat’s ultimate wakesurfing potential.
One longstanding method to bring this ballast aboard is through the addition of water bags. Water ballast bags can be filled with the surrounding water to easily add substantial pounds to a boat’s total.
The catch, of course, is that loose bags typically steal precious space in the boat’s interior and are often in the way of passengers moving about the cockpit. The best wakesurf boat manufacturers have found a better solution by adding ballast bags or tanks under the floor, where you can’t see them. These bags or tanks, typically located below the cockpit floor, sacrifice no cockpit or storage space. They’re also plumbed to pumps and thru-hull fittings below the waterline, making filling and emptying bags or tanks as simple as toggling a switch…
…or, in the case of Tigé Boats, the all-inclusive GO System fills ballast, sets your cruise control and your TAPS 3T settings with the touch of one button from the CLEAR touch screen.
Wake Plates / Surf Plates
Truly fine-tuning the wake’s ultimate size and shape, however, is best accomplished through the addition of some type of transom-mounted hardware, like Tigé’s TAPS 3T.
The original TAPS, or Tigé Adjustable Performance System, centered on a singular, trim-tab-like wake plate attached to the transom. In conjunction with Tigé’s Convex V hull, the plate could be raised or lowered to alter the boat’s running angle, allowing the boat to settle deep at the stern for larger wakes or run flatter in the water to minimize those wakes as much as possible.
TAPS 3T adds to that original central plate with two additional plates, located to the right and left closer to the edge of the transom. These plates can be individually angled up or down to adjust the boats running attitude and create a list, letting one side of the boat settle deeper into the water. That list, along with the position and unique shape of each wake plate, truly gives the wake its personality, mellowing it out for beginners, building it to be powerful and steep for more advanced riders, or finding a middle ground that is ideal for recreational enthusiasts.
Speed is yet another piece of the wakesurf puzzle.
In general, most wakesurfers will find a speed between 10-12 mph works best. This is the speed range at which the hull naturally settles deepest into the water and before the hull starts to plane or flatten off atop the water’s surface.
As any boat driver will attest, however, holding a steady speed is easier than it sounds. Electronic, GPS-based speed controls will produce the best results. Like cruise control on a car, speed control systems allow the driver to lock in a rider’s preferred speed and then hold it close to the target. Speed control systems eliminate the fluctuation in speeds typical of a human hand on the throttle. Some integrated systems, including the speed control built into Tigé’s GO System, even feature a memory function that can lock in individual riders’ favorite speeds and recall that speed, along with ballast load and wake plate positions, with just a touch.
While a boat’s size obviously plays a role in the wakes it can create, advancements in hull design, ballast, and wake plate systems have proven that even a modern, well-designed 21’ boat can produce impressive wakes for both wakesurfing and wakeboarding.
With the versatility of Tigé’s TAPS plate, that same boat can also lessen those wakes for the water skiers in your crew.
When considering length, remember to choose a boat that fits all your criteria. Though in terms of pure wakesurfing potential bigger is often equated with better, more important considerations would be to choose a model that fits within your individual boating lifestyle, including practical limitations like your storage and budget limits. It’s also important to research potential size limitations on individual lakes or waterways you plan to use the craft.
Browse the Best Boats for Wakesurfing
Whether you’re looking for a boat that fits your family, one that allows you to invite all your friends out on the water, or one that makes the most sense financially, Tigé has a model that fits the bill.
From the very beginning, Tigé has made waves in the boating industry by producing boats that feature the versatility to accommodate different activities while delivering the pro-caliber performance demanded by the ultimate wake, surf, and ski enthusiasts. All while never forgetting the luxury, technology, and fun factor today’s buyers demand.
If you’re ready for an experience like never before on the water, browse our vast selection of quality wakesurfing boats today. Already know what you want? Our team is standing by waiting to give you a demo. You can schedule it here.