Ski/Wakeboard Boats Guide

Table of Contents

Wake Boats: For Those Who Take Water Fun Seriously

If you’ve been on the lake or to a boat show lately, there’s no mistaking the head-turning shine of a new wake boat. In recent years, wake and ski boats have become some of the premier watercraft, with attention-grabbing paint schemes and amazing creature comforts. If you’ve been bitten by the wake boat bug, keep reading to learn everything about these specialized and unique watercraft.

What Boats Can You Ski/Wakeboard Behind: or Do You Need a Wake Boat?

If you’re interested in water sports, you might think that you need a wake boat. That’s not the case. In fact, you can wakeboard and waterski behind almost any boat on the market, as long as it can maintain a steady speed and there’s something to anchor a tow rope to. In fact, many family-focused boats like bowriders and center consoles have features that make them useful for pulling someone around on a tube or water skis. These features include arches or elevated tow points, rear facing stereos, and easy to access re-boarding platforms.

Boat makers include these features in many boats because they’re popular among families. There’s nothing better than towing the kids around in a tube, or seeing who can stay up the longest on a pair of water skis. However, you won’t get an aggressive or unique experience towing someone from a deck boat, like you would in a dedicated wake boat. Further, wake boats have features that make it safer for individuals to water ski or wakeboard, so that drivers and passengers can enjoy the water worry-free.

What Makes a Good Wake Boat?

Since the wake boat segment is so popular right now, boat makers are constantly innovating to provide a one-of-a-kind wake boarding or water skiing experience. In fact, many of the features that make wake boats great don’t make the driving experience better. Instead, they’re designed to influence how the boat manipulates the water so that people outside the boat can have an aggressive and fun ride.

One of the most important features of almost all wake boats is their unique drivetrain. Many of these vessels employ what’s called a “forward facing drive” which moves the propeller forward in the hull, so that people jumping off the transom don’t have to worry about injury. While most boats have the engine in the back, and the propeller coming right off of it, wake boats have a series of gears that allows the engine to send power forward in the hull. This does have some consequences for handling, as the propeller sits lower in the water than it may in an average boat, meaning it can scrape against shallow bottoms without the driver knowing.

These boats also often have features specifically designed for sculpting the wake as it trails behind the boat. They do this mainly by using ballast tanks, which take up water from the environment, and use it to weigh down the back of the boat so it sinks deeper into the water. Having ballast means that the boat can throw off a larger wake, perfect for surfing or skiing. Wake boats also use trim tabs to shape the wake, so that it can curl or flatten out in certain configurations, affecting the surfing conditions.

Finally, when you go wake boarding, you want to bring all your friends. Wake boats often have plenty of seating, and plenty of storage, so you can ride the waves in style. One space-saving feature that these boats have is a large arch over the boat. That’s not only a great place to attach a tow rope, it’s also perfect for storing wake boards and skis.

All of these features are designed to make sure you have a great day on the water. Wake boats are day boats, so there’s rarely a cabin or head. However, what they lack in comfortable amenities, they make up for in the tools you need to have fun.

What About Ski and Surf Boats?

While most wake boats have similar features, there are actually several different subcategories of wake boats that are specialized for certain wake sports. Generally, there are three categories of towboats, wake and surf boats, ski boats, and multi-sport boats.

Wake and surf boats are designed primarily with surf sports in mind, with large hulls that sink into the water to displace the most amount of water. That’s because the more water displaced by a boat, the larger the wake, which provides a perfect ramp for jumps and tricks.

Conversely, ski boats are much smaller, with a shallower draft. These boats throw much less of a wake, and instead prioritize smooth handling. Competitive waterskiers rely on smoother waters than wake boaters, and normally follow closer to the boat, so they don’t need an elevated tow point like wake boarders do. That means these boats also often lack an arch.

Finally, multi-sport boats try to combine features that apply to both wake boarders and water skiers. They combine the comfort and aggressive amenities of a wake boat with the shallow draft of a ski boat. These are excellent for hobbyists who don’t want a hyper-specific boat for their watersport adventures.

How Fast Are Wake Boats?

After watching a water skier or wake boarder carve through the water, you might think that there’s no ride more exhilarating than a wake boat. However, you’d probably be surprised that these aren’t the ultra-fast vessels they’re made out to be. That’s because wake boarding is actually done at a relatively slow speed. When a boat moves slower, it sits in the water and throws a bigger wake. That means slow and steady is often the priority for these boat makers.

Most wake boarding and waterskiing are done between 10 and 20 miles per hour. Since these boats are specialized for that purpose, they rarely go much faster than that. These vessels also are heavy, since they have large hulls and powerful engines that generate a lot of torque to push them through the water. That means these vessels aren’t very efficient compared to other models. Most wake boats only top out between 40 and 60 miles per hour, which is more than plenty if you want to cruise around a lake or protected harbor.

Wake Boats for Rough Water: What to Look For

While most people use their wake boats in lakes and rivers, there’s a strong group of people that expect a bit more variety with their boating experience. Rough waters, like those you’d see in protected bays or offshore, are usually too rough for many wake boats. However, there are some larger vessels that can handle rolling waves and a slight chop with ease. Here’s what you should look for when you’re considering a wake boat for saltwater adventures.

One of the biggest things to look out for when looking for a rough-water wake boat is a vessel that’s longer than 21 or 22 feet. Longer boats are heavier, and tend to be more capable when it comes to going over waves or wakes from other boats. These larger boats also tend to be wider, which helps give them stability when encountering waves from the sides.

Next, look at the hull. Specialized wake boats tend to have a deep-V construction, which helps cut through water and split the wake into two sides. Meanwhile, ski boats and crossover boats tend to have a shallower construction, helping to distribute the wake. Deep-V boats tend to handle waves better, since their hulls can slide through the water, instead of bouncing off of it.

Tige wake boats in particular, are known for their ability to handle rough water and turbulent conditions. They feature a performance-inspired hull and a long length, perfect for cutting through whatever environment you want to tackle.

Wake Boat Weight and Dimensions: Can You Tow It Just Anywhere?

The great news about most wake boats is that they fit the requirements set by many states for pulling a trailer. That means you can take your boat wherever you want, whether it’s Lake Havasu or the Ozarks.

Many states have their own regulations on the maximum length of a trailer you can pull. Often, sizes range between 35 and 60 feet long. Most wake boats average between 20 and 24 feet long, which again puts them well within the regulations for maximum tow length. Almost all States have a maximum towing width of 8.5 feet before a trailer has to be considered a “wide load.” The great news is that almost every boat maker builds their wake boats within this requirement, meaning you shouldn’t have any trouble exploring new locations with your boat.

Do wake boats hold their value?

With all the specialty features and technology in wake boats, they can be pretty expensive to buy new, or used. That’s because these boats tend to hold their value really well. That means, buying a wake boat new is one of the best boating investments you can make.

New wake boats come with plenty of outstanding features that make boating luxurious on the water. If the aggressive, exciting paint and interior design schemes don’t win you over, the technology and amenities surely will. These days, it’s not unusual to see autopilot and advanced digital displays on most wake boats, giving drivers perfect control of all parts of the boat, from speed to handling and wake distribution. Besides the high-tech controls, they also come with plenty of electronics below deck, including pumps to manage the ballast tanks, electronically controlled trim tabs, gyroscopes and more.

Most wake boats start at around $100,000 brand new. However, that investment is one that lasts. The technology and comfort offered on-board these boats is unparalleled. So much so that gently used wake boats only a few years old sell for nearly full price. Even 30-year-old wake boats can get a significant return, despite featuring outdated technology.

Since wake boarding is a popular sport, and these boats are attractive and well-built for their purpose, they maintain their value very well. These popular boats are easy to sell, which means they’re perfect for someone who wants to invest in a boat that will serve them for a long time, without becoming a headache if you choose to move on from wake boarding, or need something that better fits your lifestyle.

Our favorite wake boat brands


If you want a high-tech wake boat with unique features designed to give you an amazing ride, you have to look at Axis boats. These vessels feature unique features that give you complete control over your wake boarding or surfing experience. The Axis Surf Gate allows riders to change the shape of a wave with ease. They can even change it while riding behind the boat, using the innovative Surf Band remote control.

Axis More


With retro-designs that turn heads, Centurion is a unique wakeboard manufacturer looking to change the market with their brand of watersports boats. These boats feature the Opti-V hull, which is a true deep-V hull. That means they’re ideal for cutting through the water, moving efficiently from the dock to your favorite wake boarding spots. That deep-V construction also means they’re incredibly comfortable to ride in, so even your passengers can ride in style.


With over 40 years of boat building experience, Malibu is one of the premier wake boat brands. Not only do they construct timeless, proven hulls, Malibu also builds engines specific for wake boarding. In fact, many of the companies on this list are powered by Malibu Monsoon engines, which tells you just how influential this company is on the wake boat market. Malibu created the first wake boat hull, and they still surprise to this day with industry-leading features and amenities.


These days, the word Mastercraft is synonymous with wake boating. In fact, these boats are so popular they’re featured all over Hollywood. A red Mastercraft wake boat was heavily featured in the 2017 remake of Baywatch, showing just how eye-catching these vessels can be. Mastercraft has been making boats for over five decades, starting with ski boats in 1968. That legacy creates a brand that people remember and look to for excellence on the water.


When you see a Nautique, you remember it. That’s because this company is one of the most innovative in the segment, providing excellent technology and in-demand features that make them versatile boats for both sport and relaxation. With three lines for wake boarding, skiing, and crossover applications, Nautique has one of the largest lines of wake boats around, making it perfect for the thrill seeker who wants to do it all.


Supra is an American boat builder that’s looking to innovate and build upon what boat owners expect in a wake boat. With a small line of four different boats, Supra packs plenty of value in their vessels, giving you a great ride on the water. Their unique auto-wake feature makes it easy to carve the perfect wave, so you can worry less about balancing ballast, and more about building an experience you won’t forget.

If you’re looking to experience the water in ways you’ve only dreamed of, you need to get into a wake boat. The great news is, it’s never been easier to browse a variety of vessels and find the one that’s right for you. Take a look at our range of wake boats today, so you don't miss another breathtaking moment out on the water.