Love waterskiing? Then you should try wakeboarding. The concept between the two water sports is similar, except instead of two skis, you are balancing on a single board.
Wakeboarding can be more difficult than water skiing, but it also has a few advantages. You get an excellent workout wakeboarding. You also don’t have to reattach a wakeboard every time you fall off.
You are securely strapped to the board, unlike water skis that need reattaching every time you fall. Also, the speed required for wakeboarding is significantly less than that of waterskiing, allowing for a less stressful experience, especially if you fall.
One thing you need to enjoy the watersport fully is a boat that will help you get the most out of your time on the water. These boats not only tow you and your board, but they also create the wake – the triangle-shaped wave behind the boat – you need to enjoy your time on the board thoroughly.
Ready to start looking for the best wakeboard boat brands? We have compiled a list of the top-rated brands and why we like them. However, before comparing brands, it’s good to know what you want and need in a wakeboard boat.
What To Look For in a Wakeboard Boat
There are more than a few things to look for in a wakeboard boat, depending on your boating preferences and the brands you prefer. There are several different types of boats to explore.
Type of Boats for Water Sports
You know you don’t want a sailboat or yacht, but several different types of boats are suitable for use with watersports. All have advantages and disadvantages. Depending on your skill level and what you are looking to get out of it, one model may better fit your criteria.
Jet boats are becoming popular in the wakeboarding and wake surfing world. Manufacturers are producing more options at all price points. Towers and wakeboard racks are becoming more standard on jet boats.
Their incredible lightweight makes them easy to tow with most vehicles. The lighter weight also makes them quicker and more agile on the water.
While power and speed are never a problem with a jet boat, using the wake generated by the hull can be an issue. Combined with the hull shape, common to this type, with how they sit relatively high on the water, jet boats leave a minimal wake.
The wake is usually soft and hard to surf or board. These boats also lack a rudder, making them harder to turn back for fallen wakeboarders. Also, depending on the speed and strength of the water skier or wakeboarder, their lighter weight is susceptible to being pulled by the tension of the tow rope.
Most outboard boats are designed for shallow water use. They are still relatively light and do not sit low in the water. Their outboard motor design places the propeller below the hull but can also lift it entirely out of the water.
They may have great speed and control, but these boats still create a relatively smaller wake (although notably larger than jet boats).
However, they are slightly more stable in the water than jet boats of equal size. Some outboard boat manufacturers produce boats for water sports. The location and size of the outboard motor can present a challenge with securing the tow line at the center of the stern.
Anyone planning on mixed water use for their boat will want to look at a model with an inboard motor. These boats are also great for wakeboarding. The hull design and heavier weight displace more water, increasing the stability and size of the wake.
Older inboard boats have shallow hulls, but new models are designed with wakeboarding as a focus. The newly-designed hulls cut deep into the water and can move a significant amount of water out of the way.
With advancements in computer design and materials manufacturing, boat makers can now nearly design the hull to create a specific wake.
Inboard boats have either a V-drive or direct drive depending on the motor placement. They also require more power to reach a similar speed.
However, since the propeller shaft and propeller are fixed directly below the hull, the operator must be vigilant in shallow water or in areas with underwater hazards to prevent significant damage to the powertrain.
Inboard/Outboard Boats (I/Os)
Inboard/Outboard (I/O) boats are the heaviest on the list. Most of this weight comes from the larger, internally mounted engines and the mechanisms needed to convert the engine power to the steering and propeller group (transom) behind the hull.
The heavier weight creates the largest wake of these types. However, a few characteristics usually rule out these as the best options for wakeboarding.
Motor placement is perhaps the biggest issue. The location of the transom at the stern, just below the waterline, can pose a significant safety hazard to those behind the boat.
While the movable transom does allow the propeller to be raised above the bottom line of the hull to clear hazards, swimmers or others in the water must remain clear of the stern area whenever the motor is running due to the spinning propeller.
The hulls on I/0s are very deep and can produce great wakes at slower speeds. However, once the boat accelerates to a normal operating speed, most hull designs cause the boat to skim on top of the water rather than cut through it.
This significantly increases efficiency but reduces the wake size to nearly that of jet boats. With that being said, inboard/outboard wake boats are a good option for beginners.
The enjoyment and success in wakeboarding depend almost completely on the wake itself. Therefore, a key feature of wakeboard boats is the ballast system.
The ballast system helps create the surf you need to get the board moving by raising or lowering the boat in the water and changing the amount of water displaced by the moving hull.
Some boats come with automated systems, meaning the captain only has to worry about steering. Other models are designed with gates in the hull that open when the boat reaches a predetermined speed.
Wave Plates and Tabs
Having more wake is almost always a good thing in watersports. Wake boats with tabs or plates on port and starboard sides or extending from the transom displace large amounts of water and provide plenty of extra wakes. The plates can be disengaged when you pull in or out of the dock.
Some higher-priced surfboats let you switch the wave from side to side with the press of a button, creating fun challenges for wakeboarders, but it also results in impressive waves.
Since the ballast system is not the primary driver of water displacement, the hull design is another critical aspect of a wakeboard boat. Look for a boat with a tapered hull designed to displace water symmetrically.
The sharper the taper, the more water will be moved outward as the boat moves forward. Additionally, the sharper the bottom of the hull, the deeper it will sit in the water. Both of these have significant effects on the size and shape of the wake.
Most manufacturers ensure their wake boats have plenty of power. You should only consider upgrading when you are expecting extra weight on the boat, such as a large number of passengers or heavy cargo.
Remember that upgrading to a larger engine will add to the price of the boat and increase fuel consumption. A more affordable option may be an upgrade to the propeller.
To move the boat at the speed needed for water sports, you need a motor that offers plenty of power. Engine size does affect price, but you don’t want to go too low when it comes to horsepower. You need speed to fill the ballast and create enough of a wave to make wakeboarding fun and challenging.
Some higher-priced boats boast around 580 foot-pounds of torque. It’s plenty of power to haul around a large group and create impressive waves.
Budget-friendly wake boats typically come with around 430 horsepower. It still gives you plenty of power to push a large wave, but these wake boats are usually smaller. However, it can affect how many people you take out on the water at a time.
Consider Using a Power Folding Tower
Power folding towers aren’t a necessity, but they are nice to have onboard. They are also great when you have first-time wakeboarders on the boat.
The tower raises the tow line about the prop wash and positions it on the centerline. The higher connection point between the tow rope and the boat also pulls on the wakeboarder/skier at an upward angle and can help stay on top of the water.
A power-folding tower also folds down easily with a simple push of a button. If you go with a wakeboard boat that offers a power-folding tower, take some measurements first. You should ensure the tower collapses down enough to fit in a garage or storage unit.
You may think customizable seating isn’t necessary, but it has advantages. Your passengers want to see the action going on behind the boat, and customizable seating lets them safely watch.
Some boats come with configurable seats that can be either forward or rear-facing. Removable cushions provide more seating options and use for built-in cup holders.
Along with the seating for passengers, a customizable layout can help create an area for the skier/boarder to get themselves ready before jumping into the water.
Operating a boat that is towing a skier/boarder takes intense focus on what is ahead of them and the safety of who they are pulling.
To help monitor and control the boat, a touchscreen or multi-function display makes it easy to control speed and the ballast system. Touchscreen functionality ensures you are on top of everything, including raising and lowering the power-folding tower.
The Best Wakeboard Boat Brands and Why
With more than a few brands, it can be difficult to know them all. However, with more brands available that cater to wakeboarding, more innovation goes into the product, making a better boat with more features.
Located in California, Malibu is a top-rated American manufacturer of recreational boats. The company proudly advertises its towboats as being the world’s best for wake surfing, wakeboarding, and water skiing.
As the leading manufacturer of recreational boats, the brand is known for its patented wave and wake creation technologies. Their high-performance boats offer some of the best engineering, quality, and technology.
It’s also hard to beat their luxury features if you don’t mind paying a little extra for additional comfort. The inboard motor and drive system, combined with wakeboard-specific hull designs, make these boats among the best for wakeboarding and other watersports.
Compared to boats of similar length, they lack storage, and since the hull is not very tall, they are susceptible to having water splash over during choppy water conditions.
Best of all, this brand allows you to build a custom boat using their 3D boat configurator on their website.
Mastercraft is one of the largest producers of inboard wakeboard boats, combining innovative features with durable constructions.
The brand’s towboats offer sleek amenities, exceptional performance, and stunning craftsmanship to ensure you have everything you need to enjoy your time on the water.
Their boats come with user-friendly software that makes it easy to deliver the perfect wake. You get precise and consistent waves every time.
Some of the brand’s innovations include switchback ballasts and hydro-lock towers. Customers can also design their ideal boat on the company’s website. Need gear? Mastercraft has everything a wakeboarder needs.
Headquartered in Nashville and with dealerships in Nevada and Florida, Chaparral produces high-quality wake boats at prices that won’t break most budgets.
The brand employers include second and third-generation boat builders, ensuring quality work on all of the company’s models, including their popular SSI and Surf series.
Chaparral’s fiberglass boats are built for speed. It’s just what you need when you are creating the perfect wake. Touchscreens ensure easy operation and keep all of the data you need at your fingertips. Track speed, fuel usage, and engine performance from your captain’s chair.
These forward-drive boats come with a variety of options that include hand-stitched upholstery.
The forward drive propulsion of their I/O models combines the versatility of standard I/O motors but has the spinning propeller in front of the transom unit, increasing the safety of those behind the boat and the efficiency of the thrust generated by the propeller.
As with most wake boat brands, you can also design and customize your boat to your exact specifications.
The Cobalt brand began manufacturing boats in 1968 before becoming part of the Malibu boat family in 2017. The company’s motto is “Experience the Extraordinary,” and their wake boats live up to it.
Generally associated with luxury boating and less focused on watersports, their wakeboard and sport-specific models are known for their innovations and functionality, blending the luxury heritage with incredible capability.
Any of their outboard or I/O models, these boats will bring you an incredible experience on the water.
Powered sun-awnings keep onboard passengers cool and comfortable. Large, dual-cockpit screens on most boats ensure you don’t miss a thing, whether cruising or towing a skier/boarder. These boats also come with many other luxury options, including stay-cool leather seats.
Correct Craft is the world’s oldest family-owned and operated boat manufacturer. They also have a few other brands under their umbrella, such as Bryant, Centurion, and Supreme. After losing the top spot to Malibu, the Nautique G23 was WakeWorld’s 1st runner-up in the wakeboarding and wake surfing categories.
The brand is famous for its luxury wake boats in the Super Air model line. These boats are typically larger, ideal for large groups of wakeboarders.
Creating the perfect wake isn’t a problem for these boats. All of the hulls in the Nautique are designed explicitly for watersports and potentially provide the best wake for skiing and wakeboarding alike.
They offer a bit more storage than other inboard boats of similar size. However, the innovations, power, and craftsmanship come at a relatively high price, with the smallest in the Super-Air line starting at over $158,000
The Sea Ray brand usually isn’t one you think of. The company is famous for its cabin cruisers, but they also have a good range of sports boats. Their SLX series combines luxury and power, but it comes in at a higher price than some competitors.
Glass dash panels, touchscreen displays, and innovative technologies are standard for these luxury sports boats. Power isn’t a problem with the large outboard or I/O motors.
These boats use advanced performance technology to deliver both speed and control. Unfortunately, for those looking for an inboard drive option, Sea Ray boats are limited to I/O or outboard only.
Along with the traditional accessories, you can also add a forward-facing tower and a swivel wakeboard rack. While you can’t design a wake boat from the hull up with Sea Ray, you can customize nearly every detail.
The Crownline brand has a long history of manufacturing high-quality wake boats. The brand’s popularity soared in the 1990s, and the company is still creating progressive and exciting boats. Known for its innovative designs, the brand focuses on performance, functionality, and luxury.
When it comes to their Surf series, consumers can find options to fit most budgets and lifestyles. All their boats come with advanced ballast technology and plenty of horsepower for a fun ride.
While they do not have an inboard-only model, the transom on their I/O models is a forward-drive type, placing the propeller at the front of the transom mast.
Crownline offers plenty of customizable options, including the cockpit, flooring, and bathroom. In addition, you can easily install wakeboarding towers. You can also configure the interior design. With plenty of options, it’s easy to see why the brand’s remained a favorite with water enthusiasts.
Sanger is a boat brand that produces exceptional and high-performance wake boats. The company was founded in 1954 by Jack Davidson in Sanger, California. His first jet boat, the Sanger 18, boasted a Chevy 454 engine.
Today, the boat maker still focuses on placing as much power as possible into the wake-specific hulls, with their most powerful option boasting 510-hp driving over 575 pound-feet of torque.
Quality and performance are essential to Sanger, and it’s apparent in all of their watersport boats. Every boat is rigged by a single individual. It ensures no small detail is missed. The boats are also built in-house to maintain their high-quality standards.
Sheltered under the Malibu umbrella, the Axis brand is making a name for itself in the wakeboarding and wake surfing industries.
The brand isn’t afraid to make a statement. It is the first to produce a wakeboard-specific boat with a 25-foot hull. These boats still offer precision control, including quick returns to pick up fallen wakeboarders.
Its smaller wake boats are just as impressive. You can also fit most in a garage for easy storage. You get great waves with a center located ballast. The Wake Plus patented hull displays enormous amounts of water for the perfect waves.
You won’t go wrong with Yamaha’s Wake Series. The brand’s wake boats are available at a range of prices.
The boats come with an award-winning drive system that gives you effortless control at high and low speeds. Yamaha advertises a perfect wake every time, and they don’t disappoint.
Their boats come with a triple ballast system you control with a push of a button. The system is electronic, giving you a clean and surfable wake.
Touchscreen control panels make operations simple. You can also install a power-folding tower on the wake boat.
The best wakeboard brand isn’t always the top recommendation in a magazine. A lot of different aspects go into finding your ideal wake boat brand. Depending on how much of your time on the water is taken by water sports, the best option for you might not be a wakeboard/ski-specific model.
Size, type of boat, and budget are a few considerations, but one of the most important is the available options. The ability to customize the wake boat to fit your needs and lifestyle will make your time on the water much more enjoyable.
Depending on the specific manufacturer, some brands will let you design your ideal boat from the keel up to perfectly fit your needs and desires for your time on the water.