Wakeboarding is fun when you have the right boat. If you have loved wakesurfing and now you need more speed, you can try wakeboarding. The popularity of this watersport has seen advancements in boats and wakeboarding gear.
It is easier to wakeboard today than it was a few years ago. But can you wakeboard behind all boats?
Can You Wakeboard Behind An Outboard Motor?
You can wakeboard behind an outboard because the wakeboard rope stretches more than 65 feet behind the boat. If you take the necessary precautions and you do not come close to the boat, you are safe. However, there are still some risks that come with wakeboarding behind an outboard motor.
Unlike wakesurfing where the boat speed is between 10 and 15 mph, the boat can go to speeds of up to 30 mph in wakeboarding. This high speed puts you at risk of hitting the propeller if the boat slows down or stops unexpectedly when the propeller is still on.
Wakeboarding behind inboard boats such as V-drives and direct drives is safe as the propeller is not exposed. In these boats, the engine and the drive unit are inside the motorboat and their propeller is only out under the hull. The boats are safer as you cannot hit the propeller unless you reach further forward and go under the boat.
The outboard boats and the inbound/outboard boats (also known as stern drives) present some risks when wakeboarding. In these types of boats, the exhaust and the propeller stick out from the boat and there is a chance you may hit them.
In a stern drive, the engine is inside the hull, but the drive unit and the propeller sit outside and at the back of the hull, and they are attached through the transom. Although it poses some risks, the stern drive is safer for wakeboarders compared to outboard motors.
In an outboard boat, the engine and the transmission system are behind the boat-mounted on the transom. If you wakeboard behind such a boat, you will inhale the fumes from the engine and there is a risk that you may hit the prop.
Even though you are 65 or more feet behind the boat, the outboard boat still exposes you to fumes and the risk of injury. Stick to an outboard boat.
What are the Risks of Wakeboarding Behind an Outboard Motor?
In an outboard motor, the propeller is exposed. You may feel like you are far from it at 65 feet, but when you start doing tricks and when you factor in that the boat might break down, then you are not that far from the boat.
The propeller of a boat is strong enough to cut your limb. In some cases, the propeller can even cut a rider by half. Most riders tend to belittle the risk as the boat is always moving forward and you are a cool 65 feet behind the boat.
However, if the boat slows down and you maintain the high speed of up to 30 mph, you may hit the propeller. Again, when you start doing tricks like flipping and riding the waves, you may find yourself riding faster than the boat, especially if the boat is moving at between 15 and 20 mph.
Unexpected slowing or stopping of the boat can bring the rider in contact with the propeller and so much damage might occur. Riding behind an inbound boat does not prevent you from falling forward into the boat, but it reduces the risk of serious injury.
Does a Swim Platform Reduce the Risk of Injury?
It is okay for riders to wakeboard behind an inboard/outboard boat. Truth is, the stern drive boat is safer than the outboard boat, but safer doesn’t mean the risk is gone as you can still hit the prop.
Some wakerboarders feel that a large swim platform makes wakeboarding behind a stern drive boat safer. The overhanging platform that recesses the outdrive might offer some protection if the boarder falls. If you take all the necessary precaution, you will be safe behind a stern drive motor but the swim platform doesn’t do much to help your safety.
Because of the shape and height of the platform, it is likely that the rider will be pushed under the platform towards the propeller. Even if you have a larger swim platform, you need to avoid riding behind an outboard motor.
Safe Speed and Distance When Wakeboarding
The speed you ride at will depend on your skill level. A high speed of up to 30 mph is fun and great, but they are only for skilled riders. At this speed, you are at more risk of falling into the water. Low speeds are great for beginners, but you shouldn’t go too slow as the boat will not produce enough pull to keep you on the surface of the water.
For a beginner, you can ride at between 10 and 14 miles per hour. This way, the risk of falling into the water is very slim. You can increase the speed of the boat as your skill improves.
If you are an intermediate wakeboarder, you can ride at between 14 and 20 mph comfortable. A pro wakeboarder can ride at between 20 and 30 miles per hour. These are high speeds, and you need to be careful when riding to avoid falling and injuries.
As a beginner wakeboarder, you should ride with a rope of about 65 feet or about 20 meters. Once your skill improves, increase the rope length to about 75 feet or about 20 to 23 feet. For a pro wakeboarder, the length should be between 75 and 85 feet or up to 26 meters.
If you stick to the speed and distance that matches your skill level, you avoid the risk of injury. Even then, you still should not wakeboard behind an outboard motor.
How Should You Set Up Your Boat for Wakeboarding?
Once you have an inboard motor boat, you need to have the necessary wakeboarding gear to start having fun. As long as the boat has an inboard motor, and it is strong enough to haul a board and get it to pace, you can wakeboard on it.
Today, there are boats engineered for wakeboarding. These are safe and produce a larger wake to give you more fun.
The first thing you need is a towing rope that you attach to the boat. You need to get a rope designed specifically for wakeboarding. Some riders use ski ropes when they need to perform advanced tricks and jumps.
However, a ski rope is very stretchy, and you may not have the fun you need. Instead, go for a specific line for wakeboarders. These lines come with very little stretch, and they also have removable sections that so you can customize the length and the grip of the rope.
Attaching the rope to the boat should be easy. If the boat is non-ski, it will have an attachment that is close to its rear. A ski boat has a pylon located in the middle of the boat while wakeboarding boats come with a full tower attached to the sides of the boat.
You also need pylon extenders in case you are using a pylon and not a tower. The extender raises the pylon about four or five feet high for the attachment of the rope. This offers better takeoff.
The pylon extender slips over the existing pylon, so you never have a problem installing it.
How Can I Improve Wake Size for Better Wakeboarding?
A bigger wake is good when you want to do tricks such as flips and wake-to-wake jumps. Wakeboarding boats feature ballast tanks that allow you to apply more weight with the turn of a button.
If your boat is not wakeboard specific, you can use a fat sack to apply weight. The fat sack is a bladder that you fill with water using a garden hose or an electric pump. These fat sacks are great as you fill them fast, and they also empty fast.
You need to ensure that you do not fill the fat sack more than the boat manufacturer recommended. If you use any other type of weight such as lead dumbbells and sandbags, you need to place them evenly on the boat while focusing on the rear.
You can wakeboard without a boat if all you have is an outboard motor boat. There are several towing parks where you can go to wakeboard if you do not have an inboard boat. If you observe safety precautions, especially when traveling with your furry friend, wakeboarding will be fun.
Even as you avoid wakeboarding behind an outboard motor, you need to take other precautions such as having the gear such as wetsuit, good quality rope, and a good board. From there, work on developing your skill so that you can reduce the chance of falling. Even after your skill improves, you still need to avoid riding behind an outboard motor.