How Much Horsepower Does A Boat Need To Pull A Skier?

How Much Horsepower Does A Boat Need To Pull A Skier?

Are you looking to have some fun with friends and family on the lake? Are you looking to buy a boat that can pull a skier? If so, how much horsepower will a boat need to have to pull a skier?

I had to do a little research and this is what I found.

How Much Horsepower Does A Boat Need To Pull A Skier?

A boat should have a minimum of 70 horsepower to pull a skier. The size, weight and design of the boat will play a big part in how much horsepower you will need.

Since there is a lot more that goes into the horsepower discussion, keep reading for the rest of the key details.

In order for your boat to pull a water skier behind you, you need speed. In order to get enough speed, you need enough horsepower in the engine.

Generally speaking, if you want someone wakeboarding or water skiing behind you then your boat needs to be moving at a minimum of 20 miles per hour. Even better is running at 26 or 27 miles per hour for good water skiing.

A 70 horsepower engine is usually going to get you enough speed to get up on water skis. Having said that, you’re going to do a lot better with a 90 horsepower motor or better.

Keep in mind that the further you get up above 90 horsepower, the more you’re going to be able to be adventurous with any water sports that you try.

Also, consider that how many people you have on board your boat is going to matter because 90 horsepower with 10 people on the boat is going to move slower than 90 horsepower with only two people in your boat.

Something else to take into consideration is the size or the length of the boat. A 90 horsepower motor can be enough to pull an 18 ft boat with a water skier behind. However, if your boat is 25 ft long and you want to water ski, then more horsepower is a good thing to have.

There are different kinds of boats you can get for rivers, lakes, and the ocean. With enough horsepower in the motor, it’s possible to do things like wakeboarding, tubing, and skiing even in a pontoon boat.

Although if water skiing is the specific activity you’re looking for, then it’s best to get a dedicated ski boat.

Is An Inboard, Outboard, Or Stern Drive Motor Better For Pulling A Water Skier?

Water skiing is technically possible using any of the three motor drives. Having said that, numerous manufacturers have been specializing in ski boats for decades, and most of the boats they make are inboard-powered.

Specialty inboard boats for water skiing usually have the props underneath the boat, and they’re carefully designed specifically for action that takes place off the stern. Boats that are designed only for water skiing are created in such a way to minimize wake.

On the other hand, boats created for wakeboarding and wakesurfing are typically done in such a way to create a high wake behind them. This is typically accomplished with the addition of water ballast that manipulates the wake by adjusting the stern of the boat.

Inboard power usually means a single inboard engine. The propellers are typically several feet forward of the boat’s transom, which means that the vortex of the thrust coming from the propellers hits the bottom of the boat and gets flattened out before tax it’s underneath the storm.

Conventional inboard boats also usually have their engines lay somewhere amidships, typically in the middle of a big open cockpit. There are several reasons for this placement. For starters, it puts the engine far enough forward that the props will be underneath the bottom of the boat well ahead of the transom, meaning better water safety.

Another reason this is done is that it shifts the weight forward. That means the stern doesn’t get weighed down and so there’s less wake, which water skiers find desirable.

Having the engine in a more forward box poses other benefits, like being able to reach everything easily when it comes time for maintenance and repairs.

Inboard engines have taken several design routes over the years, particularly with ski boats. Tranny and engine performance have been optimized for fast holeshots as well as economy in the desirable speed ranges for good water skiing. As such, dedicated ski boats don’t usually aim for the high-end top speeds that other sport boats might go for.

An inboard motor also means inherent safety along with it. Water skiers are far less likely to come into physical contact with a rudder or the propellers underneath the boat in the event that the engine is still in gear or running.

Still, it’s a good safety practice for the boat operator to shut the engine off anytime someone is getting in or out of the surrounding water.

With all the benefits of an inboard motor for pulling a water skier, you should note that waterskiing is still technically possible with outboard and sterndrive motors.

The downside would be a lot more wake while water skiing, but the upside would be having a boat that creates potentially enough wake for wakeboarding and wakesurfing for a multi-purpose vehicle.

Does Boat Hull Design Make A Difference When Pulling A Water Skier?

The design of a boat hull does make some difference in pulling a water skier, but the motor matters more.

Water skiing is a combination of several different forces that all work together and sometimes against each other in conjunction. The four fundamental forces are drag, lift, gravity, and forward momentum.

The practical effect of these four forces is sinking the skier, stopping the skier, lifting the skier, or pulling the skier forward. Water skiing happens when the two forces of lift and forward momentum are able to collectively overcome the effects of anything trying to sink and stop the skier.

Physics lessons aside, all you really need to know is the appropriate water skiing speed to obtain with a boat. That depends on the experience level of the water skier.

Skiers who are considered beginners should generally be trying to ski in a range of 10 to 14 miles per hour, whereas anyone of intermediate ability is better off in the range of 14 to 22 miles per hour.

Water skiers who are considered to be expert level can go water skiing in a range of 20 to 26 miles per hour.

Technically speaking, any boat that has a tow bar already installed or has one added after the fact can potentially become a water ski boat, if it’s able to attain enough speed.

Having said that, the hull design can create a dramatic impact on how much wake the water skier has to deal with. Remember, the less wake there is, the better the water skiing is.

What Are Some Of The Most Popular Ski Boats On The Market?

If you’re in the market for a new water ski boat, then it helps to know what the most popular and best models are on the market right now. Here are three that stand out above most of the rest of the market at the time of writing:

The Mastercraft ProStarOpens in a new tab.: Mastercraft started off as a ski boat builder, which is why they come up with some of the best ski boats the market has to offer.

How Much Horsepower Does A Boat Need To Pull A Skier?

Five decades of hull technology are put into place to lay down really smooth wakes for extremely fun water skiing. The available horsepower coming out of the engine is also eye-popping.

Malibu TXi MOOpens in a new tab.: Malibu presents this tournament inboard boat with a dozen world records to its name.

How Much Horsepower Does A Boat Need To Pull A Skier?

With exceptional design in its hull, it’s intended to leave water skiers soft, flat wakes. This boat is a combination of old-school hull design with forward-thinking technology.

Moomba Mondo: Opens in a new tab.If you’re looking for a budget boat that delivers long on value without costing as much, then this line of boats is where you want to be.

The features are more than minimalist but not overwhelming, and the boat’s automatically adjusting ballast system helps you enjoy numerous activities at a pretty good rate.

How Much Horsepower Does A Boat Need To Pull A Skier?

When looking for a ski boat, remember there are two things to keep in mind above all else (aside from the obvious factor of budget).

First, more horsepower means more speed; 70 is a minimum for many boats, but 90+ is better.

Second, soft and flat wake being left behind the boat is preferable for water skiing, although it does prevent wakeboarding and wake surfing.

*You may want to add a wake shaper if you want to do both.

Closing Thoughts

Regardless of what type boat you own or are looking to purchase. Getting a skier up on skis is all about a balance of horsepower, torque and speed.

While a 70 horsepower motor and a modest boat should be adequate for skiing, if you really want to do it right, stepping up to one of these purpose build boats will make a world of difference as your skiing skills develop.

Bottomline, find a boat (any boat really) with a 70 hp motor or greater and go give it a shot! You will have a blast. You don’t have to spend a fortune to have a great time on the water!

Kern Campbell

Kern is a life long boater who finds great happiness sitting at the helm of a boat running on the open water. When he's not running the boat, he's likely anchored up along the beach with his wife, kids and good friends enjoying a great day at the coast.

Recent Content