Look around almost any lake in America and there is a good chance you will see a variety of wakeboard boats.
You’ll know them by their sporty styling, aggressive stance, and the wakeboard tower that most seem to have these days. The design of wakeboard boats has come a long way since the 1990s when boat manufacturers first started building boats specifically for wakeboarding.
In the early days, most wakeboard boats still looked a lot like more traditional water ski boats – narrow boats around 19’ long and sitting low in the water. Most would have a pole in the center of the boat to attach the tow rope, and all would have a swim platform on the back.
The newer boats, though, are larger and heavier and packed with technology. You can find wakeboard boats up to 25’ with room for up to 18 people.
They look great and have been designed to be perfectly suited for wakeboarding. You may have even researched them yourself only to find that a new top of the line wakeboard boat can easily cost as much as a house
I’ve researched the boats on the market to figure out why wakeboard boats are so expensive.
Why Are Wakeboard Boats So Expensive?
As the sport of wakeboarding evolved over the last 25 years, towboats needed to evolve along with the riders their equipment. Riders began pushing the limits of what they were able to do behind the smaller ski-style boats that were being made because the wakes tend to be smaller.
They began wanting to jump higher, do bigger tricks, and have more people on the boat. Boat makers needed to figure out how to make the boats people wanted to be buying and using.
It was clear there needed to be a change in the design and technology of the boats to allow the sport to continue to grow. Manufacturers rose to the challenge to create the ultimate wakeboarding boat and today there are several sizes and brands to choose from.
Most of the wakeboard boats available are very expensive, but there have recently been a few value brands entering the market providing the specialization of the more expensive boats with a smaller price tag.
Design and Engineering
The boats available today are specialized and built for wakeboarding. Yes, you can do other things with a wakeboard boat, but most people who buy them are only buying them for their specialized purposes – wakeboarding and wake surfing.
Manufacturers have spent a lot of time and money to design and perfect the hulls, creating the perfect hull to slice through the water, provide ample room onboard, and create a massive wake behind the boat.
Engineers have figured out exactly the right shape, weight, and materials they need to use to accomplish their goals. Employing these engineers and tasking them with making the ultimate wakeboarding boat does not come cheap.
Engineers tend to be some of the higher paid positions in the manufacturing companies, meaning the companies spend a lot on research and development to come up with the right design.
Using the right materials plays a big role in the overall quality and usability of the boat. Manufacturers must source and test materials searching for what will maintain their quality over time.
Wakeboard boats are often used hard and put away wet, so to speak. Wakeboarders will be on the water for long periods, putting the boat under strain for hours at a time – people getting on and off, wakeboards on the deck, being in direct sunlight.
Manufacturers tend to use high-quality and durable materials that will last in harsh conditions for years. It isn’t uncommon to find 20-year-old wakeboard boats for sale that are still in impeccable condition because of the materials used during construction.
Wakeboard boats are packed with technology to help wakeboarders have a better experience on the water. Manufacturers have figured out what to put in the boats and how to implement technology to give wakeboarders exactly what they need at their fingertips.
The technology in these boats goes farther than an incredible hull design and a great sound system. Boats today have integrated electronic ballast systems, integrated wake shapers, and speed control.
Integrated ballast systems are built into the hull of the boat and fill with water to add extra weight to the boat, making a larger wake. For example, the Pavati AL24 has an integrated ballast system that holds up to 4,888 lbs of water.
A big wake is what everyone is after and before boat makers began integrating the ballast system into the hull you would have to use removable ballast systems. This could be either physical weights that are placed in the back of the boat, bags filled with sand, or bags filled with water.
The outcome of this was pretty good, but also took up a fair amount of space in the boat, limiting space for people. A manual ballast system can also be a lot of work – you will either be loading weights onto the boat, filling sandbags and loading them, or pumping water in and out of the water bags.
You can make a big wake this way, it is just a more cumbersome process than the automatic ballast systems you find on newer boats. It all comes at a cost, though, and adding the electronics and controls for the integrated ballast systems can be very expensive.
Having a big wake is important, but almost as important is having a smooth, well-shaped wake. Ideally, the wake will be smooth on both sides.
Unfortunately, however, because of the weight distribution in the boat, the wake sometimes ends up smooth on one side and turbulent on the other side.
Wake shapers are attached to the transom of the boat and work by directing the flow of water and evening out the weight distribution on the boat. The result is a smooth, well-shaped wake that will be fun and easy to ride.
While there are removable options, boat builders have also started adding these as an option from the factory and can be controlled from the helm.
On the boats that come with integrated wake shapers, the design and look of the wake shaper blends flawlessly with the design of the rest of the boat and the controls are added to the control center at the helm.
Speed control has been around for a long time, but over the years the technology behind the speed control systems has gotten more accurate, more reliable, and easier to use.
The systems today use GPS to keep a steady speed while towing. A lot of the new boats are also utilizing touch screens at the helm that will control every aspect of your boat. With just a few swipes and clicks you can set your speed, fill your ballast, or use your wake shaper.
Value Wakeboard Boats
There are a handful of “affordable” wakeboard boats available for about the price of a luxury SUV.
Some of the higher-end manufacturers started making a more affordable line to open the sport of wakeboarding and ownership of a wakeboard boat to more people – Malibu has its Axis brand, Mastercraft has the NXT line, and Moomba has the Helix.
Even with the value boats, you still get the benefits of a true wakeboard boat, as opposed to using a different boat type to wakeboard with. Yes, even the value versions are still expensive, but they can be up to a fourth of the cost of the most expensive models on the market, making them a more affordable option, and the right choice, for a lot of people.
One way to make a less expensive wakeboard boat is to remove some of the electronic components. These boats achieve their low price tag, in part, by using manual versions of some of the automatic or electronic version found on a more expensive boat.
For instance, instead of having a power-folding tower, the value models have manual folding towers. This still accomplishes the goal of folding the tower to get it out o the way for storage, without the added cost of the power-folding option.
Cost savings also come from not using touch screens on the helm and having manual wake shapers and surf gates. Having the manual version doesn’t detract from the functionality of the component, but it does help reduce the overall price of the boat.
If you take the most important parts of a wakeboard boat – the hull design, power train, and ability to add weight to create a massive wake – and take away everything else, you still have an impressive wakeboard boat.
When it comes to deciding on what boat you should buy, you have to understand what is important to you and how you value different aspects of a boat.
Is a more expensive boat better than a less expensive boat? Not necessarily, but there is a difference in the ease of use that comes with the options included in the more expensive models.
To some people, the main goal is to just be on the water and the extras that come on the more expensive models aren’t necessary.
While others want to have the easiest, carefree experience they can have, and they are willing to pay a premium for the best of the best. Either way, the outcome is the same.
You are on the water with people you like, doing something you like to do. And if we are being honest, being in the water is what all of us are after.
If you are in the market for a new wakeboard boat, there isn’t a bad, or wrong, option. All the boats being built today have great designs, amenities, and powertrains, giving you everything you need for a great day on the water.
What’s more, is boat makers have figured out how to get a lot of people on board. Even on the smallest models, there is still room for 10 – 11 people, meaning you can bring everyone you want, as well as all of your gear, and still have the best time.