Many lakes get choppy water from boats and wind. Large flowage lakes can get really rough for wakesurfing in the afternoons due to wind swell – Lake Powel and Lake Geneva are two famous examples.
When choosing a surf boat, you’ll generally need to compromise on rough water comfort as the latter demands a deep V hull, trim, more length and weight. That said, some manufacturers have a V-hull and hence better ride characteristics when the lake gets rough, while still throwing a good surf wave.
An important question you need to ask yourself is, if you’re going to buy a surf boat, will you choose it primarily based on rough water riding? The answer will depend on how much time you spend wakesurfing/wakeboarding in chop.
See also: Best wake/surf boat for shallow water
Things to look for in a surf boat for rough water
Wakeboarding and surf boats are specifically designed to produce a wake of excellent quality and are less concerned with the ride quality for bumpy days.
While choosing a wake boat typically means you’ll have to compromise on rough water ride quality, there are some features to look out for that can increase the comfort of your ride in choppy water:
Many wake boats are designed with a flat bottomed hull towards the bow of the boat, which goes directly against what you would look for in stable, rough water going boat.
Deep V-shaped hulls (with a high deadrise of more than 20 degrees) cut through moving water and waves more easily. This hull shape makes for a smoother ride in chop.
True surf/wake boats, in contrast, get a good pound when running at 15-18mph speeds In choppy conditions.
Regardless of what ballast or wedging systems you add, a wake boat won’t be able to handle chop as well as a sterndrive will.
If you plan to spend a lot of time in the chop or in the open ocean, a deep V-shaped hull common on saltwater boats will ride through chop much better.
However, it generally won’t produce as high a quality wake for surfing as a flat bottomed wake boat.
That being said some surf boats (e.g. Centurions) have more of a V shaped hull which can give you a little better rough water ride and cut through the waves better.
Size and weight of the boat
The bigger and heavier the boat, the more it digs into the water and cuts through chop and waves.
A longer boat (over 20 feet) will be able to power over the peak of smaller waves without falling into the trough between them.
When the waves are too large to glide over, the weight helps the boat slice through waves instead of bouncing around on top of them.
Boats with a high freeboard (the distance between the waterline and the upper deck), are better suited for choppy days and will reduce water backsplash from entering the interior of the boat.
Center wake tab
Also known as a surf tab, wake plate, central trim tab (Mastercraft) or stringer wake plate (Centurion), a center wake tab is a trim tab built into the back of the boat.
When you activate this device, it directs the water flow underneath the bow to lift the stern of the boat, helping to reduce bow rise and get the boat onto a more balanced plane.
By adjusting the bow position and directing it more into the water (towards a planing position), you will gain more control driving through choppy waves and will experience a smoother ride.
Moomba Mojo Surf Edition
The 23 foot Moomba Mojo Surf Edition has a massive hull and tall freeform towards the front of the boat.
Its size and hull shape that sits relatively deep in the water allow it to effortlessly cruise through rough waves and manage itself in a range of conditions.
The Moomba comes with the Flow 2.0 system which manipulates contoured trim plates to help reposition the hull and produce a big wake in deep water.
By digging the hull further into the water, the boat also naturally gains more control for driving in rough conditions.
In comparison, Malibu and Axis boats have minimal freeboard (6 to 12 inches less than the Moomba) and don’t perform as well as the Moomba in storms.
See also the best surf boats under $30K
Nautique SV-211, 226 and Super Air Nautique
The Nautique SV-211 is well known for its ability to manipulate the wake to suit both skiers and wakeboarders/wake surfers.
The 211 has more of a V-shaped hull than most tow boats, providing extra stability in rough water.
It combines a ski and wakeboard hull design into one with the use of its manually operated “Hydrogate” system which alters the flow of water coming off the transom, changing the way water flows around the hull.
While this was previously achieved by attaching a wedge or gate system, the Hydrogate system has little effect on the handling or fuel consumption of the boat.
The SV-211 also has a V-drive engine, which is typically more versatile and can handle choppy conditions better than a direct drive.
Direct drives are more common on ski boats that sit closer to the water, have a shorter freeboard and don’t produce a big wake.
The Nautique 226 also handles chop well. If cruising in extra rough conditions, consider filling up the center ballast tanks for added weight in the V-shaped part of the hull.
Super Air Nautique models (G23, G25 and G21) weigh between 5800 lbs and 7200 lbs depending on the model. Their weight, combined with deep front V-shaped hulls that dig into the water, make these models quite stable in rough water.
Read more about the best Nautique surf boats here.
Malibu surf/wake boats
Malibu is praised for designing boats that are very forgiving and quite easy to get balanced in choppy conditions (for surf boats).
Malibu 25 LSV boat
At 25 feet and 5600 lbs, the 25 LSV is the longest luxury sport V-drive boat on the market. With Malibu’s “Wake Plus” hull, the boat is designed to sit deeper in the water when travelling at slow speeds and displace more water into the wake.
The deeper hull makes cutting through big-lake chop and swells feel easy while leaving a nice rolling surf wake in its trails.
The boat’s M6 motor is extremely powerful and easily able to push through all sorts of conditions.
Malibu 24 MXZ surf boat
The 24 MXZ weighs in at 6000 lbs and also boasts the Wake Plus hull. This boat is only slightly (6 inches) shorter than the 25 LSV, yet is heavier, digging into the water with even more power and precision.
It comes with Malibu’s Integrated Surf Platform (ISP) which, placed at the waterline at the stern of the boat, digs deeper into the water, providing additional stability in rough conditions.
Running with the trim tab in lift-mode can help the boat handle the chop even better.
Learn more about the best Malibu surf boats here.
Others wake boats for rough water
Malibu’s bigger boats (such as the Malibu MB) ride through waves easily with their deep V-shaped hulls and heavy weight pushing them into the water.
These bigger boats, however, handle more like a barge and are generally not as great for wakesurfing.
The Centurion Ri237 rides very nicely in chop due to its heavy weight and deeper V hull compared to other wave boats. Wave quality, however, is generally not considered up to par with the “bu’s”.
Again, it’s important that you weigh your priorities between the handling of the boat in rough water and the quality of the wake it produces.
Tips for using a surf boat in rough water
- Fill the bow ballast and center tank with water, to further weigh down and dig the V-shape part of the hull into the water.
- Raise your speed a bit to ride on top of the chop vs merely staying on plane and ploughing through the small waves.
- Filling the center tank will typically reduce the bouncing, pounding, and spray
- Understand how to drive between waves, directing the angle of your boat to ride with the waves when possible, and at an angle if you’re riding towards them (vs directly into them).
- When driving an inboard (V-drive or direct drive) reduce the trim plate height so that the bow rises as much as possible, adjusting your speed accordingly. This allows the boat to plane at a consistent speed and avoids backsplash when riding over waves.
Riding in chop isn’t ideal, especially if your primary goal is wakeboarding / wakesurfing. Most buyers will choose a surf boat that has the best wake shape and quality for their riding style, regardless of how it rides in rough conditions.
Since you will likely spend 90% of the time riding on calm and flat waters, if may be a bad choice to compromise on the wake and wave quality of a surf boat only to avoid the occasional uncomfortable ride in choppy conditions.
If you find yourself wake surfing in 3 to 4 foot chop on a regular basis, a Cobalt or Chaparral boat with a built-in surf system may be worth looking into. These boats, however, produce a mediocre wake in comparison to true wake/surf boats.