Wake boats these days are very expensive. Two decades ago, you could typically find a nice tow boat for under $50K. Today, finding a wakesurf boat under $30K is not an easy task.
Wakeboard/wakesurf boats are specialized, high-end, hand-assembled products with fiberglass hulls, high horsepower engines, sophisticated ballast systems, and lots of R&D for generating the best wake. That’s why these boats are increasingly costly – and hold their values.
Buying a 15-20 year old boat with 800-1000 engine hours under $30K can still be a good choice provided it has the right features, was used in saltwater and has good maintenance records, and can be tested. You’re likely to get your hands on what was then a high-end model with technologies that are still relevant today.
What to look for in a used wakesurf boat under $30K
For wakesurfing, you typically want a V-drive and the biggest boat (with a big motor) you can find for the money. You may be able to find a 23′ in that price range – which will also handle bigger lakes and rougher water well. Alternatively, you may go for a slightly smaller boat that you’ll plumb in extra fatsacs for a better surf wake.
For wakesurfing, the general advice is to find a well-maintained Centurion or Tige, upgrade the prop, and add ballast to tip the boat to the side for a good wake. Setting up the boat to get the right wake takes trial and error and depends on factors such as personal preference, wakesurfer weight, and crew size inside the boat.
Generally speaking, older Centurion and Tige boats tend to perform quite well for wakesurfing once set up correctly, and offer among the best engine reliability if adequately maintaind.
An alternative approach to leaning the boat with ballast bags (Amazon) to create a surfable wake is to weight the boat evenly and use a surf gate. Again, Centurion and Tige boats are known to perform well with this type of setup. Finding the right weighing for the desired wake takes a bit of time whatever the boat.
A V-drive (e.g. the VLX or Vride) typically gives you a narrow enough wake for wakeboarding/wakesurfing with smooth ramp and easier wake-to-wake transitions. Finding a well-cared one under $30K, however, takes a bit of patience since these boats tend to sell fast. You’ll generally have more choice if you’re ready to do some interior refurbishing.
In general, stay away from boats used in salt/brackish water unless you can be sure good care was taken and you’re getting a solid discount.
Best wakesurf boat hull
As mentioned, for wakesurfing you want to easily get your boat to learn on one side to generate a good wave. For this, boats with a deep-V hull are best as you can max out ballast. Although you can get a decent wave with other hull types, e.g. a Malibu VLX with a surf gate, the wave won’t have the pocket and push of a deep-V hull. A V hull weighted correctly will give you a very good wakesurfing wave.
The Tige 21v or 22v and the Centurion Avalanche (no walk-through) are two examples of great budget wakesurf boats, deep and heavy old boats that throw amazing waves for under $30K used. An older Sanger v215 can also be a good option. In contrast, older Malibu or Mastercraft had relatively flat hulls which makes then more suitable for wakeboarding than for wakesurfing.
One thing to keep in mind is, if you surf goofy (right foot in the front), you should avoid boats with a walk-through transom as these don’t produce as good a goofy wave (due to the left hand rotation prop) – unless you’re willing to set up special extra fat sacs or mount a custom asymmetrical wakeplate.
How to set up a wakesurf boat under $30K
An old used boat with a deep hull will typically come with fatsacs (Amazon) and wake plate. As mentioned, for a good wakesurf wake you’ll need to dial in the boat with the right weight, so plan on adding additional ballasts. For example, you may add 110lb in the back, 750lb up front, 400 across the seat and another 400 on the surf side seat (movable).
If you’re on a tight budget, you can buy a few bags with throw-over-the-side pumps (Amazon) to fill and drain. Or, you can invest in costlier but easier to use dedicated pumps and switches.
In addition to ballast, many wake surfers often use a wake shaper (Amazon), a bracket with suction cups that you place of the side of the boat to shape the wave. You typically set it up as far back as possible and drive around 11mph with the wakeplate at maximum height.
The advantage of using certain shapers like the Malibu surf gate is that you can keep your boat evenly weighted as opposed to switching ballast bags and people from side to side. This allows you to easily switch sides for surfing behind the boat (e.g. to practice alternate sides), and also switch between wakeboarding and wakesurfing without having to change the weighing.
A wake shaper isn’t necessary on boats with an integrated surf system, however used boats under $30K are unlikely to have that.
Best wakesurfing boats under $30K
As mentioned earlier, Tige is a great option when in the market for an old powerboat under $30K. The 24v is well-suited for bigger crews in the boat and for big choppy lakes. 13-15 year old models can often be found around $25K.
On the other hand, the 21v offers a great and easy surfing wave, particularly with a suck gate on it (very easy to set up). The latter can often be found for around $20K.
Nautique Sante 210
A budget under $30K may get you a 400-hour Sante 210. The 1995-2006 Sante hull has the best wake, with reversible ballast pumps and a reliable v-drive. The surf wake on that boat is amazing, big and clean (though a bit hard) with a crew of 2 and 2000lb of ballast.
At 21 feet, the boat comfortably fits 5-6 people, and with a bigger crew of 6-8 (although a bit cramped) it’s possible to surf regular in deep water for very long sessions.
The Sante Super Sport is great for both wakeboarding and surfing, e.g. with 1200lb in the back and 600 to 800lb in the center and front as well as a surf wedge – less weight is needed to lean the boat compared to a bigger one.
Though not the very best wakesurf boat compared to the new boats, the VLX remains a very popular option among beginner to average wakesurfers on a limited budget.
It’s a great starter boat, good for wakeboarding, and can produce a long decent wake, not very high but with good push on both sides if fitted with big bags (e.g. 1100 lb) in the lockers and midship/bow as well as a wave shaper (Amazon).
You may be able to find a 13-14 year old model well under $30K, to which you’ll add $2K worth of fat sacs. The VLX is easy on gas and easy to tow.
Other popular budget wakesurfing boat options
The Mastercraft X30 and the Malibu LSV offer some of the best build quality among old wake boats than can be found under $30K. They are primarily good for wakeboarding but can be made to produce a nice surf wave as well with the right weight and wake shaper. They’re large enough for a larger crew even with added ballasts.
Other good budget boat options for wakesurfing include the old Supra SSV 22 or 24, SunSport 22v or 24v, SSV Launch 24. For a used Supra SunSport, avoid walk-through bows as that will remove the 1100 weight sac option in the nose for improving the wake.
Old Moomba boats can also be found for a relatively low budget. An 8-year old Moomba may be snatched for around $22K complete with fat sacs in the compartments. Although not the best ever, the resulting wave can be nice and fun for wakesurfing.
Although the prices of modern tow boats keep rising (often north of $100K), don’t give up on getting a good wakkesurf boat for under $30K. Used old boats can be a great option provided you choose the right one.
The wakesurf boat you end up buying may be over 15 years old with hundreds of engine hours, as long as it’s been well maintained and can be set up to produce the right wake for your needs.
In all cases, expect to spend time dialing it in and extra money for ballast bags and perhaps a wake shaper for the best possible wave.