If you’re considering getting into wakeboarding, you may be wondering if you can wakeboard behind a boat without a tower. While you may be able to have access to a boat for learning to wakeboard, it may not be fitted with a tower or an extended pylon.
You can wakeboard without a tower, but a tower offers a higher rope attachment at the boat stern, resulting in an upward rope pull for the wakeboarder. This makes it easier to get up on a wakeboard and less likely to faceplant. A tower also makes big airs easier.
Most wakeboarders start to wakeboard without a tower or extended pylon, however, and do just fine without it. Setting up your boat with a tower, however, allows for more advanced wakeboard tricks and makes your boat more comfortable and practical.
Why is a tower helpful for wakeboarding?
A wakeboard tower is an aluminum frame which is bolted onto the hull of a boat. It is used to make the tow line higher off the water, typically 6 feet or higher.
The higher tow line results in an upward rope pull that helps you as a wakeboarder not only get up on your wakeboard more easily at take-off, but also jump higher and longer (hangtime) off the boat’s wake. More air time is key for pulling advanced rotations and tricks
A higher rope also has better clearance above the water, so that when you’re edging side to side behind the boat on your wakeboard, you get a more comfortable ride with less rope splashing.
Using a wakeboard tower makes your wakeboarding experience slightly closer to riding in a cable park, where the rope pull is even more vertical, allowing you to do more advanced tricks and big air much more easily.
Since the tie-off point on a boat tower is usually placed inside the boat, the traction occurs forward of the boat stern, giving you additional height compared to a standard ski tow eye.
Wakeboarding without a tower
When wakeboarding without a tower, the rope is usually tied to a ski eye at the back of the boat, which is typically quite low above the water – and lower than your extended arms.
This result in a downward pull which can make you easily faceplant if you catch the front of your board, e.g. when going into switch stance.
Likewise, when you pop off the wake for jumping, the negative angle of the rope toward the low eye tends to pull you down, preventing you from going high. Being tied low, the rope also gets more easily affected by the agitated water behind the boat.
Wakeboarders, however, still commonly perform all kinds of tricks and flips behind boats that are not true inboards and don’t have a tower or pylon – though they perhaps don’t get as big air as they would with one.
As an alternative to a standard low ski eye, some boat owners use the cleats on the boat stern to tie the wakeboard rope to. Since cleats are not designed for towing, however, you may want to reinforce it with a backing plate. A side cleat may also make your boat lean to the side when towing a wakeboarder.
When wakeboarding without a tower, you want to try different rope lengths to help position yourself at the best place on the wake. A shorter rope (15 to 22″ shorter than regular) will place you in closer to the boat where the wakes are narrower/closer apart, and with more ramp to them. This will facilitate jumping across them.
What are the cons of using a wakeboarding tower?
Acquiring a wakeboard tower can be expensive. OEM towers that fit specific models can run as high as $5000-$8000. Luckily, though, more affordable so-called universal towers are bolt-on products compatible with many different types of boats (direct drive, v-drive, inboard/outboard) and priced in the $500-$1200 range.
Having a tower installed on your boat can set you back another $1000-$1500, as some require around 4 hours to set up. For DIY wakeboarders, however, there are increasingly tower models designed for easy installation.
An alternative to a wakeboard tower is to set up an extended pylon, easier and quicker to install and remove. A pylon, however, typically has 2-point support (vs 4 for towers) and is attached using straps to the bow of the boat, getting in the way of passengers. Pylons need to be constantly adjusted.
How to choose a good tower for wakeboarding?
If you have wakeboard boat, chances are you already have a tower set up, or you can get an OEM tower specific for your model from your dealer.
If you have an older boat, on the other hand, there are many options you can choose from. Some manufacturers offer custom wakeboard towers based on your boat’s exact dimensions (pricier), resulting in an exact fit. Others make standard-size or adjustable towers (cheaper) that can adapt to many boats.
Towers vary in tube material and size. Most are made of strong and lightweight aircraft-type aluminum with diameters around 2.5″. Tube size and strength is important for supporting wakeboard racks, speakers, lights etc.
Some wakeboard towers mount on top of the boat hull, some inside under the deck, some outside. Some are collapsible to varying degrees for easy storage, while others are rigid, taking up more space but generally sturdier.
If you’re looking for an affordable wakeboard tower, check out the
Origin OWT-I Advancer. It’s an adaptable tower that fits most boats in the 68″ to 98″ beam range and 17′ to 22′ hull length.
It’s relatively easy to install if you’re handy with tools in 2 or 3 hours for 2 people – although the tower does not come with proper mounting instructions.
The hardware on the Origin wakeboard tower does tend to loosen a bit when used daily in rough waters, so some owners choose to weld the joints. The tower is well-built and sturdy, nonetheless, and fits really well on many different boat models. See the Origin OWT-I Advancer tower on Amazon.
Other advantages of using a wakeboard tower
While you can no doubt learn to wakeboard and even perform tricks without a tower, using one will allow you to get bigger air and work on more advanced tricks.
A having a wakeboarding tower set up on your board also has a few additional advantages:
- A tower gives you a convenient way to store your wakeboards using a rack attached t it, freeing space inside the boat
- Speakers and lights can be mounted onto the tower, as well as mirrors for better monitoring wakeboarders being towed
- A bimini can be set up on a tower for shade
- A tower frees up the back of the boat for passengers
- A tower provides a beam to hold on to when moving around the boat
A tower is not required for wakeboarding, you can perfectly ride, jump wake, and do flip tricks using a standard tow eye. However, a tower will make it easier for you to learn and get up on your wakeboard, and to perform higher jump maneuvers.
Setting up a tower on your boat might not only help you improve your wakeboarding, it can also make your life easier or store your boards, adding lights and sound in your boat, and even protect yourself from the sun. Towers do come at a cost but there are some decent aftermarket products that can be adjusted for most boats.
(1) Featured photo: “2009 Mastercraft Pro Wakeboard Tour, Spa” (CC BY 2.0) by shortCHINESEguy
(2) “Tony on his wakeboard” (CC BY-SA 2.0) by neefer
(3) “cincymc-photoshoot-23” (CC BY 2.0) by bzmills