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Can you Wakesurf Without Ballast?

Can you Wakesurf Without Ballast?

If you have a boat with no built-in ballast, you may not want to invest in fat sacs to improve your surf wake. Or, you may need the storage space in the boat for other things.

Some boat owners also live on a private lake that prohibit wake enhancing devices in boats, including ballasts and wakeplates.

A weighted ballast system positioned towards the back of the boat, possibly combined with a wake plate/wedge system, is generally key to creating a well-sized wake to surf on. But is it possible to wakesurf without ballast in the boat?

Wake surfing without ballast is possible with the right passengers, board, and rider combination. However, you generally won’t have a high-quality wave. An experienced rider on a voluminous board might be able to surf the wake, but beginners will likely struggle without ballast weight. 

There are three key components to surfing: the wave, the board, and rider skills. In general, having 2 of the 3 can compensate for the other.

The best alternative to ballast tanks is passenger weight. Typically, you would need to fit 1500 lbs worth of passengers towards the back of the boat to create a sizable wake.

If adding more people in the boat is not an option, using a floaty longboard can help the wakesurfer to maintain speed and momentum on a small wake. 

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Examples of wake surfing without ballast

With the right config, it’s possible to wakesurf behind certain boats without ballast. One example is with a Mastercraft DD 205 with no ballast tanks.

Add 2 or 3 passengers in the back and one more on the trunk facing rear on the surfer’s side. Drive at a speed of 8-10 mph – the driver will need to stand due to bow rise at that speed.

A vintage 21-foot Tige without ballast can create a wake worthy of riding with as little as one added passenger sitting in the surfside corner of the boat.

The wake created is quite weak and small and requires more effort from the rider. However, it is possible to surf on a normal short surfboard behind this boat.

You can also wakesurf on a longboard behind a 2007 Response LXI with 5-6 people on board and the wedge down. You might even pull if off (though challenging) on an NSP 6′ surfboard with 3 passengers in the boat.

The pocket is very small and you have to ride very close to the boat. It’s also very easy to lose the wave as soon as the boat slows down.

Surfing behind a late 90s VLX without ballast can also be done with only 3 or 4 people in the boat.

With an LSV, on the other hand, you’d typically need to have the stock tanks filled surfside and the wedge at a click from 3/4 with 5-6 passengers to be able to surf a decent wake on both sides.

Can a good wake surfer ride with no ballast?

Simply put, the more skilled you are at wake surfing, the easier it will be for you to surf on a low-quality, small wake. 

A beginner needs to figure out the momentum and speed of the board, wake, and boat before feeling comfortable. An experienced rider, on the other hand, will generally be able to maneuver the board and gather momentum with more ease.

To partly make up for weight, turning the boat slightly towards the side that the surfer is surfing on will create more curl and a bit more pocket to ride. 

Without ballast tanks, the driver should play around with the speed while the surfer holds onto the rope. It’s essential for the surfer to get the feeling of surfing the wake and not relying on the rope before letting it go.

With the right boat (inboard wake boat), and a decent amount of passengers inside the boat, you may get a sufficient small wake for a beginner wakesurfer to learn on. However, it will never be as easy (or fun) as a weighted boat.

Can you replace the ballast with other things?

Can you replace the ballast with other things?
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Using ballast tanks is not always possible. Many boat owners prefer to keep storage space free, and some private resorts regulate the use of wake-enhancing devices.

There are couple of things you can do to weigh your boat down without obvious ballast tanks:

  1. Additional passengers and personal belongings. People are easy to move around and can be positioned in different seats across the boat. Positioning passengers towards one side of the rear of the boat, leaving the other side empty will create a larger wake on the surfer’s side.
  2. Sandbags and lead weights are easier to hide when driving on a ‘no ballast’ private lake. Lead weights can be tucked under seats, in the gunnels, and stashed into personal bags.
  3. If allowed, a wake plate or wedge can be used to direct the water flow under the hull of the boat directly into the pocket of the wake. With an added 90-degree angled wedge, as well as passenger weight at the back of the boat, drive at a slow speed of 10 mph until the wake looks surfable. 

If the wake looks too close to the boat platform, speed up slightly until the wedge creates a wake worthy of riding without a rope.

Other than adding weighted items into the boat, there are a few tricks that can allow a surfer to get more push out of a small wake:

  • Use a bigger, floatier board to help maintain momentum and stay in the pocket of the wake. More floatation in the board can make up for the lack of weight/ballast inside the boat.
  • Keep your front leg is bent, with the knee over the toes. Keep your board pointed at the back corner of the boat. The angle will make it easier to stay in the pocket of the small wake.
  • Surfer weight makes a real difference. The smaller the rider, the more push they get from the wake and the easier it is for them to go ropeless. See this post for more about getting more push for wakesurfing. 

That said, if your boat has built-in tanks, you should definitely use them to create a decent wave for ropeless surfing. Fill the surf-side rear tank completely but keep the opposite side empty.

Position the passengers in the surf-side corner. If you have a wedge, set it to its maximum and drive slow (10 mph). If needed, partially filling the front tank and driving slightly faster will push the wave pocket a bit farther from the boat.

What boat has the best wake without any ballast or wake plates?

A Mastercraft 205 with a V-shaped hull, e.g. the XStar or X1 can create a decent wake without ballast or much added weight.

The 21′ V-hull Super Air Nautique SAN 210 also creates one of the best low-weight waves. It has a dry weight of 4200 lbs and generates a nice stock wake for a good surfer.

Of course, throwing in an extra 1000 lbs of lead and a few passengers will result in a solid-sized wake.

See also:
Best Mastercraft boat for wake/surf
Best Nautique surf boat

Can you wakeskate without ballast?

Wake surfing and wakeskating differ on the board you use and the section of the wake you ride on.

While a wake surfing board can range from a classic longboard to a high-performance shortboard, a wakeskate looks more like a curved wakeboard without bindings – or a skateboard without wheels. 

Wakeskates use the same section of the wake that wakeboarders use. They use the rope to maneuver through the wake about 1.5 meters behind the curling part of the wake, where a wake surfer would typically be positioned.

Because wakeskates typically have less volume than a foam-filled surfboard and don’t have fins underneath them, they are very difficult to use without a rope, let alone without added ballast. 

The combination of the wakeboard-like shape of the board, its lack of volume and fins, and the small wake produced without ballast tanks make it impossible to wakeskate without a rope.

In Conclusion

If you don’t have access to weighted ballast tanks, your best bet would be to use a 90-degree wake shaper or wedge placed on the furthest back section of the hull on the opposite side of the surfer. 

Investing in a set of fat sacs – tube sac for the ski locker and fat sacks for under the seats – with a Tsunami pump to fill them up is a good idea, as these can be filled halfway to keep space in the boat storage lockers. 

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Image credits:

Featured image: “242X Wakesurf” (CC BY 2.0) by Yamaha WaterCraft
(2) “2012_SX190_14” (CC BY 2.0) by Yamaha WaterCraft