If you’re a soon-to-be or newer boat owner interested in water sports, you may be wondering what type of boat is suitable for water skiing.
Many sorts of boats can easily tow a skier on doubles, including dedicated ski boats and wakeboard boats, some fishing and jon boats, outboard boats, bowriders, even large cruiser boats. Slalom skiers, however, will need more power to get out of the water, especially learners and heavier skiers.
Boat size and weight is also important. A 14′ boat with a 18 HP engine may be able to tow a kid on double skis. On the other hand, an 18′ bass boat might require at least 75 HP to pull a grown up skier on double skis.
In this post, we take a close up look at different types of boat and how suitable they are for water skiing.
What type of boat can you ski behind?
In general, it’s possible to ski behind almost any boat that can plane. Skiing on two skis requires relatively low speed e.g. 25 mph, so that’s all you need from a boat.
On the other hand, more power is needed to pull a slalom (single ski) skier adequately. The more horsepower, the faster you can pull a good trick skier out of the water, especially a bigger skier.
Even so, it’s worth noting many classic Chris Crafts ski inboard boats had no more than 60-80 HP and worked fine for slalom skiing.
Ideally, in a boat used for skiing, you should have a pylon or a tower for the rope so you can circle around to pick up the skier without the rope getting tangled up or in the way.
Regarding boat size, while you can certainly ski behind a bigger boat (20’+), it will generally create a bigger wake that may be better suited for wakeboarding than skiing.
Can you water ski behind a cruiser?
The term “cruiser” refers to larger boats in the 22 to 44 foot range – e.g. a 25′ Sundancer. A bigger cruiser boat with a 350 HP engine will typically have enough acceleration to pull a skier out of the water.
That said, cruisers often don’t have very good hole shots – ability to get up on plane and up to speed quickly from a halt. As a result, a skier will often be plowing water for a longer moment than with a smaller boat, and might get fatigued just getting out of the hole.
Another con associated with bigger boats is a very wide turning radius, which means you need a larger area for skiing as you can’t do tight turns.
Cruisers also make it trickier and more time consuming to recover a fallen skier, especially when there are many other boats around.
With cruiser boats, it’s also harder to find and maintain optimal speed for pulling a skier, as that speed generally sits between getting out of the water and reaching planing speed – at that point, the speed jumps up and typically becomes too high for the skier.
For example, a 38′ Sonic will jump to about 45 mph once the props kick in after coming out of the hole.
Visibility is another common issue when using a cruiser for skiing. On a narrow lake or river, it can be hard to see what’s going on around the boat and assess how much space the skier has for cutting the wake. The high bow on bigger boats also tends to hinder visibility.
Another obvious drawback of cruisers for skiing is high fuel consumption.
On the plus side, with something like a 38′ cruiser, you may be able to pull up to 5 skiers at the same time – albeit at a high cost in terms of fuel.
Can you water ski behind a wake boat?
While wake boats aren’t any better than other boats for water skiing, you can certainly ski behind one. A wake boat will generally have enough power to pull a slalom skier out of the water, and even allow for tricks and advanced techniques.
One common drawback of skiing behind a wake boat is that these generally don’t allow trimming for rough water. Also, they’re typically pricier that regular boats and are not nearly as speed efficient.
Can you ski behind a fishing boat?
Most fishing boats 18 foot or larger will work fine for water skiing behind them, provided they can get on a plane fast and reach speeds of 30 to 35 mph.
If you’re looking for an all-around boat for fishing, family cruising, and water skiing, a bay boat or deck boat can be a very good option.
You can also typically water ski behind a bass boat if it has at least 75 HP in its engine. You’ll likely need to add a ski tow bar though. Bear in mind that the light weight and shallow hull of bass boats will generally not produce much of a wake for tricks.
Can you ski behind a jon boat?
A small jon boat that can run at 20 mph can be used to pull a skier on double skis, including with 3 people inside the boat.
A 14′ jon boat with an 18 HP Merc engine can easily pull a 100lb kid skier out of the water – although dock starts will be easiest.
In most cases, however, the skier might be dragging the stern of the boat around.
An advantage of using a small fishing boat for water skiing is that it’s very easy to go back toward a fallen skier and try getting up again.
Small boats are also a lot less intimating for children to learn to ski behind.
Can you ski behind an outboard boat?
Outboards in the 22 to 24 foot range with a single engine (not a twin) generally work well for water skiing.
Outboard boats offer very good wakes for advanced skiers, and are more forgiving than inboards for learners, allowing you to get away with less than perfect form.
On the other hand, it takes more effort to get up on a single ski compared to inboards or I/O. Turns are also not as smooth when skiing behind an outboard.
A 23′ fishboat with an outboard engine and a deep V hull will typically pull up to 3 double skiers together. The downside is, the wake it will create may be too big for slalom skiing.
One big advantage of skiing behind an outboard is that it can run on sandbars with no issue, in contrast to an inboard which has a deeper hull.
If you go for an outboard, you’ll generally need to add a tow pylon in front of the boat, or a bridle with a block in the rear. This will help reduce the pull of heavier riders on the stern in fast turns.
All in all, outboards are a good compromise if you’re looking for a family boat that also lets you do recreational skiing or distance slalom course.
Can you ski behind a center console boat?
Center console boats offer decent space and are generally fine for a fishing and boating use mix – e.g. a 20′ center console with a 150HP Johnson motor.
That said, dual console boats are probably an even better option for water sports. For one thing, they provide better storage for skiing gear and other equipment.
They also generally have better seating, and rear-facing seats for watching the water skier(s) being towed.
Can you ski behind a bowrider?
A 19′ bowrider with a 350 motor can generally tow anything, from a tuber, to a heavy beginner skier, to a newbie wakeboarder. A Bayliner 19′ bowrider with an outboard can pull a 260lb skier out of the water without any issues.
While a V-drive wake boat can’t be trimmed to handle choppy water, bowriders are typically great for such conditions. They also consume significantly less fuel compared to a dedicated ski or wake boat.
Bowriders have lots of room due to the extra forward seating. A 20′ bowrider is often rated for 10 to 12 people. They are nice and light and can run quite fast when fitted with a 350 engine. They make great all-around boats.
Can you ski behind a Malibu Wakesetter?
The VTX with the Diamond Hull works great for an open lake slalom skier.
A course skier, on the other hand, may not enjoy the hard wake hump at 30 mph – it will launch you out the water at that speed. The wake improves somewhat at 32 – 36 mph, but it remains a hard wake nonetheless.
The large and hard wake is best-suited for wakeboarding as it will launch you in the air quite easily. For a newbie skier, though, this might result in an injury. The width of the wake also makes transitions behind the boat harder for skiers.