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Malibu vs Nautique: Which To Choose For Wakeboard & Surf ?

Malibu vs Nautique: Which To Choose For Wakeboard & Surf ?

If you’re having a hard time choosing between a Malibu and a Nautique for your next tow boat, you’re certainly not alone. Malibu and Nautique boats, while not the only ones on the market, are widely considered the best for wakeboarding and wakesurfing.

While Malibu boats are recognized for offering the best wake/surf wave out there, Nautique is a serious contender and also gets the edge with regards to fit and finish, tech, and driving comfort.

Of course, all is not black and white, and comparisons between Malibu and Nautique depends a many things such as:

  • The range of watersports (skiing, wakeboarding, wakesurfing) you and your passengers will be doing
  • How much room and storage is needed
  • How much tech is wanted
  • How important fit and finish is
  • Budget

Boat owners (and wannabe) often rave about Nautique’s user friendly design and experience as well as their up to date tech including tab and ballast system, which make for great wake options and rider customization.

People sometimes compare Nautique to Audi and Malibu to Volkswagen: both brands offer similar features and functionality but the difference lies in application, luxury, and handling. 

Another important point is that a Nautique will typically resell better than a Malibu. However, the initial purchase price will generally be higher for a Nautique all other things being equal.

In determining whether to choose a Nautique or a Malibu, drivability, surfability, storage, and features are assessed. Note that surfing and skiing are inherently opposed in terms of ideal wake size (big vs minimal).

Let’s zoom in on specific boats comparisons between the 2 brands.

See also:
Best Malibu boat for wake/surf?
Best Nautique boat for wake/surf?

More boat comparisons:
Malibu vs Mastercraft – which to choose?
Malibu vs Axis – which to choose?
Nautique vs Mastercraft – which to choose?

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Malibu LSV vs Nautique SAN 230

Wave

The Malibu LSV wave and wake are generally cleaner than the Nautique 230 with a lot less wash at the top of the wave, if any. This applies for both wakeboard and surf.

The LSV surf wave is widely considered one of the best out there. It’s wider than the 230’s – although the 230’s is steeper. That said, some surfers feel that while the Nautique 230 wave is not as attractive, it’s easier for turning when surfing.

For wakeboarding, while the 230’s wake is very good, it’s primarily engineered for long rope boarding at speeds 22 to 24 mph. The wave tends to get washy when driving slower.

While you can get a clean wakeboard wake on the Nautique 230 down to 20 mph (ballast empty), the LSV will maintain a clean wave as low as 17 mph with no ballast.

This is due to the LSV’s flatter hull which produces a steeper wakeboard wake and clean wakes at low speed.

The Nautique 230’s wave, meanwhile, is extremely easy to configure for different riders. It’s also firmer and steeper than the LSV’s. However as mentioned, it will completely wash out below 20 mph.

On the flip side, the LSV’s flatter hull requires lots of added weight to achieve an optimal wakeboard wake or surf wave, unlike the Nautique SAN 230.

Meanwhile, the 230 is more sensitive to the weight distribution inside the boat.

Fit & finish

Boat owners generally agree that the Nautique SAN 230 (or 210) offers better fit and finish compared to a Malibu LSV.

Owners who make the switch are often amazed at the nicer feel the the 230 has vs the LSV – which tends to rattle more and has a cheaper looking interior. The 230 is more comfortable and user friendly overall.

Nautique is more solid compared to Malibu and a 230 will tend to have fewer warranty claims. Some owners complain about the reliability of the screens on older Malibu LSV models.

Driving

The Malibu LSV has considerable more bow rise compared to the Nautique 230 – which doesn’t even require using the flip up bolster to see over the dash. The bow rise on the LSV gets even worse when extra weight is added.

Turning is also easier and tighter on the 230 vs the LSV, where you fight the wheel more. Driving the 230 with someone surfing behind is a lot more pleasant compared with the LSV.

Overall, while the 230 and LSV are both great boats, boaters who spend time in a SAN will often stick with a Nautique.

Malibu MXZ vs Nautique G

Malibu MXZ wave

The Malibu 24 MXZ is praised for its walk-through transom and pickle fork bow. Bow rise is greater than on the Nautique G, however the MXZ wave is often considered better.

Meanwhile, the G23 has great storage including in-floor cooler storage and extra room in the lockers for boards, tubes, etc.

The tower that comes with the MXZ can hold more than 4 boards. In the G23, the boards are often lying around in the cabin.

The Nautique G is even more solid than the 230. On the other hand, the 230 is sportier, has a great surf wave, and is lighter. It’s easier to tow but has less storage space than the G.

Wave

Boat owners are generally amazed with the MXZ surf wave. The wave on both the 22 and 24 MXZ is long with great push and makes for incredible surfing and wakeboarding performance, especially since the last hull redesign.

Compared to the Nautique G23, the Malibu MXZ is often considered to have a better surf wave and a wakeboard wake more suitable for all levels, including kids and beginners since you still get clean wakes as you slow down.

That said, some boaters prefer the Nautique G for wakeboarding because of the lower bow rise – the MXZ like most Malibu boats tends to have high bow rise when wakeboarding.

While you can bring the bow down on the MXZ with added weight, this will typically make the wave more mediocre.

Driving

Driving a 24 MXZ on a deep lake in windy conditions will generally give you a much more choppy and uncomfortable ride compared to a G24 driven in the same conditions.   

On an MXZ – as on most Malibu boats – you might consider putting extra weight (lead) in the bow for surfing.

You can also decrease the wedge angle which will help the MXZ flatten out without having to change ballast settings, helping to shape the wave. Another option is to keep the PNP only partially filled.

Another way boaters work around the bow rise on the MXZ is to use the power lift seat which helps for visibility.

Malibu LSV vs Nautique G

Boarders will generally agree the Malibu LSV surf beats its MXZ cousin for wakeboarding and surfing – including with fewer people in the board.

he 25 LSV, in particular, has an industry leading wave which is very easy to setup and lets you build a pro level wave with little effort. The deep V hull also cuts through waves better than the MXZ.

G23 & G25 boats can also offer a very good wake/wave but they generally need extra weight over the factory setup to reach that optimal wave. Once you add the bigger PNP bags and lead, the wave turns from good to excellent.

Boat owners praise the Nautique G23 for its rear storage, solid tall tower, and better board storage compared to the Malibu LSV. The G’s sub-floor and transom coolers are also better than the LSV.

Another important advantage the G has over the LSV is that it has minimal bow rise when surfing including with added weight. The LSV runs a bit bow high, keeping you from using full wedge unless you add weight to the bow as well. This in turn requires adding sacks over the seats in addition to the bow tank.

Conclusion

Choosing between a Malibu and a Nautique is a tough one. The Malibu boats offer industry leading waves that can be achieved without much tweaking, as the boats will generally come out loaded the right way.

A Nautique will generally have a better, sturdier quality feel with more storage and less bow rise. The wake/wave achievable on these boats are great as well, although a bit more effort may be required.

Regarding which of the G or LSV wave wins, typically in a group of boaters, about half will prefer the G wave while the others will vote for the LSV’s. Both waves are very good and it’s largely a matter of preference.

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Cover images courtesy of Malibu Boats and Nautique