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Pickle Fork Boat vs Traditional Bow: Which To Choose?

Pickle Fork Boat vs Traditional Bow: Which To Choose?

Choosing a wake or surf boat for your specific family needs is always a challenge. One of the many aspects to decide on is bow style: should you go for a traditional pointed bow or a pickle fork bow? What are the pros and cons of each?

Pickle fork, aka “open bow”, refers to the wide double pointed bowed found on many ski/wake/surf boats. The practical use of the pickle fork bow is to have more bow seating – a square area gas more seating room than a triangle one – like in a traditional bow.

Pickle fork boats offer lots of extra space for people to ride around, relax, stretch, and sunbathe on the bow of the boat.

Some boaters find drawbacks in pickle forks, however, such as more easily taking water over the bow if you don’t drive careful.

Generally though, boaters are evenly split between pickle fork and traditional V bow and the jury is out. Let’s go over the main arguments and see how important bow style is in choosing a new boat.

See also: 5 Best Wake & Surf Boats Under $100K

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Pickle fork vs traditional bow: general considerations

  • Traditional bow owners often state people are not that interested in sitting in the bow. Pickle fork bow owners argue this is because traditional bows have more limited room for bow sitting. Traditional bow advocates reply that in a pickle fork, people tend to sit in the bow because of the limited room in the cabin.
  • Those who switch to a PF bow (e.g. a Malibu MXZ) find the bow to be very popular for kids and adults alike. It’s common to have 4 people sitting in the bow and 3 in the cabin
  • Traditional bow advocates appreciate the helm sitting further forward and the main cabin having more room.
  • Some boaters prefer not to have kids sitting in the bow facing toward the back, which reduces the benefit of a PF bow.
  • Some boat owners would never go back to traditional bow after switching to pickle fork – even though they may prefer the traditional bow look. They use the bow all the time and going back to traditional would be akin to giving up a third of boat space.
  • Another frequent reason people switch to pickle fork bow is for the walkover and to keep the dog off the upholstery. 
  • While a pickle fork bow is great for relaxing on the lake or in a cove, having several people sitting in the bow while on the move can get in the way of driver visibility.
  • Some also feel the pickle shape restricts visibility when surfing.
  • Pickle fork can be a bit of a pain when picking up a skier/surfer as the boat gets its own chop over the bow. However this is generally mitigated with driving experience.
  • One advantage of pickle fork bow is ease of boarding from the dock. Female passengers also like to use the bow ladder for dipping, and kids use it as a launch pad for swimming.
  • The front area between the pickle forks can get slippery when wet

Pickle fork vs traditional bow: design style

The most obvious aspect of choosing between pickle fork and traditional bow is looks. The pickle fork boat is much wider, blunt-nosed, compared to the pointed V bow.

Some people like the style of the PF bow while others hate it, so this is really a matter of personal preference.

Pickle fork vs traditional bow: interior space

With the pickle fork bow, you gain significant width in the bow of your boat which you can use to seat more people or have extra storage space. It’s generally considered that on a pickle fork, you get the equivalent room of a V-bow that is 3 feet longer.

Pickle forkers enjoy the extra storage and space for sunbathing. The storage space is easy to access thanks to the flip up seats that come with a PF bow.

The traditional bow cuts in a bit due to the pointed shape, leading to a bit less room. For example, there’s a big difference in the room up front between a 2012 MXZ (pickle fork) and a 2012 VLX (trad bow).

On the other hand, the cabin on a traditional bow if often a lot larger than that of a pickle fork since in the latter, the area added to the bow pushes the windshield back. The cabin in a 23 LSV is about 2 feet longer than the 22 MXZ (PF).

Pickle fork boats can also be more problematic for garage storage due to the wider bow.

Pickle fork vs traditional bow: boat weight

Pickle bow does add more volume to the boat, making he boat a bit heavier than a boat of similar size with traditional bow.

Pickle fork vs traditional bow: performance & water handling

A pickle fork being wider at the front may give the impression it’s not going to handle and dig in as well as a V-type bow.

In reality though, the “pickle fork” portion of the bow is running out of the water, and the part of the hull under the water break is the same as other similar shaped hulls with a traditional bow.

Therefore, the way a pickle fork runs in blown out conditions or late afternoon chop may have little to do with the bow design.

That said, boaters report that smaller pickle fork boats like the 20′ Tige won’t cut as well through the waves due to the extra wide bow top, compared to a traditional V bow which will cut deeper.

Tiges pickle forks, however, are wider at the bow than others like MC, Malibu, Axis, Supra, and MB pickle forks models.

An Axis A22 (pickle fork), on the other hand, is reported to run without any issues in 20-30 mph winds. The Supreme 226 pickle fork is also frequently praised as one of the best riding boat for rough water.

The key to improving the ride in chop is to the bring the bow down with the V under the pickle fork in the water using extra weight. Owners of MC, Nautique G23, Axis and Malibu pickle forks generally don’t have any issues dunking the bow.

Pickle fork handling and turns

In terms of handling, the main difference between a pickle fork and a traditional bow is the extra weight at front of the pickle fork as well as the bulkier shape, which make for wider and slightly slower turns.

Some argue pickle forks ride a little lower in the front, making it a bit easier to dip the nose when fully loaded compared to a traditional bow. 

This, however, also depends on the model, and more recent PF models are very comparable to trad bows in terms of nose dipping.

Pickle fork bow dipping

Some feel pickle fork is more susceptible to take in water, while traditional bow is less likely to dip. Some 23 and 24 MXZ (pickle fork) owners who ride in lakes with rough waters (e.g. Lake Tahoe) have decided to switch back to a 25 LSV for this reason and haven’t looked back. 

The Malibu MXZ line pickle fork boats sit lower on the water at the bow than the LSV line (traditional bow).  The pickle forks offer great room up front but hit larger waves like a truck. The 23 MXZ pickle fork, while great in smooth water, is reported to dip the nose easier than non PF boats in rough water.  

Others contend traditional bow is actually easier to submerge than pickle fork. While it’s quite common to see a pickle fork MC get swamped, it’s just as common on a 22VLX or a 23LSV. The malibu VLX (traditional bow) sits super low in the front and also washes very easy.

Pickle fork owners warn that, if your boat is weighted for surf and there are other boat wakes on the lake, namely surf wakes, you must take care to avoid dipping the bow.  

In some low slung pickle forks like the X Star, if you are sitting with the engine off, you will typically have to start and reposition the boat as another wake boat passes to avoid getting swamped. Other boats like the X2 PF, however, don’t have this problem.

Meanwhile, other boaters feel that the overhang of the pickle fork diverts the water outward, making the pickle fork harder to submerge.

Pickle forks also tend to send the bow spray more outward and upward, resulting in less spray coming into the cabin.

Some feel pickle fork boats are also able to get on plane quicker due to having more weight in the bow compared to a similar hull traditional bow.


Traditional bow boats generally have great resale, while a pickle fork bow can be polarizing with resale.

Final words

As you can see from the above, the jury is out between pickle fork and traditional V bow. It all boils down to how much you value extra space on the bow vs inside the cabin, how much weigh you run in the bow and the type of riding you do, whether you ride in rough water a lot, and what your driving skills are like.