Top 5 Best Ski Boats | 2021 Reviews and Guide (Malibu)

One of the most exhilarating outdoor sports there is – water skiing allows you to be surrounded by calm blue waters, the coldness of the breeze in your hair, and mist splashing across your face. Indeed, there is nothing like this excitement.

Whether in the ocean, lake, or reservoir, it beats out all the other activities to spend warm weekend afternoons with. To achieve this pleasure and make the most out of your skiing experience, you must have the right equipment for the sport – more specifically, the suitable ski boat.

Ski boats are often confused with wakeboard boats. Although these two boats have a few similarities, they are far different from each other. Let’s dive deep into this kind of water activity and find out the best ski boats you can consider for your next skiing trip.

What Are Ski Boats?

Ski boats spawned from the water sport water-skiing. The need for ski boats came about when water-skiing started to consist of three different events that became challenging to serve with just one boat.

The events – slalom, trick, and jump eventually became served by the development of ski boats.  A purpose-built ski boat has its engine sitting right in the middle of the boat paired with the direct-drive transmission.

The original combination of engine and direct-drive transmission allows massive amounts of acceleration while still keeping the wake behind the boat somewhat flat.

Over the years, ski boats have split yet again as people found that the tricks are simpler to perform with V-Drive transmission with the engine still positioned in the middle of the vessel. This setup offers the flattest wake possible. When combined with a slower speed, water skiers enjoy breathtaking aerial stunts.

Considering the setup of the engine in the boat’s center, ski boats can’t be used for anything other than water skiing. The centered engine gives little to almost no space for passengers or baggage to sit on.

Best Ski Boats Reviewed

The similarity between ski boats and wakeboard boats can confuse you when picking the best ski boat. Fortunately, boat manufacturers nowadays have made ski boats so particular that it can be challenging to use them for anything else other than water skiing.

Here are five of the best boats that will create a relatively flat wake for you to ride on your next water skiing adventure.

  1. Malibu Response TXi Open Bow
  2. MasterCraft 2021 ProStar 
  3. 2021 Nautique 200
  4. Chaparral 2021 19 SSI Ski and Fish
  5. Crestliner Super Hawk 1850 I/O

1. Malibu Response TXi Open Bow

Specifications:

  • Hull length: 20’6″/6.25 m
  • Weight Capacity: 987 lbs/448 kgs
  • Beam: 95”/2.41 m
  • Fuel Capacity: 40 gal/151 liter
  • Draft: 22”/0.56 m
  • Max Factory Ballast: N/A
  • Max Capacity: 7
  • Power (torque): 360 HP/400 ft-lbs to 430 HP/460 ft-lbs
  • Dry Weight: 3,100 lbs/1,406 kgs
  • Hull Type: T-Cut Diamond

The Malibu Response TXi Open Bow is a pillar in the world of ski boats. This 13-time world record holder is the most respected ski boat globally, bringing three-event waterski performance like nothing else on the waters today.

One of the best slalom wakes ever performed was from the smooth, small, passable wakes with minuscule trough and almost nonexistent chine spray this ski boat combined. Its consistent pull delivers symmetrical, consistent, and virtually no bump wake.

Onboard, you can work off with both 12” and 7” touchscreen displays to set the boat up to your preference, including speed and monitor fuel. You can even set the speed and the course and go and focus solely on giving the skier the best possible drag.

Its standard adjustable ruder tab lets you set the rudder torque to your liking. The boat’s footprint is considerably reduced with its T-Cut Diamond hull design and three-fin design that helps it track straight. On the move, it doesn’t throw spray that can impede the skier’s view of the next slalom gate.

Your small crew will enjoy the interior in comfort on a joyride. Its open-bow version features plush bow seating with forward-facing backrests against the consoles, boasting stereo speakers, cup holders, and grab handles.

The accommodation in the central cockpit is convenient with its billet-aluminum grab handles, and twin seats adorning the centerline steps up to the transom. Its SeaDek flooring contributes to its style points while creating padded traction underfoot.

Overall, this ski boat is perfect for tournaments and beginners trying to continue honing their skills. It is specially designed for individuals trying to get their wet feet with waterskiing.

ProsCons
It comes in both traditional closed-bow or open-bow configurationsNot suitable for wakeboarding or fishing
Produces flat wakes and a consistent pull
Billet-aluminum folding ski racks

2. MasterCraft 2021 ProStar

Specifications:

  • Hull length: 20’/6.1 m
  • Weight Capacity: 1,341 lbs/608 kgs
  • Beam: 96”/2.44 m
  • Fuel Capacity: 30 gal/113 liter
  • Draft: 22”/0.56 m
  • Max Factory Ballast: N/A
  • Max Capacity: 7
  • Dry Weight: 3,300 lbs/1,497 kgs
  • Hull Type: Direct Drive

MasterCraft was founded on slalom skiing, so it is no surprise that one of the best ski boats on this list comes from them. This ski boat boasts flawless pulls and elevated styling. Even its redesigned 2021 version still calls upon its performance roots that feature everything ProStar is all about.

The ProStar we all know and love continues to bring enhanced handling and flattest wakes. Slalom jocks will always be into softer, flatter wakes, and less spray. These are all possible with the ProStar’s direct-drive inboard and customizable with either a closed or open bow.

Its new hull rails and added tracking fins make driving this ski boat more effortless than ever. This allows for a pro-level pull with the flexibility to have an open or closed bow at a moment’s notice. It continues to be the only ski boat in the market with a removable hardcover.

This ski boat has a sharp pickle-fork design which is unlike dedicated slalom boats. Its unique features include ski lockers that are currently the best at keeping and storing your ski. You only need to step on the bottom bar to let the clamps open up to cradle your stick safely on the gunwale without detuning your stick.

The command center is almost the same as most of its predecessors, except it can now be operated with its redesigned helm experience that features a 10” touchscreen. This includes the gauge for fuel level, water temperature, and oil pressure.

The advanced construction methods allowed for a total deck redesign. You will appreciate the nifty features executed well, like how gunwales have storage racks, the doghouse in the middle of the deck, and the removable seats that passengers can comfortably sit on when setup.

ProsCons
Reduced noise and better airflow for improved engine performancePerformance declines in rough waters
Convenient bow seating and flip-down walkthrough
Hull rails and tracking fins make driving easy

3. 2021 Ski Nautique 200

Specifications:

  • Hull length: 20’/6.10 m
  • Weight Capacity: 1,450 lbs/658 kgs
  • Beam: 95”/2.41 m
  • Fuel Capacity: 27 gal/102.1 liter
  • Draft: 22”/0.56 m
  • Max Factory Ballast: N/A
  • Max Capacity: 9
  • Power (torque): 400 ft-lb / 405 ft-lb / 465 ft-lb
  • Dry Weight: 3,400 lbs/1,542 kgs
  • Hull Type: Cored hull structure

If it’s your time to check out new ski boats, the 2021 Ski Nautique 200 should be part of the list you must check out. This tournament inboard ski boat is perfect and stunning, elegant and light, responsive and quick – something many recreational ski boats are not.

Correct Craft, the manufacturer of Nautique, is a market leader in ski and wakeboard boats. If you’ve ever been in one of their boats, you’d think they couldn’t get much better. You’ll be surprised. The Ski Nautique 200 is best for skiing enthusiasts and may essentially revolutionize the water skiing market again.

This ski boat’s hull design features OSC (Optimal Surface Control), allowing superior tracking, flatter wake, and a lot lesser spray. This feature combines a broader running surface and more precise guided water flow over the innovative lines of the hull.

Now, how is that for added lift, reduced wake size, and flatter troughs? As a skier, you will appreciate that the wakes have more gradual entry instead of getting kicked by the bumps. Stacey Gilbert, NZ National Open Slalom Women’s Champion, tested this model and loved how the wakes were flatter.

Rather than behind the steering wheel, Correct Craft took a different method by positioning the instruments to the right of the steering wheel. This location essentially frees up your view forward and keeps all your controls and gauges in one place.

The 2021 Ski Nautique 200 is one of the very few ski boats that allow plenty of seating. Its maximum capacity of nine passengers can be accommodated in different positions – three in the bow, two next to the driver, and three by the rear walkthrough.

ProsCons
Suitable for intermediate and advanced skiersSome of the interior components aren’t saltwater-ready
Stylish, comfortable, and easily maintained
Creates soft flat wakes

4. Chaparral 2021 19 SSI Ski and Fish 

Specifications:

  • Hull length: 19’4”/5.89 m
  • Weight Capacity: 1,500 lbs/680 kgs
  • Beam: 7’6”/2.29 m
  • Fuel Capacity: 30 gal/114 liter
  • Draft: 13”/33 cm
  • Max Factory Ballast: N/A
  • Max Capacity: 11
  • Power (torque): 200 HP
  • Dry Weight: 2,540 lbs/1,152 kgs
  • Hull Type: V-Plane

Chaparral Boats has consistently been recognized for making excessively luxurious wearing boats, and in their line of extravagant vessels comes the 2021 Chaparral 2021 SSI Ski and Fish. This boat is both a first-rate fishing machine, a power-packed family runabout, and a tournament ski boat all in one.

All the features help define versatility for this ski boat. You will find convenience in its adjustable bucket seats, thoughtful dash ergonomics, and loads of storage space. Its new helm design highlights a custom hand-stitched brow, with the boat’s SSi gauge package that provides a wealth of information at a glance.

Style and fashion are achieved with the aluminum-faced gauges that are accented with stainless steel bezels. All of which is fog resistant and built to last. No more worrying about not seeing the screen under too much sunlight as its high-quality instruments are easily legible in all kinds of lighting conditions.

This boat’s brilliant promoting factor is its three separate boarding walkthrough – one port facet boarding point, one starboard, and a front-row boarding port with a safety ladder. You can choose its interior finish between two-tone upholstery of mocha and sterling color options.

This ski boat can carry up to 11 passengers. They can enjoy the ride comfortably with its sun pad that becomes a living room that could face both ways – starboard or port side. You will be amazed at the size of this ski boat and its sleek profile.

The Chaparral 2021 offers a lot for you to love in a ski boat – low-speed stability, efficient fuel economy, feather-soft ride, precise cornering agility, full-throttle excitement, and a lot more. As with most ski boats, most of its dealers offer a test drive, so if you are ready for one, make sure to do so before you purchase.

ProsCons
Polish spoke steering wheelMore expensive than most ski boats
Bow cushions with storage underneath
NMMA (National Marine Manufacturers Association) Certified using ABYC (American Boat and Yacht Council) standards

5. Crestliner Super Hawk 1850 I/O

Specifications:

  • Hull length: 18’9”/5.71 m
  • Weight Capacity: 1,800 lbs/816 kgs
  • Beam: 96”/0.96 m
  • Fuel Capacity: 32 gal/121.13 liter
  • Draft: 25”/0.63 m
  • Max Factory Ballast: N/A
  • Max Capacity: 8
  • Power (torque): 150 HP to 200 HP
  • Dry Weight: 1,650 lbs/748.42 kgs
  • Hull Type: AP-X hull

Crestliner Super Hawk 1850 is Crestliner’s significant step up from their 1750 Fish Hawk. This ski boat retains the previous model’s running surface and 17° deadrise but is pushed seven inches in length to 18’9”. This resulted in a little more elbow room around the cockpit and a bump in max power rating.

With seating for eight, it outdoes most sub-19-footers in passenger capability. The seating starts with four pedestal seats in the cockpit (with the fourth optional), clones of the captain’s, providing fantastic versatility.

Since the seats are movable, they can be positioned in different locations – side by side on the stern fishing platform when you want a chat session or one at the bow when you feel the honey hole all to yourself.

This ski boat’s power ranges from 115 to 200 HP. The only constant is the black motor since Crestliner is a Brunswick company that also manufactures Mercury outboards. With the Verado 175 four-stroke that uses a supercharger for immediate throttle response, you can reach 30 mph in only 5.4 seconds.

The Superhawk 1850’s non-riveted aluminum hull is within the industry norm of 0.100 gauge in thickness. Since the hull is pretty light at 1,650 lbs of dry weight, side-to-side stability is provided by its perfect amount of “Vee.”

You can go from fishing to waterskiing quickly with this boat. To go skiing, you can drop the optional ski tower, which is as thick as a baseball bat, into its receiver, then you are ok to ski.

ProsCons
Storage room abounds with bow and aft dry storage compartmentsIt may be too narrow to seat all eight people at the same time
Portside rod racks
Bow and stern areas convert from seating to fishing decks

Choosing The Best Ski Boats – Buyer’s Guide

Your entire on-water experience will be significantly based on the ski boat you will choose. This is the reason picking a ski boat should be carefully thought of and analyzed. Here are a few things you want to take note of when selecting the best ski boat.

Hitch Point

One of the most important factors to consider in ski boat buying is the point where the rope attaches to the vessel. Preferably, you would want one whose hitch point is at the same height as the skier’s hands to pull them parallel to the water surface since water skiing won’t require the rider to make jumps.

If you want to use the same boat for wakeboarding, make sure it comes with a higher hitch point than the wakeboarder. You can see this as a prominent wakeboard tower on the boat.

Wake Characteristics

Perhaps the most crucial fact, particularly if you are looking to use the boat solely for skiing, is the wake characteristics. Remember, different watersports call for different types of wakes or waves. This is especially true between waterskiing and wakeboarding.

If you are waterskiing, you will need nice flat wakes. If you are looking to wakeboard, too, make sure the boat you are getting can give a larger and more aggressive wake. There are ski boats that are efficient at generating both types.

Propulsion Method

As hinted above, water skiing needs relatively flat wakes. The wake’s characteristics significantly depend on the propulsion method used to generate torque.

For waterskiing, you will need a ski boat that has an inboard motor. This type produces flatter wakes that are best for waterskiing as they are permanently situated inside the boat. This results in the powering of the propulsion shaft through the hull.

Outboard motors are situated outside the boat, usually hanging at the stem using clamps. Dealers are familiar with the type of propulsion method and the wake characteristics a boat has. You can arrange for a demo to see how a ski boat works.

Price

The price tag is never an indicator of whether it will be best for waterskiing. As with most things, if it falls within your budget and meets your basic needs, it is the best ski boat. Undeniably, feature-rich ski boats will always be higher in cost.

But, bear in mind the costs won’t stop after buying the ski boat. Maintenance and storage costs should also be a factor in determining the overall cost of ski boat ownership.

Skiing Location

Where will you use your ski boat? In the ocean or the calm waters of the lake? Remember that most ski boats are designed for the tranquil conditions of calmer waters and may not perform well in the choppy waters of the open sea.

While it doesn’t limit the ski boat to be used in the ocean, just don’t expect them to perform as well as they would on lakes and calmer waters.

Conclusion

The great thing about technology is how ski boats are now being manufactured to be made to use in wakeboarding. Not only that, but crossover boats are also created to accommodate both skiing and fishing in the same boat.

FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions)

Q: How much does a decent ski boat cost?

A: You may expect to shell out somewhere between $35 to $200k for a good, new ski boat. These vessels have gone a long way since their inception in the 1960s, and with technology that has contributed to the performance of today’s boats, this price tag can be a little intimidating but worth it.

Q: How to inspect a used ski boat for sale?

A: There isn’t a general rule in inspecting a second-hand ski boat. But, you may want to:

  • Take a test drive
  • Check how many hours are on the boat
  • Check for any floor rot
  • Ask for a maintenance history on the boat
  • Have a marine surveyor take a look
  • Inspect the hull condition
  • Check the propeller for warping or cracks
  • Find out how the boat is being stored
  • How is its upholstery holding up

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