If you think that pontoon boats are only for cruising and fishing purposes — think again.
Pontoon boats are fun and versatile, and you can practically do anything with these boats. Yes, even wakeboard, kneeboard, and water-ski behind them! However, the small wakes they create can’t be compared to the ones inboard boats generate. Then, there’s also the chance of you getting injured by their propellers…
Curious to learn more about this topic? This guide contains all the information you need about wakeboarding behind a pontoon, including some driving tips and risks.
What are pontoon boats?
Pontoon boats are flatboats that are used in inland lakes and rivers, and are often referred to as “tubes” by enthusiasts. These boats have expansive decks that can accommodate large groups. They’re mostly known for their versatility in the water because they’re commonly used for fishing, cruising, and other recreational purposes.
Pontoons consist of two hulls — hence the reason why they’re more stable than conventional wakeboard boats that have V-hull designs. They also rely on floats to keep themselves buoyant in the water.
Sun pads, bars, and lounge areas can be put inside pontoons since they’re more balanced and don’t sway on either side when walked on. Because of their size, these boats consist of strong stern power, with engines that can reach up to 400 HP.
Pontoon Boat Specifications for Wakeboarding
First, you should know that pontoon boats are not meant for wakeboarding. They are not designed to create the correct wake shape for this watersport.
Most pontoon boats also don’t have the required power to pull a tube. But with the right boat specifications and upgraded systems, you might just be able to create slightly decent wakes to play around with. To do just that, here are some things you need to look for in a pontoon boat.
The engine and stern power of a pontoon boat are crucial in generating optimal wakes. A boat that consists of an engine power lower than 20 HP will only pull riders up to a certain speed. And with absolutely zero wakes, there’s really no fun in that.
What you want is a boat with an engine horsepower of at least 20 HP to pull a decent amount of tube. Much higher than that, say, 70 to 90 HP will give you the basic wakes needed for water skiing and wakeboard towing.
If you want more aggressive wakes, choose a pontoon boat with a 100 HP engine or more. With a speed of 23 miles per hour and full boat capacity, you’ll be able to wakeboard and actually have fun in the water. For boats that have 150 HP engines or higher, you don’t have to worry about the number of passengers you have inboard.
You need a performance boat that could carve and shred in the water if you want to wakeboard behind it. However, most pontoon boats can’t do that. The floats that keep them buoyant and their hull design limit their speed; therefore, they are slower in comparison to average towing boats.
The fastest speed pontoon boats can go is 65 mph, and that’s the one with the 400 HP engine. Now, if you have a vessel with much lesser horsepower, you need to upgrade your boat’s system to achieve power that can accommodate wakeboarding.
You need a boat that can produce bursts of speed to pop the rider up in the water for waterskiing or wakeboarding. The most ideal boat speed for this is 15 to 25 mph.
There are a couple of packages that offer speed and power upgrades for pontoon boats. We found a couple of them online, but the best one is the Elliptical Sport Package from Bennington Marine.
Bennington’s modification packages can customize any kind of pontoon boat. By upgrading the strakes, tubes, and performance foils, they can transform these boats to make them more agile and responsive. They also become easier to handle and maneuver in tight waterways.
The downside though of this customization, though, is that it will cost you more or less $10,000.
Size & Weight
Pontoon boats’ sizes range from 22 to 25’, which is the same length as any wakeboard boat. That said, the size of your pontoon boat will not contribute as much as its weight when it comes to the wakes’ sizes.
Since pontoon boats could also have two to three hulls, they have a weight that is evenly distributed throughout their ransom. Most of them are also made from aluminum, so they’re significantly lighter than wakeboard boats, which are often constructed from fiberglass. For this reason, pontoon boats can only create small, choppy, and mellow wakes.
You can, however, add ballasts near the transom or increase its weight system to make bigger and more defined wakes.
There are different kinds of pontoon boats. Those that have two hulls are known as catamaran boats, while those with three are referred to as tri-toon or trimaran.
The purpose of these hulls is to provide water displacement for the floatation needed — not for shaping wakes. Due to the lack of required displacement, pontoon boats don’t get you up in the air, which takes away half the excitement in wakeboarding and waterskiing.
It is essential to have a tow rope if you’re going to use a pontoon boat for wakeboarding. A tow rope is a connection that can be used in pulling a tube, and it’s often attached to the transom eye or in the lower transom’s tow point. The ideal rope length for wakeboarding is 65 to 85 inches.
Wakeboarding Behind a Pontoon: Advantages and Disadvantages
There are advantages that come with wakeboarding behind pontoon boats. For one, pontoon boats are cost-effective, and they are significantly cheaper than regular wakeboarding boats. For under $20,000, you can already get yourself a brand-new pontoon, while the standard price of wakeboard boats can cost you around $50,000.
Higher-end pontoons average at $60,000. On the other hand, luxury inboard boats have a whopping price of $200,000 or more!
Pontoon boats have mellow wakes, which people sometimes see as a drawback. However, these ones are just what kids and beginners need. It’s easier to stand up and pop up from the water with small wakes, and it also makes the board easier to control.
Another advantage of wakeboarding behind a pontoon is that you can wakeboard in ‘no-wake’ zones. Because of the small wakes a pontoon creates, there’s little to no chance of erosion. You also won’t disturb other boats and swimmers within the vicinity.
Of course, it is still recommended to check, if not, double-check this with the local authorities. Some state laws prohibit using pontoons for wakeboarding for reasons other than those mentioned above.
This brings us to the disadvantages of wakeboarding behind a pontoon — the actual risk of having physical injuries.
There’s a reason why the recommended boats for wakeboarding and wakesurfing are inboard boats like jet skis. It’s because their motors and main propulsion system are enclosed within the hull of the boat. Their propellers are mounted inside the boat, therefore riders who fall from their boards will not be at risk of hitting the spinning blades and injuring themselves.
Meanwhile, outboard boats like pontoons have exposed propellers located in the transom area. In any case that there’s a passenger thrown overboard or a rider accidentally falling from their wakeboard, they could be in direct contact with the propeller, which is submerged and hidden below the waterline. Accidents as such can result in ‘propeller strikes’, wherein a person could be hit by the propeller’s spinning blades 160 times within seconds.
According to a U.S. Coast Guard report, 28 to 47 people die annually because of motor and propeller-related accidents caused by outboard boards like pontoons. For safety reasons, it’s still best to wakeboard or wakesurf behind inboard boats.
Tips for Wakeboarding Behind a Pontoon Boat
Albeit the risks, there are still some people who want to wakeboard behind pontoon boats. If you’re one of them, take a look at some of these tips so you can make the most out of the experience.
For the driver:
Controlling an outboard boat for wakeboarding purposes can be tricky. However, the key to maximum enjoyment while keeping the rider safe at the same time is good control of the boat speed.
Gradually start the boat. Increase its speed slowly instead of going for hasty starts. For kids and beginners who are still on the learning curve, it’s recommended to stick to 12 mph so they can adjust slowly to the balancing of their board. For progressing adults or intermediate riders, you can go 15 to 20 mph.
NEVER STOP THE BOAT ABRUPTLY AND AVOID SUDDEN SLOWING. These can cause the rider to fall from the board and may cause injuries and accidents.
You can increase the wake size of the pontoon boat by shifting the weight to the stern. You can also ask the passengers to move the rear area of the boat for more water displacement.
It’s paramount that you have constant communication with the rider and vice versa. To know about wakeboarding hand signals, check out this video tutorial below.
Match your skill level with the boat speed you’re asking the driver. Too fast and the boat can drag you, while too slow may get you in close contact with the propeller.
Most riders feel more comfortable riding behind a pontoon when there’s a swim platform attached at the boat’s stern. However, take note that the platform will not prevent you from hitting the propeller.
Wakeboarding, water skiing, and wakesurfing behind a pontoon boat are possible considering you have the right boat specifications. However, they are not recommended because of the risks of physical injury. For these watersports, we suggest you choose inboard boats instead because they’re faster and safer. They create better wakes, too!
Frequently Asked Questions
Q: Can pontoon boats create wakes for wakeboarding?
Because of their weight distribution and hull design, pontoon boats are not capable of creating sizable and defined wakes. Instead, they can only generate small and choppy wakes for kids and beginner riders.