SET UP YOUR BOAT - BEGINNERS GUIDE
Back in 1996 when we started wakeboarding we had to learn as we went. From running 44 gallon drums filled with water in a mates dads Ramco Tinny to loading sandbags in a Ski Boat. Us and our mates have tried all sorts of things to improve our boats for wakeboarding. If only we knew what we know now...
Starting with the very basics this section is designed to help all levels of wakeboarders set up their boat to make it easier to improve riding.
Check back as we will be constantly updating/adding to this section
1) Consistent Boat Speed and Straight Runs...
It is important that the driver holds a consistent speed at all times. Set a boat speed that the rider is comfortable with (a good speed to start with is 22mph) then concentrate on holding this speed. If you have a small boat then you will be more likely to notice the boat losing speed as the rider cuts in. If boat speed reduces as the rider is cutting in or hits the wake then line tension is reduced which can cause instability for the rider as they're in the air. To combat this the driver may need to apply slightly more throttle to keep the speed consistent as the rider loads the line and cuts into the wake . As the rider lands the throttle may need to be reduced. The driver should avoid looking back at the rider as this is the job of the observer. Remember to apply very small adjustments to the throttle only. Big throttle adjustments will be noticed by the rider which is what you don't want.. Practice getting this right and the rider will notice a huge difference.
Once you have the boat speed sorted nows the time to practice maintaining a perfectly straight course. Gentle turns are no good because the wake washes over or disappears on one side. The driver should aim for a point straight ahead then turn fairly quickly and aim for another point straight ahead and so on. Avoid turning when the rider is cutting in!
2) Creating a clean consistent wake ...
For Outboard or Sternleg type boats get up to wakeboard speed (approx 22mph) and then look at the wake. Generally the wake will be washy on top. We want to create a solid clean wake for the rider to launch off so a wake thats washy or has breaking water on top is no good. To fix this start trimming up the engine until the wake cleans up. When you trim the engine up to clean up the wake the bow rises which causes the stern to push deeper into the water. This creates wake size but the downside to this is the wake gets steeper and forms closer to the boat plus the boat is harder to hold consistent speed. Also if you trim up too far the propeller will cavitate (slip) causing the boat to loose speed which is no good. Once you're happy you have the trim set in the right place for the best shaped wake note the trim gauge position so you can return to that position every time you start.
Now you've got a clean wake is the size and shape consistent on both sides? If its bigger or washing over one side more than the other then you may have to move weight around in the boat to combat this. The easiest way to fix this is to simply move people around until the wake is even on both sides.
Direct Drive or V Drive boats have a straight shaft propeller coming out from underneath the boat so the trim is not adjustable. The wake on these boats is normally cleaner and more solid than Outboard or Sternleg boats and the shape and size can be adjusted by adding ballast (see later on in this section).
So you've now got stages 1 and 2 above sorted, its made a huge difference and you havn't even spent any money yet!
3) Tow Ropes - Creating a consistent pull for the rider...
It's important to have a Non Stretch Wakeboard Rope as this will also make a massive difference straight away. A general stretchy ski rope is absolutely rubbish for wakeboarding. There's no point in having the boat running at perfect speed with good wake shape if the rider is getting pulled in and out like a bunji cord!
We have the Indy Spectra Dyneema Zero Stretch Wakeboard Rope and Handle Sets in stock for $199.00 which are excellent. These are 75 feet long and also have 4 x 5 foot removeable sections enabling you to adjust the length of the rope so the rider can hit the best spot on the wake. See the Ropes and Handles Section.
4) High Tow Point - Pulls the rider upwards as they cross the wake...
Put simply a high tow point put gives the rider more time in the air as they jump across the wake. A traditional ski pole or rope attachment point mounted on the boat deck drags the rider downwards every time they jump due the angle of the rope. The higher the rider tries and jumps the worse it gets.
A high tow point can be created by adding a High Pole or Tower to the boat... Once you've riden behind a boat with a high tow point your riding will improve straight away...guaranteed. You will struggle to go back to a standard tow point after that.
High Poles are the cheapest option and are great for multi purpose boats as they can be put up and down quickly. The downside to a High Pole is having the Rear Support Cables coming down across to each side of the back of the boat. High Poles are great for Dad who does a lot of fishing or other activities but everyone wants to improve their wakeboarding as well. See the High Poles Section for more details.
Towers are the big thing now and style/material chosen correctly can really transform a boats looks and functionality. Most Towers have four legs hence have four mounting points spread out on the boat creating a solid structure to get towed from. It is unrealistic to think that one Tower design will suit all Boat types/shapes hence the reason we have six quite different Towers available ex stock!
Our entry level range of "Indy" Towers are made from T6061 Aircraft Aluminium and have a Anodised finish. These are perfect for Fresh Water use or occaisonal Salt Water use. Beware of other similar looking Towers to Indy, these are often cheap copies with inferior mounting fittings and sub standard finishes that will not last.
Ideally if you're using your boat in Salt Water then you should consider our X-Air Stainless Steel Towers. We have been manufacturing these here in New Zealand since 2002 and use only Marine Grade Stainless Steel for all components which are then Electro Polished and Hand Polished to a mirror finish. Check out our new X-Air FFX Tower which is a stylish forward facing design which comes with a large Integrated Bimini Top as standard!
Unfortunately not all Towers are created equal. They potentially can be put under a lot of stress so you want to get the right tower for your application. So ideally before buying any Tower we suggest you ask the supplier the following questions...
How high will the Tower be off the floor of my boat?
What strengthening do I need behind the mounting feet of the Tower?
Will my factory Bimini Top or Canopy still fit with the Tower on?
Where is the Tower made? What is the grade of material?
What guarantee/warranty do I get with the Tower?
See the Towers Section for more details - Contact us if you would like help choosing the best Tower for your boat.
5) Ballast - Making the Wake Bigger...
Ballast is added to the boat to increase the Wake size and/or improve the Wake shape. This is mainly in the form of Fat Sacs which are Tanks/Bags filled with Water. Bags of Lead is also used as it takes up much less room than Fat Sacs.
A lot of the American Inboard Stern Drive Boats such as Bayliner/Searay etc tend to sit Stern down at slower wakeboard speeds of 21-22mph. Infact some of these Boats suffer major Bow rise on take off and struggle to stay on the plane at 18mph, this is because they're designed to cruise at speeds of 25mph +. This causes a problem for the boat driver trying to hold a consistent speed as a little too much throttle causes the boat to shoot forward faster yet a little bit off the throttle and the boat drops off the plane and goes too slow. This inconsistent speed varience can be very frustrating for the wakeboarder as explained in Step 1 above!
The other issue with these boats sitting Stern down is the wake tends to be washy on top and steep plus heads out from the boat at a sharp angle so only a short rope can be used. Generally the further the stern sits down on these boats the bigger the wake but a lot of people make the mistake of adding lots of people in the cabin/back without countering this weight in the front. Combine this extra weight of people with the Stern Dirve Boat's natural tendancy to sit Stern down and you end up with a very hard boat to drive that has a steep washy wake! Bringing the front down on these boats will not make the wake any larger but it will make it much more consistent, more solid (less washy on top further back) and not so steep so will allow you to run a longer rope.
Generally the easiest and cheapest way to fix this is to add the Fly High Tube Sac to the underfloor locker if you only have a couple of people in the boat. This fills or empties with the Tsunami Pump by simply plugging into your 12v Acc Socket in under 3 minutes and gives you 170kg of ballast hidden under the floor out of sight. If you load up the boat with people this Tube Sac can be taken out of the locker and put up the front in the bow on the floor. Some of the more modern Stern Drives have very large underfloor lockers so can fit the Fly High 300kg Large Underfloor Sac. Check out the dimensions of both these Fat Sacs in the Ballast Section.