Ask any wake surfer and they’ll tell you one major thing that can make, or break, a good surf session is who you have in the driver’s seat. Towing a wake surfer is a big responsibility… with fun (and safety) at stake! To ensure you’re up to the task, we’ve rounded up some wake boat driving tips.
- SAFETY 1ST: Hopefully this one is a no brainer! While everyone’s goal on the water is to have fun, it should never be at the expense of safety. Before taking over the wheel, be sure to know your surroundings, the course you’ll be taking, and how boat lanes/traffic work where you’re boating. You’ll need to familiarize yourself with the surf system, in order to make mid-ride adjustments to the wake and speed with little distraction. Finally, double-check that the mirror is positioned so that you'll have a clear view of the rider.
- MAKE A FEW DRY RUNS: Handling a boat that is weighted for wake surfing is a totally different experience than an unweighted boat. The amount of extra weight will affect all aspects of driving (accelerating, steering, turning, etc) and is something you should get accustomed to before pulling a rider. When pulling a rider out of the water, the main goal is to not accelerate too quickly. Instead, aim for a gradual and steady increase so that the rider has enough speed to come up to plane but isn’t being jerked out of the water. Although it depends on boat, rider, and board selection, ideal surf speed is usually between 10.5-12 mph.
- PULLING SURFER UP: Make sure you and the wake surfer are on the same page for “stop” and “go” signals. Start with the rider in the water behind the boat. Ideally, directly behind or a little to surf side as this helps keep the wake surfer out of the whitewash as they’re trying to pop up (especially helpful for beginners). Once they’re positioned with feet on the board, put the boat in gear and idle to remove slack from the rope. On the rider’s signal, engage the throttle and steadily accelerate to surf speed.
- PICKING UP DOWNED SURFER: When a rider falls, gradually let off the throttle and put into neutral while turning away from the surf side. You’ll notice the boat will turn this way naturally. Allow the rollers from your wake to pass by before continuing your turn and idling back toward the rider. Keep the wake surfer in view at all times, and if possible, pick them up on the driver’s side of the boat.
- BE COURTEOUS: As much as possible, keep your surf passes away from other boaters, docks, and beaches. Avoid power turns and multiple passes in the same area, as it creates choppy water for you and other boaters. Bottom line, let’s all be courteous with our wakes so we can all enjoy the water!