Wakeboats are all the rage these days, but do you know the science behind them? According to BoatUS, there are four factors at play when creating the perfect wake for waterskiers or wakeboarders: ballast, water flow, hull design, and propulsion.

Just how does a wakeboat create that perfect wake?

When it comes to ballast, the heavier the boat, the more water that is displaced, the bigger the wake. Depending on the boat and the size of its ballast tank, anywhere from one to 5000 pounds of water ballast is pumped into the boat to increase its wake. Most wakeboats are designed to fill their ballast tanks within three minutes.

In regards to the flow of water, each manufacturer has its own system to shape wakes, from contoured plates to a system similar to trim tabs. Some companies even have extra features such as wearable remote controls which allows the surfer to control the size of the wave, boat speed, and even the boat’s stereo. 

With the ultimate goal being to produce a perfectly shaped wave, most wakeboats feature a deep-V design with an angled running surface, and a flatter hull than a traditional runabout.

Finally, there is the propulsion system to consider and there are generally three options: V-drive, Volvo Penta’s forward drive, and jet drive. Each is designed to keep a propeller away from the rider. At a minimum, the horsepower on a wakeboat is going to need to be 250 HP or up, substantially higher than a typical runabout, because it takes a lot more power to displace that much water.

Courtesy on the Water:

Tips from BoatUS and the MD DNR

  • You are responsible for your boat wake; exercise courtesy and common sense for other boaters and piers around you.
  • Know that vessels tied up, whether at a private pier or at a marina, may be susceptible to damage caused by excessive boat wakes.
  • Abide by posted speed limits and no-wake zones.
  • Avoid close passes to other boats, and don’t follow another boat too closely.
  • Don’t impede traffic; avoid towing a rider in fairways and busy areas.

Towing Regulations:

  • Every vessel towing a person(s) on water-skis, or any other device must have on board, in addition to the operator, an observer at least 12 years of age.
  • No one under 12 years of age may legally operate a vessel towing a person(s) on water-skis, or any other device.
  • All persons being towed behind a vessel on waterskis or any other device must wear a USCG approved, impact rated life jacket intended for the specific activity.
  • A vessel may tow a person(s) on water-skis or any other device only between the hours of sunrise to sunset.
  • Except for taking off from shore, the towing vessel must stay at least 100 feet from shore, piers, bridges, people in the water, or other vessels.

Towing Hand Signals:

  • Speed up: Thump up
  • Slow down: thumb down
  • Speed OK: An ‘O’ made by the thumb and index finger
  • Stop: hand raised with fingers outstretched
  • All OK: hands clasped over the head
  • Turn: circling motion above the head followed by a point in direction of turn
  • Cut Motor: slash motion across throat
  • Back to shore: pat top of head