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Whats the Difference Between a Wake Boat and a Ski Boat?

Which one is better and why to buy a wake boat or ski boatHave you ever gone out for a day of watersports? Did you take a good look at the boat you that was providing the power to speed around the water? Most people don't. They simply look at the board strapped to their feet to determine whether they're going skiing or wakeboarding, but you can easily tell what the itinerary for the day might be by giving the boat a quick look. Wake boats and ski boats have some key differences, and we're going to take a look at each of them individually today.

Waterskiing and its younger (and some might say more hip) nephew the wakeboard are both some of the most fun that you can have while boating. Whichever you prefer, there is no such thing as a wrong answer, but each of these sports can require slightly different equipment. If these sports are your reason for buying a boat, you'll want to keep it at the front of your mind. If you're a wakeboarder the buys a ski boat, you're probably not gonna enjoy yourself.

The main difference between wake boats and ski boats has almost everything to do with the wake that trails from behind the watercraft. These boats have become so specialized that they're actually difficult to use for anything apart from their stated purpose. Where as water-skiing requires a nice flat surface, wake-boarding is all about catching huge air and the easiest way to do that is create a bigger wake. They are extreme opposites, but how to they accomplish it to such a degree?

wake boat and ski boat differences downed guy

What is a ski boat?

Ski boats were spawned because water-skiing consisted of three different events which, at the time, were difficult to serve with just one boat. The slalom, trick, and jump events could eventually be served by the development of the ski boat. The engine of a purpose-built ski boat sits right in the middle of the boat paired with a direct-drive transmission. This combination allows for massive amounts of acceleration while still keeping the wake behind the boat somewhat flat.

In more recent year, ski boats have split yet again as people found that the trick even is easier to perform with a V-Drive transmission, still positioned in the middle of the vessel. This allows for the flattest wake possible and when combined with a slower speed water skiers can perform some breathtaking aerial stunts. Unfortunately, as previously mentioned, this type of boat can be difficult to use for anything other than water skiing. The centered engine means little space for passengers to sit.

wake boat and ski boat differences sunset guy

What is a wake boat?

On the other hand, if you're looking to make some massive wakes how should one go about it? We'll have to have another little history lesson. When wakeboarding was in its infancy, there was no such thing as a wake boat. Instead, people would shove weights into the aft end of the boat. Companies began selling ballast bags that could hold hundreds of gallons in order to weigh the boat down, shoving the aft end further into the water, and creating more of those sweet wakes.

V-Drive inboard boats have skyrocketed in popularity as wakeboarding ascends to the most popular water sport. Manufacturers have jumped on board as well, and there is no need to buy a ballast bag anymore. The vast majority of wake boats now feature built in ballast systems, and plenty of other options to increase weight. The popularity of wakeboarding means that you'll be buying that v-drive watercraft for a premium, even if you're shopping for something aftermarket. So be prepared.

Can you ski with a wakeboard boat?

wake boat and ski boat differences wakeboard woman

Can you wakeboard with a ski boat?

While the market has evolved quite significantly since its inception, you're still looking at a boat that does basically one thing. The answer to both of those questions is still 'absolutely'. While it isn't ideal, I know plenty of water skiiers that have decided that larger wakes are a small price to pay for that extra passenger space. Wakeboarders probably won't have a good time getting pulled around behind a ski boat the isn't providing a wake, but its certainly possible to hitch a ride at the very least.

What about wakesurfing?

Wakeboarding has evolved into wakesurfing, the newest infant of water sports. The boats needed for wakesurfing are even more highly specialized, and you're not likely to get the curl needed for surfing even with a wakeboat making the largest possible wakes. As for skiboats? You can forget about that all together. Similar to wakeboarding behind a ski boat, you can certainly do it but it's gonna be a terribly boring ride.

wake boat and ski boat differences ski ready

Which is better?

I'll be honest, there is no such thing as one being better than the other. That opinion depends completely on which sport you enjoy more. Whichever you end up going for, ensure it's always looking its best with Better Boat's chrome and stainless steel metal polish! For a better all-around ride I'd suggest a v-drive wake boat, as it does offer a fair amount more flexibility. Wake boats can provide a decent skiing experience, while a ski boat won't really do the same for wake board lovers.

Safety for wake boats and ski boats

While a life jacket is a no-brainer, you might also want to consider wearing a helmet. The water can hit awfully hard when you're moving at inhuman speeds. Whoever is driving should also carry a marine air horn to alert other boaters that might not notice a downed sportsman in the water. One last point is to stay far away from the propellor... This is the main reason for using an inboard motor.

Finally... Which is easier, skiing or wakeboarding?