Wakeboarding is one of the most inclusive activities you could share with someone. This fun activity skyrockets the excitement level and it can be a great pastime when in a group.
By now, you must know that wakeboarding is very much possible with just about any kind of powerboat. But you might wonder, “Can I tow a wakeboard with a jet ski?”
The simple answer is ‘Yes’. Most jet skis can effortlessly tow a wakeboard, waterski, wakeskate, or even a tube. Of course, factors such as the jet ski in use or weight of the rider matter. All factors play a part in the suitability of each jet ski for wakeboarding, but you will be hard pressed to find a jet ski that doesn’t allow it.
Are you still unsure if you should go ahead with wakeboarding on your watercraft or not? Consider four key pros and cons, as well as some vital buying tips, you should know before wakeboarding with a jet ski.
Pros of Jet Ski Wakeboarding
Towing with a jet ski is both legal and safe
We wouldn’t be surprised if, like many, you are unsure whether it is legal to tow a wakeboard behind a jet ski or not.
While jet ski wakeboarding is not exactly new, it isn’t so common either. Thankfully, it has been around long enough to have its own legislation. And while requirements for towing a jet ski may vary by state, jet ski wakeboarding is perfectly legal.
For some states, the legislation governing powerboat towing is simply applied to watercraft without any major tweaks. But this will likely need you to have a boarding ladder, mirror, and/or a rear-facing observer.
For other states, there are more specific rules for jet ski wakeboarding.
Before hitting the water with your wakeboard in tow, make sure to check with local state regulations. You can always find local rules online or at launch ramps.
Although it may not initially seem like it, jet skis are safer for towing than regular boats. This is especially the case when the wakeboarder is in the water close to the watercraft. This is a result of the difference between the propulsion systems of boats and jet skis.
A typical boat, whether it has an inboard or outboard engine, has a fully exposed propeller. These fast spinning metal blades have no protection around them.
The result is that someone who gets close to the boat while the propeller is still rotating faces the hazard of a very serious accident. While this may be a rare occurrence, it is a sad possibility.
Unlike boat propellers, the jet ski propulsion system has its propeller (officially known as impeller) safely fitted within a pipe inside the jet ski. This protection prevents you from getting in contact with the impeller.
A less dangerous, but equally annoying possibility occurs when the tow rope is sucked up by the impeller. To prevent this from happening, it is advised that you get an “impeller protector” fixed to the end of your tow rope.
Jet skis are more affordable than boats
Owning a jet ski may not be a low-budget hobby, potentially digging up to a $18,000-sized hole in your pocket.
However, with an average price range of about $12,000, they are much less expensive than a standard boat. Indeed, a special watersport boat may cost you more than $100k in initial purchase costs alone, without mentioning the much higher maintenance and running costs.
If you are a wakeboard lover on a budget, there is no doubt that jet ski wins against the boat the day on the basis of cost.
Jet skis are more maneuverable
Because jet skis are generally small and light, they are easily maneuverable – a wakeboarding delight! This small size and weight, besides making it easier and less expensive to store, also provides many advantages for anyone with designs on wakeboarding.
For instance, due to their sizes, jet skis are nimble and can change the direction of movement very fast. They also restart the wakeboarder quickly after a fall.
This is in sharp contrast to boats that are big and bulky. It also means that you can comfortably try a number of tricks in much less time with your jet ski. You really need to appreciate the size and agility of jet skis when prepping for a ramp.
Its small, maneuverable nature allows you to turn faster and get close enough to the ramp for a good transition on your wakeboard.
Likewise, the weight of your average jet ski is an advantage when it comes to storage.
Rather than having to store your boat in a marina, a jet ski can be stored right at home. Weighing in at a fairly modest 1,000 lbs (with the trailer), you can comfortably tow your jet ski even with your car.
This is far from a boat that could weigh 2,000 lbs. at the very least. This lightweight is highly beneficial as it improves the ease of trailering, moving and launching your jet ski.
There are jet skis specifically designed for tow sports
Although, you don’t necessarily need a customized jet ski simply for tow sport they do exist. Jet skis in this category are fitted with a number of special features that make your wakeboarding that much more enjoyable.
The Sea-Doo Wake series is a specially designed tow sport watercraft. It is fitted with features such as wakeboard racks to ensure the wakeboard is not in the way.
Ski pylons help you get the rope high enough for the person being pulled and a brilliant “Ski-Mode” allows you to set the takeoff and cruise speeds.
If you don’t wish to buy a wakeboard-specific jet ski, your options are almost endless. Just about every jet ski can serve for wakeboard towing but you must go for bigger sized models.
With regards to power, jet skis with no less than 120 HP are best for pulling wakeboarders and tubes.
However, the more horsepower you get, the better and performance is much better as you approach the 250-300 HP mark. Another feature to watch out for is the quality of throttle control–the result of good mid-range power and bottom-end.
This model is arguably one of the best watercrafts for wakeboarding from Yamaha due to its pricing and features.
Cons of Jet Ski Wakeboarding
Potential weight problem
If you are planning on towing with a jet ski, it is highly advised that you stick with bigger models and get the largest hulls possible.
Indeed, one of the most common legal requirements for jet ski towing is that the jet ski must be a 3-seater at least. This gives enough room for the driver, an observer, and the person being towed on the ski.
However, even the 3-seater models are sometimes too light for more experienced wakeboard riders. Carving or jumping high and fast with the wakeboard requires speed and power. This is sometimes too much force for the jet ski and may pull it around – forcing it out of its planned direction.
A final problem with its size and weight has to do with traffic on the water. Jet skis also face difficulties with smoothing out water as efficiently as bigger boats.
Riding in waterways opened to boaters and other larger vehicles – particularly in peak season or areas – exposes a rider to the risk of falling. Because bigger vessels have the right of way, they sometimes pay no attention to you or the fact that you are towing.
You want to watch out for this traffic and weave your way expertly through it. Be sure to keep your wakeboarder in the loop as you do this, to minimize the risk of falling.
Lack of space
Beyond the weight problem, there is an issue with space – or lack of it. The problem of spacing on jet skis is one that cuts across many different areas. As a watercraft requires at least one passenger as an observer, it doesn’t have that much room for other passengers.
This is in sharp contrast to a boat that boasts enough seats for several passengers and can be enjoyed by a group of friends and family members at the same time.
A boat also has enough power to tow more than one wakeboarder at the same time. It is much harder to do so with a jet ski, and at times it is not allowed at all. Similarly, it is difficult to switch between wakeboard riders on a jet ski, which is almost seamless on a boat.
A jet ski’s constricted size also means there’s little room for storage. Where boats may comfortably accommodate plenty of gears, a jet ski would hold just a few accessories, which could sometimes be an issue. Nonetheless, many riders still enjoy riding behind a jet ski.
Many riders find wakeskating to be a more enjoyable activity than wakeboarding.
A wakeskate is smaller owing to a lack of bindings. It is also more versatile and great for a number of tricks – including carving and jumping. Other important advantages include its low prices and the ease of switching around to let others get a ride.
Small wakes and the “Jet spray” problem
Since jet skis are smaller and lighter than boats, many wakeboarders find it difficult to ride small wakes generated by a watercraft.
A jet ski’s hull has the ability to exceed the water when it is in motion. All of this ensures that they generate much smaller wakes than you would expect from a boat.
These smaller wakes are great for waterskiing, but not so much for wakeboarding where bigger wakes are needed for bigger jumps.
That said, wakeboarding is not a problem behind a jet ski if you are a beginner. By the time you get a full grip on wakeboarding and start learning more tricks, you will be inclined to ride bigger wakes.
This explains why most pro riders stay away from riding behind a jet ski.
A similar, but a different problem to small wakes is known as the “jet spray”.
This refers to the water spray that follows a typical watercraft. The craft creates a small spot in the middle as it glides along where it feels like it is raining behind it. This can leave you soaked to the bones by the time you get off your wakeboard.
Of course, the problem differs by model, so you may want to check out different models through a jet ski rental before investing in one.
Absence of wakeboard towers on jet skis
Many boats are equipped with wakeboard towers.
These might seem like one of those not-too-important bells and whistles. It is, in fact, an important feature for wakeboarders, given its ability to hold the tow rope to a high connection point.
Wakeboard towers on boats might also have other important additions like wakeboard racks and Bimini tops which are all very useful additions.
For a jet ski, this is very different. Rather than a wakeboard tower, jet skis are typically equipped with quick release tow hooks or a U-bolt, positioned behind the seat.
While these are great for pulling a waterski or a tube, it holds the wakeboard tow rope too low. This limits your jumping room while wakeboarding.
In order to connect your rope to a higher position on your jet ski, you would have to install a small towing pylon.
This can be fixed behind the rear seat. Although it is smaller than your regular wakeboard tower (it is just 17 inches), it is still better than tow hooks and U-bolts.
It provides more jumping room than both and is easy to attach and detach. This helps keep your ropes away from the impeller.
Wakeboarding with a jet ski is all fun and entertainment, but it does not offer as much excitement for pro wakeboarders as a boat may do.
The presence of wakeboard towers and larger wakes gives riders the opportunity to try out more tricks and dare higher jumps for “big air”. It also contains more room for storage and for companionship, which is crucial and more enjoyable when on a family vacation.
However, jet skis still offer enough excitement for wakeboarders to put them in good books of many. It is small and nimble, which is a major advantage even for pro riders. Jet skis allow you to try out a number of tricks and jumps in the shortest possible time, thanks to its fast restart time.
It is also a great option if budget is an issue. Not only is it cheaper to purchase, but it is also easier to trailer across town and costs less for maintenance.
The thrill of riding a jet ski, even if you choose not to wakeboard on it, is adrenalin inducing. What if you are able to combine wakeboarding with jet skiing? We’d say that will be a lot of fun!
Do you already have a jet ski and are just considering whether wakeboarding on it will be a good choice? Go for it!
To get the most out of this experience, go ahead and download our free guide with tips and tricks to help you ride like a pro:
How to Ride like a Pro
25 tips to become a pro rider