DRAGGED KICKING AND SCREAMING

While purpose-built boats are the domain of waterski and wakeboard aficionados, ANGELO SAN GIORGIO shares a few retrofit tips to turn a family fishing boat into a true all-rounder...

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Despite having sold plenty of ski and wakeboard boats in a past life, the notion of voluntarily exiting a perfectly good boat only to be dragged behind it while connected to a length of flimsy string is still an alien concept to me!

To serious waterskiers and hardcore wakeboarders, however, it’s a whole way of life!
 

TOWBOAT ANATOMY 101

Low-slung slalom slammers and fat wake makers might be tarred with the same brush, but despite their superficial similarities, ski and wake boats vary dramatically in design and intent.

On the whole, skiers are a cautious, paranoid bunch who chuck a panic attack when an afternoon zephyr ruffles up knee-jarring, marshmallow-sized ‘chop’. They prefer their patch of water to have the disposition of a pancake. It’s for this reason ski boat hulls are flat, with some boats sporting concave hull surfaces. Inboard engines are predominantly mid-mounted for balance and to minimise any potential wake. Tow points are mounted either mid-ships or on the transom.general-image

Wakeboarders, on the other hand, employ all sorts of gimmickry and Hocus Pocus to pump out almost tsunami-sized waves and then run them down and jump them. Lunacy! Complex hulls are tuned to generate large, peaky wakes that can be fine-tuned to the rider’s needs by balancing speed, ballast and occasionally single or twin trim tabs. Engines are shoehorned into the back of the boat, forcing the hull deeper into the water at the generally lower speeds wake boats operate at.
 

LIFE’S A DRAG

While purpose-built ski and wake boats are fine tools, if you’re a recent convert to towsports you might not want to invest in a new tow toy. All is not lost! Your current boat will do the job with a bit of forethought and planning.

Whether you’re considering taking the plunge for the first time or simply tarting up old faithful, some thought should be given as to how best kit-out your rig for towing. To be honest, just about anything that floats and has a reliable powerplant can tow a skier or wakeboarder.

If you’re in the market for an upgrade, consider the fish/ski ratio. If family boating and fishing is your priority, you’re probably be best served by a bowrider, runabout or cuddy cabin boat. Even the Aussie staple, the tiller-steered tinnie, can tow comfortably with a bit of tinkering.
 

FITTING-OUT YOUR FISHING BOAT FOR TOWSPORTS

There are several ways you can go depending on how your boat’s rear end is configured and how permanent you’d like the installation. The following are a few retrofit suggestions…

SKI BRIDLE

Most boats have stern tow eyes – the curved things bolted to the back of your boat. Your tie-downs would normally fit there, however, a ski bridle (essentially a small pulley) is secured to both tow eyes with small shackles and connected to a short rope with a float attached. It’s ideal for situations where a permanent ski pole would get in the way or be difficult to install. At around $30, a ski bridle is an inexpensive investment that doesn’t require extra holes in your pride and joy. Well-suited to towing ski biscuits, tubes, knee boarders and skiers.

SKI HOOKS

Another attachment for a bridle, but normally located at higher points on your transom.

SKI POLES

Located in the transom of outboard and sterndrive boats, ski poles are the most ideal way to tow. They have a higher tow point than a bridle and assist in pulling up novice or older skiers.

CONVERTIBLE SKI POLE / BAITBOARD COMBOS

A practical, permanent solution that doubles as a tow point and a baitboard.

HIGH POLE

A ski pole for over-achievers or Superman wannabees. A removable alternative to a wake tower, installed in the middle of the boat and secured to the bow via a chin strap.

WAKE TOWERS

One for the high flyers. Aftermarket towers from companies such as Wishbone and Wicked Wake can be attached to most boat types, but most commonly runabouts and bowriders. Board racks often come standard and are a practical storage solution.

WAKE TOWER / ROCKET LAUNCHER COMBOS

A wake tower with integrated rod storage.
 

SAFETY FIRST

As the driver you’re taking on some pretty hefty responsibilities. Those people you’re dragging around are your kids, your family or your friends. They’re placing a lot of trust in you and relying on you to keep them in one piece.

Remember, like towing a trailer, towing skiers, boarders, or inflatable ski toys changes the dynamics of your boat. Ease into it and get used to the way your boat performs under load. Accelerate gradually and turn gently. Sure, as everyone’s confidence builds by all means go a little harder. But don’t be stupid!

A couple of final points: make sure you always have a competent observer onboard and abide by your state/territory’s relevant laws; and update your insurance to include ski cover. A vessel in the act of skiing, which also includes tubing, wake surfing and other towsports, is deemed high risk.

Have fun!