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Exploring Wakeboarding with a Jet Ski

Picture yourself gliding effortlessly across the water’s surface, the wind in your hair and the thrill of speed propelling yourself forward.

This exhilarating experience is none other than wakeboarding from a personal watercraft (PWC), a sport that combines the adrenaline rush of water skiing with the agility of surfing.

As one of the most popular activities in recreational boating, wakeboarding from a PWC offers endless excitement for enthusiasts of all skill levels.

In this post, we’ll dive into the world of PWC wakeboarding, exploring the ability, equipment, and safety considerations essential for a thrilling and memorable ride on the wake.

Is A PWC Able To Pull You?

Yes, it’s possible to wakeboard from your PWC. Many find it easier to learn on them than on a boat.

However, it’s important to note that there are rules and regulations in place in most states and countries when it comes to towing anything behind your watercraft. Since the rules vary widely from place to place.

Safety & Legal Concerns

Now, here are some common requirements you might come across:

  1. Mirrors and Spotters: Many states require you to have mirrors and/or a spotter when towing someone or something behind your PWC. Some places might even require both for added safety.
  2. Life Jackets: This one’s a no-brainer – you should always have life jackets on board. Safety first! If you’re into wakeboarding, consider a comfy neoprene life jacket for maximum comfort while you’re out on the water, riding those waves.
  3. Watercraft Capacity: If you plan on doing pull sports like wakeboarding, it’s generally a good idea to use a 3-person watercraft. Using a 2-person watercraft might not provide enough weight for a stable ride, and it could be illegal in many places.

The Minimum HP Needed To Pull

When it comes to wakeboarding from the jet ski, you want a minimum of 90HP, the 130HP and the 170HP I find it to be the perfect horsepower for most wakeboarders.

Below is a video of a 90HP Sea-Doo Spark pulling a wakeboarder just fine.

Is it possible to have too much horsepower for pull sports? I would stay away from jet skis that have too much horsepower, anything over 260 HP is overkill and will get someone hurt.

The Best PWC For Wakeboarding?

The best PWC for wakeboarding is the Sea-Doo WAKE Series of watercraft.

The Sea-Doo WAKE 170 and 230 offer a lot of value that you can’t find anywhere else, and I think it’s ideal for wakeboarding.

The features of the Sea-Doo WAKE models include:

  1. SKI-Mode – It allows you to control take-off power and top speed to give you the perfect pull every time.
  2. Ski Pylon – The pylon gets the tow-rope up higher and at a better towing position for the wakeboarder. It also doubles as handles for the spotter to hold on to when riding backwards.
  3. Wakeboard Rack – Sea-Doo gives you a wakeboard rack to get it out of the way when riding.

The Sea-Doo WAKE models come in two sizes and two engine sizes. The smaller WAKE is based off the Sea-Doo GTI hull and is 170HP, and the bigger WAKE PRO is based on the GTX hull and has a 230HP engine. The 170HP is more than enough power for most pull sports, but the 230HP has just a little bit more force that many pros like to feel.

How To Wakeboard From A PWC

Wakeboarding behind the PWC is very different than a boat.

A PWC won’t give as much of a wake and will give off a different feeling when being pulled, but overall, it’s fun and easy to do once you know how.

Below is a video showing you how to wakeboard.

How Many People Are You Able to Pull?

I would avoid buying tubes rated for 3 people or more. You should only buy a single person or two-person tubes. This is a law in most places.

The reason is that if you have a 3-person watercraft, then you only have room for 3 people TOTAL. It’s against the law to pull a 3 or more on a tube, as you can’t fit over 3 people on a watercraft.

This is because in the event that someone gets hurt, there must be enough space for them to board and return to safety. Therefore, a 3-person watercraft, you have one person driving, and have a maximum of two people on the tube. If someone were to get injured, all three individuals would have enough space to safely return.

If someone is hurt, can’t they just ride on the tube? They could, but what if the tube busts? You need to plan for the worst-case scenario, and thus why most states have this rule.

Always have the engine off when people are boarding and leaving the watercraft. When the engine is on, the impeller is spinning!

Let’s Talk About The Pulling Weight

While jet skis have a lot of power, the max weight they will tow can’t exceed their weight capacity.

Most jet skis have a weight capacity of 600 pounds, that’s rider weight and gear, so towing capacity will be gear minus rider weight. If a rider and all gear on board is 250 pounds together, that leaves you 350 pounds to tow.

The jet ski will tow more weight if it’s not related to tow sports, for example towing another PWC, but for safety when doing tow sports you should stick to the weight capacity of the unit.

I would avoid towing other boats that are much larger as your waverunner doesn’t have enough weight and if it’s windy enough you’ll get thrown around and may get hurt.

Boat Vs. Jet Ski For Wakeboarding

The jet ski is easier to learn wakeboarding on compared to a boat.

The jet ski is smaller and easier to reset compared to a boat. A boat will need to make wider turns and work in a larger area in comparison. Jet skis are also easier to get on and go compared to a boat.

Ballast Tanks

To get bigger waves on boats, like Wake Boats, they use ballast tanks. These tanks fill up water to make the boat more heavy and thus create bigger wakes.

It’s possible to get ballast tanks for your jet ski, you could even make your own, but it’s not worth it. Sea-Doo did have a Wake model that had ballast tanks, but it was too complicated and didn’t make that much bigger of wakes.

Jet skis are simply not large enough or able to supply extra weights to give you a bigger wake.

Sucking Up Tow-Rope

Sucking up rope when doing pull sports is super common, it’s bound to happen to everyone eventually.

There are a few things that will keep you from sucking up rope.

To keep from sucking up rope, you get a shock tube, as covered above. You should also avoid backing up or running over your own tow-rope. The engine should be off when someone is boarding and leaving the watercraft.

When you suck up rope, I have a guide here that will help. Most of the time, the engine shuts off when you suck something up because the roper wraps so tight around the driveshaft that it can’t move. For 4-stroke, it’s not a huge deal as the drive shafts are thick, but it could bend a 2-stroke’s driveshaft.

You will need to cut the rope out as it will be too tight. Avoid removing the intake grate and use a long scraper or knife to cut it free. If you can’t reach it, then the jet pump needs to come off. Once you remove the jet pump, it usually removes easily after that point.

Author

Steven

I started working at a power sports dealership in 2007, I worked in parts, service counter, and as a technician before moving to sales in 2013. I created StevenInSales.com in 2014 to answer common watercraft questions I would get from people. Now managing the site full-time, I continue to provide advice and web tools for my readers about watercraft. I've owned several watercraft, with a Sea-Doo Spark as my current main PWC.

Comments

  1. I have a ski boat with a tower and have years of experience wakeboarding. I recently bought a SeaDoo Wake 155 and tried wakeboarding behind it for the first time yesterday. In principle it seems ideal for getting a wakeboarder up. In addition to cruise control it has five different ski-mode ramp profiles to increase the speed at increasing rates. I tried ramps 1 to 4 and got up on each of them on the first try, but it took a long time to get me up and I was dragged through the water for a long time. in fact all ramps seemed pretty similar and the driver said that too, as if the ski could not really pull hard enough to stay on the ramp profile. I weigh 210 lb and there were two people on the ski. When we tested the ramps without a wakeboarder they worked fine and each ramp had faster acceleration than the previous one. Once I was up and riding, the ski towed me with no problem and there was even a surprisingly nice wake and I could get a little air. By comparison, my boat is a 1985 Dixie skier with 260 HP with wake tower and Hydrophase Ridesteady GPS cruise control and it gets me up right away.

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