Can’t wait to get started wakeboarding with your PWC? We explain all you need to know in our guide.
For some reason, there just isn’t a lot of jet ski wakeboard information out there. We get asked questions on this subject all the time.
Is it legal to pull a wakeboarder on a jet ski?
What’s the best jet ski for wakeboarding?
Is jet ski wakeboarding even any good?
This guide answers all these questions and more.
What do you need to wakeboard on a jet ski?
Aside from a powerful jet ski, you will need a wakeboard, a tow rope, and ideally an impeller protector.
Is it legal to pull a wakeboard behind a jet ski?
It varies based on location, but for the most part yes it is legal to pull a wakeboarder behind a jet ski.
There are just a few requirements that you’ll need to make sure you meet.
You can take a quick look at the requirements for towing skiers behind PWC on a state by state basis here.
Not only is it usually legal, but jet skis are designed for it. Almost all modern personal watercraft come with a tow hook behind the seat.
It has started to become a standard thing now that jet skis are used for tow sports. They are becoming increasingly powerful and handling the extra load just isn’t an issue anymore.
PWC watersports include wakeboarding, wakeskating, tow tubes, water skis, and more.
Generally, the rules and laws are pretty simple to follow. Again, check with local officials first, but these are a few of the more common laws associated with a jet ski pulling someone.
- PFD: Typically, all riders are required to have a PFD (personal flotation device) of some sort. There are a lot of great life jackets out there, and they’ve become much more comfortable in recent years. Even though no one really wants to wear them, it’s the law. At the end of the day, it’s better to have on than to not.
- Mirrors/Spotter: This is one of the regulations that may vary, but oftentimes the PWC doing the towing is required to have mirrors or a spotter. In some places, both of these may be required. The purpose of this is so the operator is always aware of what’s going on behind the jet ski. Mirrors are great to have, but a spotter is even better.
- Age: The age requirements for someone to operate or be pulled behind a jet ski is another factor that may vary. Jet skis have become increasingly easier to operate, but that doesn’t mean just anyone is allowed to drive them. Be sure to check local laws before going out on the water.
What is the Best PWC for Wakeboarding?
Believe it or not, there is actually a fairly large jet ski wakeboard community. Pulling a wakeboarder on a jet ski has even gotten so popular that Sea Doo designed a specific line up for it. The Wake Pro is purpose-built for watersports.
Although these are some of the best jet skis for tow sports, that doesn’t mean they’re the only options available. Just about every PWC comes with a tow hook. It doesn’t take a special model to do tow sports, but some are definitely better than others.
At the end of the day, almost any jet ski can pull a wakeboarder. Try not to get too caught up in the marketing of companies, and stick with what’s affordable.
The Best Jet Ski for Wakeboarding
The two best jet skis for wakeboarding are the Sea Doo Wake Pro 230 and the Yamaha VX Cruiser HO.
Sea Doo Wake Pro 230
The Sea Doo Wake Pro 230 is designed specifically with tow sports in mind. Everything about this watercraft was made to facilitate pulling someone on a jet ski.
There are actually two versions of this model. They’re very similar in terms of features, but the larger model has a more powerful engine for the more dedicated enthusiasts.
It also comes with a couple of extra bells and whistles geared towards tow sports. However, it costs significantly more, it weighs slightly more, and it has less storage.
Deciding whether the pros outweigh the cons is up to the individual to decide.
A few of the more notable features of the Sea Doo Wake Pro 230 are:
- 3 person ergonomic touring seats
- New deeper and wider reboarding ladder
- iBR 3.0 (Sea Doo’s Upgraded Intelligent Braking and Reverse System)
- High-Performance Electronic VTS (Variable Trim System). This allows operators to better adjust to different riding conditions.
- Display functions including Time / Distance to empty and altitude indicator
- Direct Access Front Storage
- A watertight/shockproof phone compartment
- Sport, ECO, and Touring Mode
- Slow mode & Cruise Control
- ST3 Super Stable Hull
- Largest swim platform in the personal watercraft industry
- LinQ Attachment System. This allows for additional storage on the rear platform.
- Front Splash Deflector
- Supercharged engine
- Comes with several accessories including a 3 positions retractable adjustable ski pylon and a removable wakeboard rack
- Tow Hook
Yamaha VX Cruiser HO
Despite not having any models made entirely for tow sports, Yamaha still has some great Waverunners that can get the job done.
There are a lot of great Waverunners that can be used for tow sports, but one of the better options is the Yamaha VX Cruiser HO.
It comes with everything needed to get started and has a fairly modest price tag. Of course there are some better models in their line up, but they cost much more.
Considering its price and features, the Yamaha VX Cruiser HO is arguably the best Waverunner for wakeboarding.
Some of the more important features of the Yamaha VX Cruiser HO are:
- 3 person cruiser seat with step up
- Largest fuel tank in its class
- Lightweight NanoXcel Hull
- Multifunction Information Display
- Built-in Yamaha RiDE technology gives it dual throttle braking and reverse
- Reboarding Step that tucks away when not in use
- Comes with Dual Cupholders
- Security / Low RPM Remote Transmitter
- Cruise Assist / No Wake Mode
- Watertight Storage
- Tow Hook
- Lightest model in its class
- Top speed of 65 mph
- Reliable 1.8 Liter High Output Yamaha Marine Engine
- Option to purchase additional accessories such as a tow tube, ski rope floats, or even speakers
The Pros and Cons of Jet Ski Wakeboarding
Wakeboarding has become extremely popular in recent years, combining surfing and water-skiing to create an exhilarating new sport.
Jet ski wakeboarding offers up new and exciting opportunities for those who enjoy the activity, but it’s not quite as simple as swapping the boat for a PWC.
There are some differences between the two, so before you surge ahead, it’s worth taking a bit of time to check out what to expect.
There are some benefits to using a jet ski, Waverunner, or PWC. However, there are disadvantages too, and you’ll need to weigh both sides up before deciding what’s right for you.
The main benefits of jet ski wakeboarding are:
If it wasn’t legal to wakeboard with a jet ski, the argument would end right here. However, the good news for everyone is that it’s completely lawful to use a jet ski to wakeboard.
This doesn’t mean that there aren’t rules to comply with, and these vary from state to state. You’ll, therefore, need to check the legislation which applies very carefully. If you’re planning on wakeboarding in a different state than usual, don’t assume the rules are the same.
In many cases the legislation which applies to powerboat towing has been used for jet ski wakeboarding, without any major adjustments.
If this is the case, you’ll need to have a boarding ladder, a mirror and possibly a rear-facing person observing. In some states, the mirror and the observer is either/or, not both.
However, some states have created legislation that is specific to PWCs.
If you’re not sure what the local legislation is, you can always check online or at the public boat ramps in the area.
Just as important as the legality is the safety aspect. Good news here too! Done correctly, jet ski wakeboarding can be entirely safe for all participants.
The surprising fact is that using a jet ski to tow a wakeboarder may actually be much safer than being towed by a boat.
The reason for this is the way that boats and jet skis move through the water and the risk that the wakeboarder is exposed to. The jet ski propulsion system is less dangerous than a boat because of the proximity of the wakeboarder to the vessel.
Boats typically have a propeller that is fully exposed. This is the case regardless of whether it’s an outboard or inboard engine.
The metal blades on the propeller spin at high speeds in the water and have no guards surrounding them. This leaves the wakeboarder vulnerable if they get too close, and at risk of a very serious injury – or even fatality.
Wakeboarding accidents involving boat propellers are fortunately very rare but the risk remains.
By contrast, jet skis don’t have the same danger as they’re not designed to have the same exposed spinning propeller.
Instead, they have what’s known as an impeller, a type of propeller that’s fitted inside a pipe in the jet ski. This prevents any possible contact between the wakeboarder and the blades.
There is a risk that the tow rope can get sucked into the impeller but this won’t cause serious injuries in the same way as a boat propeller would. Also, it’s easy to prevent by fitting a protector on the end of the tow rope.
Wakeboarding isn’t a cheap hobby but when you add in the expense of buying a boat, it suddenly becomes a lot less accessible for many.
Boats cost many thousands of pounds to purchase, even without the added expense of running costs and maintenance.
If you splash out on a special inboard boat, you could be looking at costs of more than $100k, just for the purchase alone. Compare this to the average $12k cost for a jet ski and the difference is clear.
Of course, it’s possible to spend more on a jet ski, and there are many models which are more expensive. However, if you’re on a tight budget and can’t stretch to the cost of a boat, a jet ski could be the more affordable solution.
Due to their lighter weight and smaller size, jet skis are far more agile than a boat, a dream for wakeboarding. The greater maneuverability means far more tricks are possible with a PWC compared to a traditional boat.
This is because they are able to turn more sharply, allowing them to get closer to ramps than a boat would be able to do. This opens up more options for the wakeboarder, creating a better transition onto the ramp.
It’s not just in the water that jet skis are easier to maneuver, on land they’re lighter to store and more convenient to move around.
ou can normally keep a jet ski comfortably at home, which isn’t the case for most boats. This provides a cost-saving but also convenience, scoring big ticks all round.
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Although it’s clear that jet ski wakeboarding has a whole slew of advantages, it’s not all plain sailing.
There are some aspects of using a jet ski for wakeboarding which can be problematic, such as:
Size and Weight
Although the comparatively smaller size and lower weight of a jet ski can be a benefit, it can also cause potential problems too. You’ll need one of the larger jet ski models, with a design that’s got as large a hull as you can find.
Regulations typically specify that jet skis must be at least a three-seater to be able to tow. Having three seats provides sufficient room for the wakeboarder, the observer and the driver.
Unfortunately though, simply being a three-seater jet ski isn’t always sufficient, especially for more advanced wakeboarders. High, fast jumps and carving through the water can drag on the jet ski and pull it out of its position.
The smaller size of jet skis compared to boats can create another issue on the water, and it’s how to do with the perception from other traffic. If you’re using a waterway which is also frequented by boats and larger vessels, jet skis can often be missed or ignored.
Larger vessels have the right of way and failing to notice the tow puts the wakeboarder at much greater risk of a fall and potential injury.
Wakes and Spray
Connected to the size of jet skis is the issue with the type of wake it produces. A jet ski wake is much smaller than that from a boat, and that can be difficult for a wakeboarder to ride effectively.
There are certain tow sports that thrive with a smaller wake, such as water-skiing tubing, but that’s not the case with wakeboarding. To get the best speeds, highest jumps and best carving, you’ll need a much larger wake than is found behind a jet ski.
This doesn’t mean that jet skis aren’t any good at all for wakeboarding. They’re excellent for beginners as the wake isn’t too challenging to cope with. However, as skills improve and participants want to move onto bigger and faster tricks, a larger wake will be required.
Another problem for wakeboarding behind a jet ski is the way that it distributes spray. The spray pattern behind a PWC can feel almost like rainfall and leave wakeboarders being towed feel like they’re caught in a torrential storm.
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Wakeboarding is often enjoyed as a group activity, with multiple wakeboarders taking to the water at once. The problem is that jet skis can’t accommodate large groups of people, or tow more than one wakeboarder at a time.
When you wakeboard with a boat, it’s easier to switch in and out of the water, with people swapping almost seamlessly. It’s also far more social on a boat, with groups of people chatting and enjoying the activity together.
One of the biggest barriers to jumping is a tow rope which is anchored too low. This is a particular problem on jet skis as they lack a proper wakeboard tower to affix the tow rope to.
It is possible to correct the problem by installing a towing pylon behind the seat. This isn’t as high as a regular tower, but it provides some extra lift to increase jumping capacity.
Although there will be challenges when it comes to wakeboarding on a PWC, it’s clear that in the right circumstances they can be a lot of fun.
As an affordable way to access the sport, especially for beginners or casual participants, it’s hard to argue against a jet ski.
Unlike a boat, not every jet ski will be suitable for wakeboarding so you’ll need to check the specs of the PWC very carefully before purchase.
It’s fair to say if you’re an advanced wakeboarder who is looking to challenge yourself with bigger and faster tricks, you might find a PWC a little tame.
However, it’s worth remembering that a jet ski can offer agility that a boat can’t so even advanced wakeboarders could find it adds another dimension.
Those who are at a beginner or an intermediate level will love jet ski wakeboarding as it’s just challenging enough without being overwhelming.
And when you consider the affordable price and convenience of storage, jet ski wakeboarding is a winner all round.
Essential Jet Ski Wakeboarding Accessories
Other than a tow hook and a rope, there aren’t very many things that are actually essential for tow sports.
However, there are a few things that can most definitely make things a lot easier, and more fun. These are a few accessories worth considering.
Just like with normal tow rope, a wakeboard tow rope is pretty useful to have. Unlike traditional tow rope, a wakeboard tow rope comes with a solid handle so wakeboarders can hold on easier.
Another major difference is wakeboard rope should have close to 0 stretch, making it more responsive.
One of the most useful jet ski tow sports accessories is an impeller protector.
If a jet ski is used long enough for tow sports, sooner or later the rope is going to get sucked up into the impeller.
This can usually be avoided if the operator maneuvers properly, but eventually it may still happen.
Even the most skilled riders mess up every now and then. Rest assured that when this happens, the impeller will be standing by ready to snatch up the tow rope.
An impeller protector is a great just-in-case item that can be pretty useful to have.
A wakeboard and jet ski is one of the best combinations in tow sports. Using a jet ski for wakeboarding is great because it allows incredibly maneuverability that many boats can’t match.
The barrier to entry on a jet ski is much lower than a boat, and they’re way easier to operate.
Wakeboards can vary greatly in quality in performance. Unfortunately, most professional wakeboards are somewhat expensive, but there are some decent affordable options available too.
This is an awesome entry level wakeboard that has a great reputation.
PFD (Life Jacket)
Unlike some of the other items mentioned, a life jacket is definitely an essential accessory.
A PFD is an extremely valuable accessory to have for obvious reasons. Other than literally being able to save someone’s life, they’re required by law just about everywhere.
For the longest time, life jackets were bulky, cumbersome, and overall uncomfortable to wear. This has started to change though, and there are actually some great options out there.
Life jackets have become surprisingly comfortable, and they’re much less of a hassle to wear than they used to be.
What’s your preferred PWC for wakeboarding? We’d love to hear what you think down in the comments section!