Makin’ Waves – Four Winns HD 200 RS Surf

Four Winns can help you surf the endless wave in style for a whole lot less.

The newest and smallest member of the Four Winns HD Surf series, the HD 200 RS Surf, packs a lot of attitude, luxury and function. Featuring Volvo Penta’s game-changing Forward Drive system, this package gets owners into surfing for a reasonable starting price of $52,668, including a trailer.

Unique Factor

Four Winns’ boats are known for their high-end fit and finish and strong sense of style. It’s true throughout the line, from the builder’s Vista 375 cruiser all the way down to its smaller models, including the HD 200. Our test boat featured the RS package, which includes aggressive hull-side graphics and special quad-tone upholstery that’s color coordinated and has a carbon fiber–like texture. Although the seats have black accents, the special fabric-like Aquaflex vinyl diffuses direct sunlight, so it remains cool. The sporty windshield is low and darkly tinted like a pair of wraparound Bolle sunglasses.

Our test boat was equipped with the extended swim platform option ($1,393), which is a must-have. Not only does it greatly expand the room in back, it sits really low to the water (for easy reboarding) and creates an even greater buffer between surfer and propellers (for an added measure of safety). Like the integrated swim platform, it’s covered in Marine Mat, which enhances comfort and provides superior traction. The stern section is given over to a sunning platform that makes use of this boat’s 8-foot, 3-inch beam. As an added bonus, the starboard-side walkthough has a flip-up section that props up to form a recliner backrest.

Performance

We had a unique opportunity to test two vastly different boats that had the same HD 200 moniker. The first was the outboard version, the HD 200 O/B Sport, which was powered by Yamaha F115 four-stroke outboard. (See our January issue, page 46, for the numbers on that model.) The second was an HD 200 RS Surf with a Volvo Penta V6-280 sterndrive that, like its IPS brethren, features twin counter-rotating props that face forward, so they’re tucked under the hull and out of the way, which makes wakesurfing possible.

When I jammed the drive-by-wire throttle on the RS Surf model, it got on plane in 2.8 seconds and reached 30 mph in 6.8 seconds. Top speed was 48 mph. This nearly 50 mph top speed is significant, because most boats that are surf-ready are direct-drive inboards, which don’t have the ability to trim the outdrive and reduce the hull’s wetted surface. The inboard also has the prop shaft positioned at a downward angle, which vectors away some of its power. The result is the Four Winns HD 200 Surf will enjoy about a 10 mph top speed advantage over conventional ski boats, using far less horsepower to plow up a surfable wake. At around 22 mph, the HD Surf does a good job of creating a clean wakeboard wake. And at more than 30 mph the wake flattens out enough for recreational slaloming.

Handling

Because the twin props face forward, they are 26 inches farther from the stern than the standard Volvo Penta Duoprop, which changes the boat’s handling characteristics greatly. The biggest difference is the Forward Drive’s effect on its turning ability. Since the pivot point is moved forward, the boat turns with more alacrity than when it’s equipped with a standard sterndrive or outboard. It’s bound to surprise a new-to-the-boat driver, and his passengers, so a warning before spinning the wheel would be prudent. Once a driver gets the hang of it, whipping the HD 200 RS Surf into a turn to pick up surfers or skiers will reduce downtime.
Most boaters who move to tournament-style wakeboard and wakesurf boats from boats powered by outboards or sterndrives usually have some difficulty docking them, because the direct-drive system uses a rudder for steering. In reverse, the prop’s thrust moves away from the rudder, virtually nullifying its usefulness. Combine that with prop torque, and it’s difficult to back up in a straight line or pull up to a dock on the starboard side, if the boat has a right-handed prop. But the HD 200, with its Forward Drive system, has counter-rotating props that eliminate prop torque, so there is nothing to pull it to one side. And because the thrust changes directions when the driver turns the wheel, maneuvering is easy.

 

Best Uses

As the name implies, the HD 200 Surf is built for wakesurfing. Surprisingly, unlike most other boats designed for this sport, it carries no additional ballast — other than the 10 people it’s rated to carry. Plowing up a surfable wave begins with Four Winns’ robust build, which puts the 20-foot, 1-inch boat’s weight at 3,760 pounds, 426 pounds more than the longer, wider Sea-Ray 210 SPX. Then, its Wake Worx Super Surfer tabs help build and shape its surfing wave.

Although conditions were rough on Lake Cadillac in western Michigan where we tested it, we were able to carve a well-formed wake with a decent amount of push with only two people on board. Was it as big a wave as one plowed up by a MasterCraft X20? No, but it doesn’t have the MasterCraft’s 2,000 pounds of ballast — or its six-figure price tag. But its wave is plenty big enough to push surfers all day long. The added bonus to not having ballast is it frees up space for extra storage under all the seats. With 19 degrees of deadrise, the Stable-Vee hull smoothed out the ride over the whitecaps nicely for a 20-footer.

To keep the HD 200 Surf dialed into the perfect speed, it uses the GPS-based Zero Off system, which is a standard feature and is also the industry standard for watersports cruise control. To add to its watersportiness, the powder-coated watersports tower ($3,633), which includes a color-coordinated Bimini top, is a must.

Preferred Setup

Four Winns offers three engine choices, all Volvo Penta because of the Forward Drive system needed to surf: the V6-200, V6-240 and V6-280. The biggest jump in price is from 200 hp to 240 hp, with an upcharge of $3,781, but I’m not sure 200 or even 240 hp would do this boat justice, especially when surfing is in the picture. Surprisingly the smallest price jump is from the 240 to the engine we tested it with, the V6-280, which is only $1,919 more than the 240 and is a no-brainer.

The HD 200 Surf is so well equipped that only a couple of options are needed to load it up. Because the props on this boat face forward, getting off the boat in shallow water will probably cause a bit of concern, so adding the bow boarding ladder ($433) is probably a wise move. Even though the HD 200 is just barely longer than 20 feet, there’s a surprising amount of legroom in the bow thanks to its deckboat design, and adding filler cushions ($360) maximizes stretching out space. It might have been because we were taking a morning run in Michigan during October, but the optional dam that blocks off the walkthrough to the bow is worth every penny of its $493 cost. On the topic of cool morning runs, a more merciful choice given to prospective owners is a taller, aluminum-framed windshield that is offered at no extra cost. A surprising option that shows the luxury factor of Four Winns is the windlass option ($2,100).

Owner Review

Purchased by Dave and Coleen Lenhart, plus Kylee, 20, Mallory, 24, and Sydney, 25, Bellaire, Mich.

Purchased at Action Watersports, Traverse City, Mich.

What we liked

Wide bow section/Attractive styling/Wakesports tower with built-in Bimini top/Stern walkthrough/Bow ladder

What we would change

I wish it had a cleat in the middle of the bow, rather than on the sides, for a more even pull at anchor.

Why we bought it

Although I grew up in a family that had boats, this is the first boat my wife and I have owned together. My brother-in-law has a ski boat and we love watersports, so we wanted something that could do it all. My friends were advising me to get a pontoon boat, but we really wanted something more traditional. My wife and I loved the styling of the Four Winns, and we live in Michigan, so we liked the fact it is built in Cadillac, not far from our home. Not only did we want to support a local company, but we figured if there was an issue, it would be easier to remedy. We do most of our boating on Torch Lake, but because the boat’s on a trailer, we plan on towing it to Traverse City this summer for the National Cherry Festival. The sales team at Action Sports of Traverse City made the buying experience really stress free. We weren’t really sure what we wanted, so they asked a lot of questions to match us up with the perfect boat, without trying to just push us to a boat they wanted to move.

Specifications

LOA: 20 ft., 1 in.
Beam: 8 ft., 3 in.
Fuel: 40 gal.
Engine: Volvo Penta V-6 280 hp
Base Price: w/test power $52,668
Standard Equipment:

Custom Forward Drive-compatible trailer, Wake Worx surf tabs, Zero Off cruise control, ski tow, Bluetooth stereo, stainless steel bow scuff plate

Optional Equipment:

Watersports tower, filler cushions, Premium Bluetooth stereo w/subwoofer, windlass, extended swim platform, bow boarding ladder, cockpit table

Builder: Four Winns, fourwinns.com

Comments:

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

*