WATERSPORTS HAVE LONG BEEN PART of recreational boating, ever since Ralph Samuelson strapped a couple of barrel staves to his feet in the early 1920s, but the scene has seen more advances since the beginning of the 21st century than it had in the previous 80 years. Not surprising, considering other fields of technology have seen similar rapid progress. We aspired to gather many of those advances into one list. Admittedly, the list is far from comprehensive, but it includes thfeatures boat owners and watersports enthusiasts are going to benefit from most.
01/Wake surfing. OK, this isn’t new in the last 16 years, but its safety and implementation have improved. Used to be, the boat leaned way over and you could swamp it if you turned the wrong way hard. Now, we have no-lean wakesurfing thanks to wake-specific boats and advanced ballast systems.
02/Change on-the-fly surfing wakes. Those of you who were fans of stopping and adding, subtracting or moving ballast to create a different wake are not going to like this one. Systems such as Malibu’s Surf Gate, MasterCraft’s Gen 2 and Tigé’s Convex VX allow you to change a wake’s shape and intensity, and which side of the boat it’s on — all without stopping.
03/Skier-controlled wakes. Now, control of the wake doesn’t come solely from inside the boat. Riders can make adjustments from the wake itself thanks to wrist-worn devices such as Tigé’s AVX, Nautique’s Surf Select and Malibu’s Surf Band.
04/Mega-ballast. Boat manufacturers have met the need for ever-larger launch ramps with increasing ballast. This year, Malibu’s 25 LSV is capable of creating the equivalent of nearly 5,000 pounds of ballast.
05/Faster ballast fill and dump. Bigger hoses and more powerful pumps have shortened the ballast fill/empty process greatly. 03 It takes as few as five minutes to take on 1,000 pounds of water ballast.
06/GPS-based cruise control systems. No matter how good dad claims to be at pulling boarders and skiers, his skills always seem to be lacking. Systems such as the ones from PerfectPass and Zero Off allow drivers to set parameters by activity and by rider, to ensure a smooth takeoff and a consistent pull.
07/High-horsepower/high-torque supercharged ski boat engines. In 2002, the biggest engine MasterCraft offered was 425 hp; for 2016, it’s offering an Ilmor MV8 7.4L with 524 foot-pounds of torque. Malibu’s biggest offering is a supercharged 555 hp Indmar 6.2L.
08/PWCs as ski boats and jet boats you can surf behind. You don’t have to own a boat to ski or board behind. Kawasaki, Sea-Doo and Yamaha PWCs have you covered for less. And the Yamaha 242-X is a watersports-ready jet boat with a triple ballast system, a high and low tow point, and programmable cruise control.
09/Easy-to-fold-down towers. One person, two hands, no straining. ’Nuff said.
10/Spectator seating. With the action taking place behind the boat, it makes sense for much of the seating in the boat to face backwards. While most manufacturers have integrated rear-facing seats, arrangements such as Malibu’s Stadium Seating and Axis Wake’s ChillAX and Skybox stern seating make for easy booting up and hanging out.
11/Volvo-Penta Forward Drive. Introduced in 2015, Forward Drive is a sterndrive engine that points the props forward, so they are tucked farther under the boat for improved safety. Four Winns and Monterey are just two of the watersports boat manufacturers that have taken advantage of the technology.
12/Large touch-screen control systems. As big-boat features have trickled down to sub 26-footers, electronics for watersports boats have improved immensely. Touch-screens are common now, and they bring everything together on one display, such as Tigé Touch, Yamaha’s Drive Control and Command Center from Malibu.
13/No more hump. The engine hump in the cockpit has virtually disappeared now that almost everything is a V-drive.
14/Drive-by-wire throttles. Precision, responsiveness and ease are three steering characteristics a watersports driver needs, and drive-by-wire throttles offer all three. And the systems just keep getting better.
15/ Padded swim platforms. While nonskid surface is great for sure footing, it can make for uncomfortable booting up. Fortunately, new padded surfaces on the swim platform offer the same sure-footedness while going easier on legs and rear ends.
16/The Internet. Anyone who wants to learn a new technique can go to the web and find dozens of videos in a second — many that show the correct way and probably a few that exhibit how not to do something.