Posted by Jason on Feb, 19 2014

We wanted to develop the definitive guide to adding ballast to your boat to build a better wake. Whether you’re interested in wakeboarding, wakesurfing or both, the information included here will give you all of the knowledge you need to have the best experience possible behind your boat.

In order to get a better wake from your boat, regardless of what type of boat you have, you need to add additional weight. Extra weight results in a bigger wake and can also be used sculpt the shape of the wake.

At WakeMAKERS, we think about wake quality as a function of two characteristics:

  1. Size: The physical size of the wake; bigger means more energy, which is good for both wakeboarding and wakesurfing.
  2. Shape: The shape of the wake is just as important as the size, and requires attention in order to maintain the correct shape while increasing the size.

Wake Size + Wake Shape = Wake Quality

Wake Size
Adding additional weight to your boat, whether it’s in the form of ballast, people or even gas in the fuel tank makes the boat sit lower in the water. A lower ride height means the hull is displacing more water, which will result in a larger wake as the boat drives though the water.

Your requirements for wake size will depend on a host of factors, such as:

  • Desired wake size: Just how big do you want the wake to be?
  • Space requirements: How much room are you willing to give up in the boat for ballast?
  • Comfort level: How much ballast are you willing to run in the boat?
  • Activity: Are you primarily wakeboarding, surfing or both wakesurfing and wakeboarding?

For example, if you need to have a certain amount of interior storage space available that will limit the total amount of additional ballast you can place in your boat.

The bigger wake you want, the more hull displacement, and therefore additional ballast you need. Anywhere you place additional weight in the boat will increase the displacement of the hull. That means for wake size the location of the ballast is completely trivial, put the weight anywhere in the boat you want.

Wake Shape
The second equally important, and often ignored, component of wake quality is the shape of the wake. Whereas ballast location in the boat plays no role in determining the size of the wake, wake shape is completely dependent upon where the weight is placed.

In general, here is an outline of how weight placement will impact wake shape:

  • Wakeboarding: Weight in the rear of the boat will result in a wake that is more vertical, with a shorter and steeper face. Too much weight in the rear can cause the wake to “roll” or “crumble” over on itself.Conversely, moving the distribution of weight more towards the bow of the boat will make a more mellow wake, with a longer transition from the trough at the bottom to the peak at the top.

    Unless you are currently not happy with the wake shape (too steep or too rampy) stick to a 50/50 front-to-rear weight distribution for any additional ballast you add. You may have heard of the “60/40” rule or other recommendations for adding additional weight, but as generalizations they are wrong. In most cases we do not want to change the shape of the wake; correct shape is one of the reasons we spend more money on watersports tow boats, we just want to make the wake bigger. That means evenly weighting the entire hull of the boat, which means the wetted surface of the boat will be the same, it will just displace more water.

    There are other advantages to an evenly weighted boat, like being easier to drive, maintaining efficiency of the drive train by reducing prop shaft angle for better acceleration and fuel economy, etc.

    If you want a steeper wake with a more abrupt pop, move the bias of weight towards the rear of the boat more. On the other hand, if you want to tame some of the steepness that is inherent with your boat’s wake, or if you’re having trouble with the wake crumbling, shift weight forward in the boat.

  • Wakesurfing: Adding weight in the rear of the boat for wakesurfing results in a tall wake that has a lot of energy, but doesn’t extend very far back behind the boat. You MUST start with weight in the rear of the boat to have a wake with enough “push” or energy to be able to support a rider with the rope.Additional weight in the front of the boat will lead to a wake that extends further back behind the boat, but will also remove some of the height or energy from the wake. The goal is to have the longest wake possible, while still maintaining enough weight to “push” a rider without the rope.

    Almost universally adding weight to a boat for wakesurfing will be done in the following manner. Start with weight in the rear corner of the boat on the side you will be surfing on, and move forward in the boat from there. The bias of weight to the surf side (port side of the boat for regular riders, starboard side of the boat for goofy riders) is required to make a “clean” surf wake on just one side of the boat. Starting in the rear will provide enough “push” to support a rider without the rope, which is the whole goal. From there, put as much weight in the front of the boat, still on the surf side, as you can without removing too much push.

    The heavier the rider or the smaller the board, the more rear weight you’ll need. Lighter riders, or riding a very fast surfboard will allow you to run more weight in the front of the boat for a longer wake.

How-To: Fill and Drain Additional Ballast in Your Boat
Now that we know why and where to add ballast, the next step is to figure out how to actually fill and drain that additional weight. There are many reasons, such as rider skill level, activity, efficiency, why you’ll want to be able to add or remove ballast from the boat quickly and easily. Ultimately the best method of getting weight into and out of the boat will depend in your specific needs. At WakeMAKERS we classify three different methods for filling and draining weight:

Portable Pump Factory Integration Complete Ballast System
The go to solution for filling and draining wakeboard ballast, a portable pump offers great speed for not much money, but requires more work to use. Exclusive to WakeMAKERS, this option allows you to control additional ballast capacity using the same system that came built into your boat. Great value, and very convenient, this is a great option for fully automated ballast without spending a lot. The Porsche of the ballast industry, this option gives you the most speed, convenience, performance and flexibility, but does not come cheap, and requires installation.
Pros: Highest speed, Inexpensive, Zero installation, Works with any boat Pros: Extremely convenient, Moderate speed, Inexpensive, Easy installation, Completely automated Pros: Extremely convenient, High speed, Works with any boat, Completely automated
Cons: Manual Process (boat must be stopped for filling and draining) Cons: Slower, Requires factory system Cons: More expensive, Medium Installation
Shop for Bag/Pump Combos» Shop for Factory Integrations» Shop for Complete Systems»

Again, which option makes the most sense will depend on your specific needs as far as speed, convenience and price are concerned. You can always start out using a portable pump, and then move to a fully integrated solution in the future.

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