WakeMAKERS How-To: Adding Boat Ballast, Where To Put It, And More
This isn't some top secret info. The key ingredient to creating a better wake is additional weight in your boat.
At WakeMAKERS, we think about a quality wake requires two things: size and shape. Each is equally important.
Size: A bigger wake means more energy. This means more explosive pop wakeboarding and more push wakesurfing.
Shape: Just as important as the size, the shape of the wake is often a second thought or completely ignored.
You are reading this because you want to build a better wake behind your boat. This guide will cover the basics of boat ballast, where to place ballast, and more. After reading this guide you will be ready to build a better wake. Enjoy!
Wake Size + Wake Shape = Wake Quality
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. This 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 several factors:
- 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?
The bigger you want your wake, the more hull displacement, and therefore additional ballast you need for your boat. Anywhere you place additional weight in the boat will cause an increase in the displacement of the hull in the water. To increase the wake's size, the location of the ballast is completely trivial. Place it anywhere you want.
The shape of the wake is equally important and often ignored. 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 throughout your boat. The next section will cover how to place ballast in your boat for wakeboarding and wakesurfing.
Ballast Placement | Wakeboarding vs. Wakesurfing
Weight in the rear of the boat will result in a more vertical wake, with a shorter and steeper face. Too much weight in the rear can cause the wake to “roll” or “crumble” over on itself. Moving more weight towards the bow of the boat will make a more mellow wake, with a longer transition from the trough at the bottom to the lip of the wake.
Unless you are currently not happy with the shape of your wake (too steep or too rampy), stick to a 50/50 front-to-rear weight distribution for any additional ballast you add. For example, if you add 400 lbs. to the rear of your boat then you should add 400 lbs. to the front as well. For wakeboarding we recommend not trying to alter the shape of the wake. The wake's shape is one of the reasons we spend more money on boats specifically designed for wakeboarding. If you want a better wake for wakeboarding, just make it 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.
An evenly weighted boat has numerous advantages besides creating a clean wake. Keeping your boat evenly weighted maintains the efficiency of the drive train by reducing the prop shaft angle. This results in quicker acceleration and better fuel economy, as well as a smoother ride.
If you want a steeper wake with a more pop, move more weight towards the rear of the boat. On the other hand, if you want to tame some of the wake's steepness, or if you’re having trouble with the wake crumbling, shift weight forward in the boat.
You MUST start with additional ballast in the rear of the boat to create a wake with enough “push” or energy to allow a rider to surf without a rope. Adding weight in the rear of the boat results in a tall wake that has a lot of energy, but doesn’t extend very far back behind the boat. Additional weight in the front of the boat will lengthen the wake, but will also remove some of the "push" or energy. It is a fine balance of push vs. length of your surf wake.
The goal is to have the longest wake possible, while having enough "push" to allow a rider to surf without the rope.
Start with adding weight in the rear corner of the boat on the side you will be surfing on (port side of the boat for regular riders, starboard side of the boat for goofy riders). Weighting the boat to one side is required to make a clean,rideable surf wake. Starting in the rear will provide enough “push” to support a rider without the rope, which is the whole goal. From there, begin adding more weight to the front of the boat, on the same side of the rider. Add as much bow weight as you can to lengthen the wake without removing too much "push".
The heavier the rider or the smaller the board, the more rear weight you’ll need to create "push". Lighter riders, or those riding a very fast surfboard will allow you to run more weight in the front of the boat for a longer wake.
Weighting Boat w/ Wakesurf System
Malibu Boats changed the game in 2012 when they introduced their SurfGate system. Now every major wakeboard boat manufacturer has an OEM surf system and there are several aftermarket systems available on the market. These surf systems completely change how you need to weight your boat for wakesurfing. A wakesurf system allows you to evenly weight your boat, removing the need to list your boat to one side. Gone are the days of weighting all the ballast on one side of your boat. If you are using a surf system, fill up all the ballast on your boat for a bigger, better wake. The surf systems are a must-have for anyone serious about building a better surf 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. At WakeMAKERS we classify three different methods for filling and draining weight.
The basic solution for filling and draining ballast. A portable pump efforts great speed and minimal investment, but requires more effort to fill and drain your system.
Pros: highest speed, inexpensive, zero installation, works with any boat
Cons: manual process (boat must be stopped to fill and drain)
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.
Pros: extremely convenient, moderate speed, inexpensive, easy installation, completely automated
Complete Ballast System
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: extremely convenient, high speed, works with any boat, completely automated
When looking to add weight to your boat, the best option varies from person to person. Our suggested setup for you will depend on your specific needs as far as speed, convenience, and price. You can always start out with a minimal investment into a portable system and then upgrade to a fully integrated solution in the future.