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Ballast Guide: Weighting Your Boat for Wakesurfing


WakeMAKERS How-To: Weighting Your Boat For Wakesurfing

Wakesurfing was introduced over a decade and has exploded in popularity over the last few years. In fact, many would consider wakesurfing more popular than wakeboarding and water skiing these days. With that much interest and participation in wakesurfing, there is a lot of bad information out there on how to achieve the best possible surf wake from your boat. In an effort to clear the water, and help our customers have as much fun as possible when on the water, we've created this guide on how to produce a better surf wake behind your boat.

The Physics Behind Wakesurf Boats

Physics of Wakesurf Ballast

The first thing to understand about building the perfect wake is how the wake is created in the first place. When a boat is sitting in a lake it is taking up space that would otherwise be occupied by water. The amount of volume taken up by the boat is known as the displacement of the hull, and depends on a myriad of details such as wetted surface area, gross weight, etc. Essentially though, the heavier the boat, the lower in the water it sits and the more water the boat's hull is displacing. The wake is created once the boat starts moving and water rushes back into place as the boat moves through it.

In order to make a bigger wake, you must increase the weight in your boat. Nearly every wakeboarding boat comes standard with a factory ballast system, however, it won't be enough weight to create that great surf wake you are looking for. To create that ideal surf wake you are going to need to weight your boat with additional ballast.

Ballast Configuration for Wakesurfing

Building that perfect surf wake takes more than just additional weight in your boat. Many people will just throw some more ballast bags into their boat and call it good. It is a common belief that all you need is a bigger wake in order to wakesurf. Size isn't everything. The shape of the wake is just as important as the size (trust us on this one).

The size of the wake is an easy concept to understand and visualize (more weight = bigger wake). The shape of the wake will be determined by the configuration of the ballast throughout your boat. Each boat is different and the ballast configuration that works best on your friend's boat might not work as well on your boat. Do some experimentation.

Ballast Layout for Wakesurfing
Wakesurfing Ballast Configuration

The more weight you add to the back of the boat, the taller the wake will be in height but shorter in length. The more weight you add to the front of the boat, the lower the wake will be in height but the length will extend longer.

If you only have one or two extra ballast bags, place them in the back corner of the boat on the side that you will be surfing. This will help you get the most out of your ballast in creating a bigger wake. If you have additional ballast bags you can play around with placing more weight in the front of the boat to create a better shaped wake. The optimal ballast configuration will place the majority of the weight in the back of the boat with a smaller amount of weight near the bow of the boat. Many people suggest a 60/40 ratio for configuring the weight between the back and front of the boat. This is a loose rule but is good to generally follow while configuring your boat's ballast.

If you are new to wakesurfing or setting up a ballast system for a new boat, we recommend checking out our Ballast Bag & Pump Combo Packages.

Evenly Weighting Your Boat (Newer Models and/or Surf Device)

V-Drive Boat Ballast Wakesurf Layout Direct Drive Boat Ballast Wakesurf Layout

Back in 2012, Malibu Boats changed the game with its Surf Gate innovation. The Surf Gate technology allows boaters to evenly weight their boat with ballast and switch the side of the wake with the push of a button.

Fast forward to today and every top wakeboard boat manufacturer has released their own wakesurf system. Mastercraft has the Gen 2 Surf System. Nautique has their Natique Surf System (NSS). These wakesurf systems on the newer boats remove the need to weight your boat to one side. Using a wakesurf system will allow you to evenly weight the boat. This allows you to fill more bags and place more weight inside the boat, therefore creating a bigger wake.

We recommend upgrading the ballast in these boats with one of our Factory Ballast Upgrade Kits. They integrate seamlessly with the boats existing ballast system and allow for push button convenience.

Bring Modern Technology to Your Older Boat

Aftermarket Wakesurf Devices

You don't need a brand new boat to reap the benefits of modern wakesurf technology. Several aftermarket surf systems can be retrofitted to your older boat to help create that dreamy wave you've always imagined.

Weighting One Side Of Your Boat (Older Models and/or No Surf Device)

You will want to weight your boat to whichever side the rider is surfing. To increase the wake's size on the side of the rider, increase the amount of weight on that side of the boat. Weighting your boat to one side will help create that surf wake you are looking for. If a rider is going to surf on the other side of the boat, you will need to drain the ballast and fill them on the other side.

Key point: Your boat might produce a better surf wake on one side. This is due to the rotation of the prop.

People Are Ballast Too!

When we think of ballast, we typically think of ballast bags filled with water. Don't forget that people count as ballast too! People are a great example of solid ballast that can be used to fine tune your wake. We recommend always using ballast bags, people on the boat are just some nice bonus weight. You will notice a difference in the size of your boat's wake when the boat is full of people compared to just a few people. If you've got a bunch of friends with you in the boat, don't be afraid to move them around in order to produce the best wake possible.

Wakesurfing Tips & Safety

-Wakesurf in deeper water. It's been said that anything over 8ft-10ft will help produce a better wakesurfing wake.

-Always remember to drain your ballast before you put your boat back on the lift or trailer.

-Most importantly, never exceed the Coast Guard's maximum weight capacity for your boat.

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