Water skiing is one of the most exhilarating outdoor sports there is. There’s something so surreal about being surrounded by cool blue waters, feeling the wind in your hair, and water splashing across your face. There’s truly nothing like it.
Whether you do it in the ocean, lake, or reservoir, there’s no better way to spend a warm weekend afternoon.
An important part of getting the most out of your skiing experience is having the right equipment for the sport, more specifically the right ski boat. While it may look quite similar to a wakeboard boat, the reality is – the two are very different.
Boat manufacturers have made them so specialized that it’s quite difficult to use them for anything else other than their stated purpose. Wakeboarding is all about creating massive waves. Water skiing, on the other hand, is about creating a relatively flat wake.
With that being said, what are the best ski boats for 2020, and how do you choose the best one? Here’s everything you need to know.
Ski Nautique is no doubt one of the world’s most recognizable ski boat brands. This lightweight craft generates the softest wakes we’ve come across to deliver a world-class performance on every front.
Its blended fiberglass and carbon fiber construction create the perfect balance of weight, strength, and stability. Standard features include a bow walk-through, platform handle, windshield end cap, transom stereo remote, and an ergonomic helm seat.
It also comes with ski lockers and a dashboard that features a LINC Panoray Touchscreen and a helm command rotary to scroll through the menus and change the settings when you need to.
● Sleek design
● Fully customizable
● Generates soft flat wakes that are ideal for skiing
If you’re in the market for a watersports boat that you can also use for angling, the 2021 Alumacraft Trophy 175 is a great option to consider. This rugged machine measures 17 ft. 8 in. in length, and has 150 hp.
Aside from its water skiing provisions, it also comes with an 18 gallon Livewell, trolling systems, and a starboard rod compartment, all of which makes it perfect for fishing as well.
● Designed for water skiing and fishing
● Fully customizable
● Ample storage
Getting the best value for your money is critical when choosing the best ski boats. The 2021 ProStar from MasterCraft comes fully loaded with functional features that cater to skiers, drivers, and the crew at a price that’s hard to beat.
Standard features include a command center with a 10 in. touchscreen, superior tracking and steering technology, smooth flat wake generation, bimini tower, ski racks, swim platform, removable seating, and lots more.
● Great value for money
● Spacious interior
● Smooth wakes at any speed or line length
If you’re just starting, you need a ski boat that’s not only designed for beginners but also effortlessly transitions into a tournament-ready craft as you continue to hone your skills. The Malibu Response TXi is specially designed for individuals dipping their toes into the water skiing world.
It uses Malibu’s Advanced Rudder Control technology to produce soft flat wakes and a tracking system that provides a consistent pull throughout. Standard features of the TXi include underwater lights, a Malibu OS-powered command center, and M5DI/M6DI Monsoon engines.
● Ideal for beginners
● Produces flat wakes and a consistent pull
For advanced skiers looking for competition-level performance from a ski boat, the 2021 Nautique 200 is a proven performer. It is an AWSA tournament-approved towboat that produces soft flat waves that are ideal for intermediate and professional skiers alike.
Standard features include a playpen-style bow, open interior layout with a 9-passenger capacity, 355/400/450 hp, center-windshield and rear walk-throughs, open bow configuration, board racks, and an optional flight control tower.
● Suitable for intermediate and advanced skiers
● Produces soft flat wakes
● Spacious open interior layout
The new Tige 20 RZX is the perfect tournament ski boat and features a patented Convex Hull. This means that unlike other hulls you’ll come across, this particular one curves upward at the transom cathedral style. This allows it to generate a ballast-free slalom-type wake at tournament skiing speeds that range between 35 to 36 mph.
It has heaps of storage, a wide beam, and a deep freeboard. Standard features include an Indmar Raptor engine, Wet Sounds Audio System, and the Alpha M2 Tower that comes with swivel ski/wakeboard racks.
● Slalom-ready wake
● Also suitable for wakeboarding
As far as crossover water skiing boats go, it doesn’t get any better than the MasterCraft XT21. It can track slalom runs with little wake generation and no ballast even at high speeds, making it perfect for skiing.
When a wake is required, the Gen2 Surf System kicks in to fill up the ballast and generate a powerful wake behind the boat, which is ideal for wake surfing. Standard features include a convertible transom seat, spacious layout, and a 6.0 L Ilmor engine.
● Ideal for water skiing and wakeboarding
● The sleek interior and exterior styling
● Ample storage
Most ski boats aren’t designed for high performance on choppy waters. The Supra SR is the exception.
It comes with Swell 3.0 Surf technology that’s designed to measure the vessel’s movements using inclinometers and adjusts the ballast accordingly to provide more stability. It also features an adjustable Supra Smart Plate to flatten out the shape of the wake and waves when skiing on rough water.
● Flattens out rough water
● Excellent crossover capability
● Suitable for sports and entertainment
If you spend most of your time on coastal waters, then you need a special ski boat designed to withstand the corrosive properties of saltwater. The 2021 Nautique Coastal Edition has heaps of corrosion-resistant features built to protect the critical components of the ski boat from salty water deterioration.
Some notable features include a sealed steering cable enclosed in a stainless steel tube, structural components made from anodized aluminum, zinc sacrificial anodes, stainless steel gas shocks, and a 600 hp PCM coastal engine made from stainless steel hardware.
The Nautique Coastal Edition is built from the toughest materials designed to endure the abuse that comes from saltwater use.
● All components are made from corrosion-resistant material
● Ideal for use in the marsh, Intracoastal waterways, and tropical regions
● Crossover capability
If you’re looking for a ski boat that also transforms into a fishing machine or family runabout whenever you need it to, the Chaparral 2021 19 SSI Ski and Fish boat is precisely what you need.
It comes with loads of storage space, is comfortable, has adjustable bucket seats, and a highly-intuitive dashboard for easy navigation. Standard features include a swim platform, SSi gauges, custom hand-stitched helm brow, high freeboard, deep V-hull, and lots more.
● Efficient fuel economy
● Smooth ride
● Versatile making it perfect for family use
● Low top speed
How to Choose the Best Ski Boats – Buyer’s Guide
Choosing the right ski boat is paramount to your entire on-water experience. Here are a couple of things you need to keep in mind when picking the best one.
Whether you’re choosing a boat for water skiing or wakeboarding, the main thing you need to consider is the wake characteristic. Different watersports call for different types of wakes/waves.
If you’re wakeboarding, you want a larger, more aggressive wake. If you’re water skiing, you want a nice flat wake. The best ski boats should be capable of generating both types, to increase their functionality and utility.
So, rather than have one boat dedicated to wakeboarding and another specifically for water skiing, find one that supports different wake characteristics.
The other thing you need to consider is the point where the rope attaches to the vessel. Ideally, you want a one whose hitch point is at the same height as the skier’s hands to pull them parallel to the water surface since water skiing doesn’t typically require an individual to make jumps on the water.
If you plan to use the same boat for wakeboarding, ensure that it comes with a hitch point positioned higher than the wakeboarder. This is usually achieved with a wakeboard tower on the boat.
So, once again, if you intend to use your ski boat for wakeboarding as well, it needs to have this capability.
As mentioned before, water skiing requires relatively flat wakes. The wake’s characteristic largely depends on the propulsion method used to generate torque.
You want a ski boat that has an inboard (not an outboard) motor. These are known to produce flat wakes that are ideal for water skiing since they are permanently situated inside the boat. So, they power the propulsion shaft through the hull.
Outboards, on the other hand, are situated outside the boat. You’ll see them hung at the stern using clamps. The best way to get a feel for the type of wakes generated by a particular boat is to get in touch with the dealer, arrange for a demo and see firsthand the kind of wake it produces.
Although the price isn’t an indicator of whether a particular boat is more suited for water skiing than its higher/lower-priced counterpart, it’s pointless if the vessel is way out of your price range. So, find a boat that falls within your budget and meets your basic requirements.
Of course, the more high-tech or feature-rich a specific vessel is, the higher it will cost. The costs associated with maintenance and storage should also factor in when calculating the overall cost of ownership.
Finding a boat that you can exclusively use for water skiing isn’t a problem per se. The issue, however, comes about when you want something that offers a little more versatility. Something you can use for water skiing and other water sports like waterboarding, tubing, and even kneeboarding.
The next thing you need to think about is where you’ll be using your boat. Do you plan to ski out in the ocean, or will you be resigned to the calm waters of a lake?
The one thing you need to keep in mind is that boats designed for skiing or wakeboarding don’t perform well in the choppy waters of the open sea. They are optimized for the tranquil conditions of clear lakes.
That is not to say you can’t use them in the ocean. Just don’t expect them to perform as well as they would in calmer waters.
Additionally, we recommend getting a crossover boat that can do a bit of everything. Get a ski boat that comes with an optional wake tower and sterndrive to produce nice large wakes for wakeboarding. That way, you have a vessel that’s ideal for both activities. Most manufacturers allow you to “Build-a-Boat” to customize it to your needs and individual preferences.
Pick a Reputable Brand
If you’re shopping for a vessel, ensure that you choose a critically acclaimed manufacturer with a glowing reputation for producing the best ski boats in the industry.
The 10 products detailed in this guide come highly recommended by water skiing experts across the world. They’ve outperformed several others in the same category. Contact a local dealer and arrange for a demo to get a feel for them.