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swell wakesurf can you wakesurf behind any boat

Can you wakesurf behind any boat? Which boats are best?

March 24, 2022      · 

Written by Joe Couture

Can You Wakesurf Behind Any Boat?

Like a lot of adrenaline inducing sports wakesurfing is addictive. Wakesurfing is this awesome fusion of wakeboarding and surfing that opens up a ride-the-wave experience in even the most landlocked bodies of water. The feeling you get is impossible to explain, but once you get up on that wave all you want to do is stay there, and when you fall, you can’t wait to do it again. It’s no surprise that everybody who has surfed behind their friend’s boat wants to surf as much as they can behind whatever boat they have access to. The ultimate fun for wakesurfers is to let go the rope (aka drop the rope) and ride the boat’s wake. The ability to do that is also why the answer to, “Can you wakesurf behind any boat?” is, No.

Why can’t you surf behind any boat? The reason is simple, wakesurfers ride the most well formed section of the wake which is typically 3 to 10 feet from the stern of the boat. At times, surfers riding the wake can travel faster than the boat itself, even running into the back of the boat. This can be dangerous if the surfer falls forward and the boat has an exposed prop or an outboard motor with propellers spinning thousands of revolutions per minute.

The good news is that there’s still a great many boats you can use to wakesurf. Join us as we take a closer look into boat engines, propeller placements, hull shapes, and other features that allow you to safely enjoy your wakesurfing.

The Best Wakesurf Boats

The best wakesurf boats are inboard boats. These boats have the engine in the boat and propeller under the hull in front of the transom, or a jetboat with an impeller in the stern hull.

Inboard boats are safest, because if the surfer falls forward, the only potential contact will be with the swim deck, the stern of the boat, or rudder, and not the spinning propellers under the hull.

There are three kinds of inboard boats and only one kind of inboard/outboard engine that is safe for wakesurfing:

Safe engines for wakesurfing - SWELL Wakesurf

● Direct-Drive

The direct-drive engine placement is near the center of the boat. It is very efficient as it has less moving parts than other engines, with a propshaft that delivers power straight to the propellor. The disadvantage on smaller watersports boats is the location of the engine box in the center of the boat can take up deck space. As you can see from the diagram below, the prop is safely beneath the hull should a surfer fall forward.

● V-Drive

The location of this engine is near the back of the boat. The V-drive boat is great for wave creation due to the weight distribution of the engine with more weight at the stern. The mid-deck is freed up for use with the engine usually covered with a padded deck at the back. As with the direct-drive boat, the prop is well out of the way separated by the rudder.

● Inboard Jet

Jet boats are becoming increasingly popular for wakesurfing. A jet boat’s impeller is within the stern hull meaning there is no external spinning blade to cause injuries. Jet boats also have a few advantages over propeller systems as they have greater propulsion efficiency and are safer for marine life. 

The big issue with jet boats is that the engine is shooting water where you are wakesurfing. Twin engine jet boats work better, because you can throttle back on the surf side jet. All things being equal a jet boats wave will be smaller than a direct-drive or v-drive hull.

● Reverse Drive

This is the only option for an inboard/outboard engine. If the surfer falls forward they may make contact with the swim step or rudder, rather than the prop, which is mostly under the hull.

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Which Hull Shape Gives The Best Wakesurfing Wave?

At its essence, the more water displaced by the boat, the bigger the wake. To achieve the best wave possible you need the right combination of hull shape and ballast.

boat hull shapes - for wakesurfing, wakeboard, and skiing - SWELL Wakesurf

● Deep-V Hull Shape

As mentioned before, water displacement is key. A Deep-V is going to create a larger wave with a bigger section to surf on. 

Another advantage to the Deep-V is it gives a smoother ride cutting through chop instead of bouncing on top of it. Cutting through the water makes the Deep-V more fuel efficient when ballasted down, instead of pushing water forward like a flatter hull does. Burning less fuel means more time on the water and more money to spend on great gear.

● Internal ballast

Ballast works by lowering the hull in the water. The more hull in the water, the more water is displaced, and the better the wave. Ballast placement is also very important. If ballast is spread evenly throughout the boat, this will not only achieve great waves, it will also improve fuel efficiency. 

If the ballast is placed solely in the back of the boat, more drag is created and this burns more fuel. We recommend a 60% rear and 40% front distribution of ballast. In a direct-drive boat, the engine weight can mean no ballast is required at the front only adding bags to the stern.

● Wakeshapers

There is a third component to creating the best wave, and this is to add a wake shaper. Wake shapers make the wave more surfable by delaying the convergence of the opposing wave, meaning the wave is bigger, cleaner, goes for longer, and has more punch to it. Wake shapers also produce stability and efficiency as ballast and people can be added evenly throughout the boat. This allows the boat to run flatter and smoother. 

To sum it all up, if you have an outboard boat you cannot wakesurf. If you have a direct-drive, v-drive, reverse drive, or jet boat you CAN surf! With these boats your focus can be on having fun riding the wake, not on issues from an incorrect setup or safety.

At SWELL Wakesurf, we are passionate about helping you find the best setup for your boat. You can get started now by checking out our SWELL Selector Tool to find the best Wake Shaper for your boat. If you still have questions, don’t hesitate to send us a message on our chat, send us a question at our help desk, or email at

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