Whether you’re at the helm or on the end of the tow rope, the boat you’re using makes a big difference in your water skiing or wakeboarding experience. Manufacturers know this, which is what makes water sports boats one of the most competitive of any segment in the marine industry—and that’s good for you, the customer.
The last time we updated this list was some six years ago, which is a long time in the tow boat market. What’s available today is far more advanced than what was available back in 2012, so let’s have another crack at a top 10 list of our own. Last time we offered them in no particular order of preference, but this time, we’re going to categorize the boats: skiing only, wakesurfing and wakeboarding, value-priced models. But, of course, we do that in no particular order.
Tow Boats for Water Skiing
MasterCraft originated as a ski boat builder, so it stands to reason that it should still build one of the best tournament ski boats on the market. The ProStar is performing at the top of its game, even if slalom skiing has fallen behind wakeboarding and wakesurfing in terms of popularity.
The needs of the tournament slalom skier haven’t changed, but the ProStar has. Not by much, mind you, but in all measures where it counts. For example, the layout of the interior is still centered on a direct-drive inboard, with a driver-focused helm, two-up observer seat and a split bench at the rear. It’s split because there’s now a step-through to the swim platform, made of the same teakwood that came on the first MasterCrafts in 1968. The surprise is at the front under the bow cover. Room for more people, when you want it. Closed bow when you don’t. Surprise!
Today’s ProStar comes with more horsepower than anyone thought possible from a small-block V8 in 1968 and all the modern advances in manufacturing technology we’ve all come to enjoy. It also makes prudent use of 50 years of hull technology to lay down buttery-smooth wakes that make slalom skiing better than ever.
Malibu TXi MO
Not one to be left out of any market, Malibu offers the TXi MO, an open-bow tournament inboard with 10 world records to its credit. With its three-fin T-Cut Diamond Hull, the TXi MO was designed to leave behind soft, flat wakes and track like a laser.
Inside, the Sea Dek foam deck covering makes everyone’s day on the water better. At the helm, the TXi MO features a lowered dash to improve sight lines. What’s more, the minimalist displays offer full control and instrumentation while keeping the dash simple and uncluttered.
With old-school hull magic to make flat wakes and new-think technology to make them repeatable, the TXi MO blends the best of both worlds.
See Malibu TXi listings.
Wakesurfing and Wakeboarding Boats
Part of the appeal of wakeboarding, and now wakesurfing, always has been bringing the whole crowd along with you. It still is, and the Tigé RZX3 helps make that happen. It does it with seating. It does it with adaptability and it does it with the breathless ease Tigé engineers designed in from the get-go.
Up front, the bow area is more than meets the eye. It’s a full-boogie playpen design that fills in and holds a bunch of people. Farther aft in the cockpit, it manifests in the convertible rear bench seat that flips forward to face the rear, with aft-facing lounges to port and starboard. After all, that’s where the action is.
The helm seat swivels to face all your friends, but when it’s focused ahead, it’s all business. With the low sight lines, uncluttered dash and the Tigé Clear dashboard set off to the right of the wheel, the driver has no problem focusing on the task at hand, regardless of how many people are on board.
See Tigé RZX3 listings.
If you’re looking for the world’s most opulent tow boat, and price is no object, well, then the Malibu M235 is what you’re after. The company didn’t appear to care what the end price was, didn’t factor in what a high price might mean in terms of sales. It just built the biggest, baddest wakeboarding and wakesurfing boat it could. And it shows. Everywhere.
The M235 boasts all the latest technology, all the latest design innovations and it has, quite literally, everything there is to have in a wakeboard boat.
The boat just boggles the mind, and if you have the means, I highly recommend picking one up. There’s enough ballast to satisfy the pros, enough adjustability to help novices become pros and enough seating to accommodate throngs of friends who will be able to say, “I remember him when. …”
See Malibu M235 listings.
The price-is-no object, biggest-boat-in-the-lineup offering from Nautique was introduced in 2016 as a 2017 model, and egads this boat has and does it all. Well, it does it all if the plank strapped to your feet is wide and short rather than tall and skinny. The G25 is all about the boards.
With 2,850 pounds of ballast tucked beneath the decks, the G25 also uses the Nautique Surf System to redirect water flow off the hullsides to create the perfect wave, no matter who’s riding behind the boat.
On the inside, the G25 is as opulent as you’ll find in a decked-out wakeboarding and wakesurfing machine. It’s advertised to hold up to 19 people, with enough stowage for their gear and boards to keep it from feeling cramped. The G25 was designed for the high-end buyer and it’s got the goods to keep them happy.
Supra lives under the Skiers Choice umbrella, the same canopy under which Moomba lives, and so there is the notion of “a lot for a little” that permeates the corporate culture. And that’s a good thing for the tow boat market.
The Supra SE serves to remind us all that you don’t have to opt for the most expensive boat to get everything you’re looking for. But on the Supra SE you can get up to 575 horsepower. That might sound like a lot, and it is, but the lowest rung on the SE power ladder starts at 440. That might sound like a lot, too, and it is, but it’s a wonderful testament to what’s possible on the Supra SE.
The boat also comes with the AutoWake system, which uses predictive state technology that automatically adjusts ballast. The FXOne power folding tower is fitted with the all-new max-coverage bimini, which provides much needed shade for forward occupants. But, of course, if you have 575 horsepower, they won’t need shade. The breeze will cool them off just fine.
See Supra SE listings.
Introduced in 2017, the Centurion Ri257 relies on the new Opti-V hull design to create waves and wakes for wakeboarding and wakesurfing. The boat was a feather in the cap for Centurion, especially given that it was used for the 2017 World Wake Surfing Championships presented by GM Marine.
The Ri257 comes with up to—get this—5,500 pounds of ballast capacity—with the optional Ramfill system, which loads in as little as 45 seconds. That’s really kind of mind-boggling if you think about it.
The boat measures 25 feet 7 inches long, weighs 6,150 pounds before ballast, and holds up to 92 gallons of fuel. The closer you look, the more you want to look.
See Centurion listings.
Best Value Tow Boats
Any discussion on value-priced tow boats has to include Moomba, a long established builder of boats that deliver a lot for a little. Everybody has long known Moomba builds a great product for the money, and even after you’ve bought it, you never wish you’d spent more.
Take the Moomba Mondo, for example. It comes with the seating, the tower, the power and a few gee-whiz features to keep things interesting. In terms of the latest technology, the Mondo doesn’t disappoint.
It includes Moomba’s Flow 2.0 surf system, the new Moomba SmartPlate 2.0 (about 50 percent larger than version 1.0) the Moomba Launch System and the parent company’s patented AutoWake, which isn’t a built-in alarm clock, but rather an intuitive bit of electronics that uses predictive state technology that automatically adjusts ballast. You could spend more to get these features, but why?
Tigé’s most affordable boat is the R20, but you’d be hard-pressed to tell by looking at it. The styling is up-to-the-minute and the features riders want are present and accounted for.
It comes standard with the Alpha M2 tower and the TAPS 3 Surf System. Tigé Touch 2 display controls the goings-on behind the boat, and the Zero Off cruise control ensures each rider gets the speed he or she wants. The stock ballast systems are dialed in for ‘boarding and surfing, and there are options for up to 1,600 pounds of additional water weight.
Of course, we still come back to the overall design of the R20, something Tigé does as well or better than any builder in the industry. The R20 is fresh and its looks have the staying power to make it a boat you want to hold onto for a long time, and that takes value to another level.
See Tigé R20 listings.
Axis Wake A20
The value brand to sister Malibu Boats, Axis Wake builds value priced boats that let more people shop in the new market without sacrificing quality. Sure, Axis Wake boats don’t come with all the latest tech found in Malibu models, but when you’re riding the lip behind the boat, you’ll hardly notice.
That’s because the A20 comes with the Axis Performance Surf Package, which includes the Power Wedge II hydrofoil, SurfGate and Surf Band, a wrist-worn controller that lets the rider adjust the Wedge, change the surf wakes from side to side and change boat speeds. It also lets the rider up the volume of the tunes.
None of that stuff was even on the market just a few years ago, so to think that it’s now available on a value-priced boat is good news indeed, and makes the A20 worth a look.
Editor’s Note: This article was originally published on boats.com in May 2012 and updated in February 2018. Republished with permission.