Barletta Content Manager, 6+ years Manufacturer Marketing, Brand Management, Content Marketing, Customer Experience
April 26, 2021
If you’re a pontoon boat owner, like me, or just looking to buy, you might be wondering what these boats are capable of. Since the beginning, they’ve been the ultimate relaxation vessel.
You might have noticed that pontoons have become significantly more popular in recent years than they used to be. That’s because they’re more versatile than ever.
They’re sporty looking, offer a wide range of fast engine choices, and the floorplans are incredibly more innovative than they used to be. The activities that you can use a pontoon boat for are endless, that’s why people of all ages have started gravitating toward this option.
With all the improvements and innovations made, there’s one activity that is more possible than ever for pontoon boat owners and that is water sports.
Depending on the pontoon, some can pull a tuber or a skier or a wakeboarder nearly as well as any towboat can. I’m going to walk you through why pontoon boats are a great choice for water sport enthusiasts as well as some of the limitations you should be aware of before you hit the water.
First, you should know that being able to effectively perform any water sport behind a pontoon boat depends on the motor you choose. Luckily, outboard motors have evolved right alongside performance pontoons and you can find a wide range of horsepower options like never before.
There are options ranging from 9.9HP up to 600HP. Now, you don’t necessarily need all 600 horses, but if you shop around 150HP and up, you’ll have all the power you need to pull tubers and skiers alike.
Keep in mind, some factors will change the speed you get out of an engine such as size of boat and how many people are on board. Talk to your dealer about what boat/engine combo is right for you.
The type of water sport and skill level of the one being pulled will also be key. If you’re pulling an experienced skier, they may not need as much help from the engine to start. If the skier is less experienced, they might need more shot out of the hole to get up, so more torque from the engine will be required.
Outboard motors are also great for skiing and tubing because they put off a small wake. Towboats such as surf boats are built to put out a huge wake, so an outboard does have the leg up.
When choosing the size of the engine for your pontoon boat, make sure to vet out steering options. The type of steering you choose will make a big difference in how easy it is to turn the boat. This is critical if you’re pulling anyone at high speeds.
Whether you’re pulling a skier, a tube full of kiddos, or a wakeboarder, a pontoon with a large enough motor will do the trick.
Many pontoon boat manufacturers have started offering an arch or tower-like feature in recent years. This emulates the tower you will find on a towboat and sometimes includes speakers.
The arch on a pontoon boat can either be purely aesthetic or double as a wakeboarding tower. Check with your manufacturer to figure out if your arch has a tow rating or not. It’s critical to know this information before you hook up the tow rope.
Towers are good for wakeboarding because you want the launch angle that comes off the top of the arch. An arch model pontoon boat mixed with a large engine and you’re in water sport heaven.
You might be wondering what your limitations are when it comes to the type of water sports you can perform with a pontoon boat. The sky's the limit if you have a pontoon built with the right equipment as I mentioned above.
The small wake and large engine options make this a great boat for water skiing. Because you can find engines ranging up to 600HP, slalom skiing is more than possible. The same goes for barefoot skiing, a quick engine with lots of torque and a good tow rope and you’re set
Wakeboarding is not only possible but if you find a manufacturer that offers an arch with a tow rating, a pontoon boat can be optimal for this type of water sport. Make sure to learn about the arch capabilities for the brand you choose if this is something you’re looking to do with your next pontoon boat.
Last but not least, probably the most popular pontoon boat water sport is tubing. Pontoons are considered an SUV of the water and the most family-friendly boat around. There’s nothing more fun to a kid than jumping on a giant tube and being tossed around the water on a hot summer day.
Check with your pontoon manufacturer to learn what your ski-tow bar is rated for. This could play a key role in what type of water sports your boat is capable of. For instructions on how to use your ski-tow bar, we’ve put together this video on how to properly connect a tow rope.
I hope you’ve learned what a great choice a pontoon boat is if you’re looking for a vessel that’s versatile and great for all ages. There are many different pontoon activities that you can do with any floorplan, and water sports is one of them.
There is one type of sport, however, that I strongly suggest you never perform behind an outboard engine and that is wake surfing. Wakesurfing is a sport where you ride a shortened surfboard only a few feet from the stern of the boat.
The placement of an outboard engine makes this very dangerous because one slip off of the board, and you can easily come in contact with the spinning propeller. Doing so can even be considered illegal depending on where you boat.
There are a small number of builders that offer an inboard engine on a pontoon boat, but about 95% of all pontoons have an outboard motor. If you fall into that 95 percentile, please do not wake surf behind your boat.
Pontoon boats are also not ideal for wake surfing because of the small wake they put out. As I mentioned, surf boats are built specifically to put out a large enough wake to surf on. Pontoons will not generate the size wake you need to effectively do so.
Now that I have explained why pontoon boats are a great choice if you enjoy most water sports, let’s run through the main consideration points one more time.
Make sure you choose an engine with enough torque and power to pull skiers, tubers, and wakeboarders. The size of pontoon that you choose may affect the horsepower choices you can shop for, so discuss your needs with your dealer before you buy.
You should also consider which type of steering you’re going to choose for your pontoon boat. If you’re planning to do any type of water sport, I recommend considering hydraulic steering or power-assist hydraulic steering. Talk this through with your dealer, they’ll be a great resource for making this decision.
If you’re opting in for an arch model, make sure it’s built for towing and not just included for looks. You should also find out what the tow rating is for the ski-tow bar attached to the aft deck.
If you’re contemplating a new pontoon boat, make a list of all the ways you plan to use your boat. Just a guess, but a pontoon might be just what you’re looking for. Shop engines, models, and arches here: