The short answer is… yes. Pontoon boats are extremely versatile and water skiing is one of the things they do pretty well. The long answer is still yes, but a couple of amendments need to be made in order to ensure optimal entertainment. In other words, you can have water riding fun with pretty much every pontoon boat (except for the small ones with little power), but the amounts of fun you’ll be having and the possibilities thereof differ according to a couple of factors which we will discuss below.
Remember that the things on our list are just gross generalizations and don’t refer to a boat model in particular, just to different sizes and so on. As such, take everything with a grain of salt and, when purchasing a boat, ask your best friend who has a boat, your local dealer, your grandma, and whoever else you think might give you a bit of insight. However, there are some guidelines which will narrow down your search list quite a bit and we’re getting to them right now.
1. Engine power
Straight from the get-go, the most important factor when you want to drag anything behind the boat (not to mention moving the boat itself). Generally, the more power an engine has, the better. Then again, you will mostly see large engines on correspondingly large boats. Too powerful an engine for the boat may pose structural issues, among other risks such as capsizing because of uncontrollable speed. Here’s the engine size – fun size correlation for boats below the 22’ cap:
- 70hp engine: if your boat is not overloaded with furniture and only has 3-4 people on it, you’ll be able to tow two skiers or a tube just fine. It probably won’t work amazingly well for acrobatics, but, if you install a Water Glide or something similar, as well as a towing bar, your boat will be good enough to do all the basics, no-problem.
- 90hp engine: optimal power for skiing. If your party of 6 decides to go on board and have some Evel Knievel-style fun with a giant floating banana, that’s perfectly fine.
- 115hp engine: absolutely OP. You’ll be able to drag 4-6 people riding a tube behind the boat AND have a party of 10 enjoying a barbecue on the deck.
Now that we know how much power you need in order to do the thing, let’s see how fast your boat has to be so it can pull this off:
- Classic water skiing: 20-26mph (32-42km/h)
- Tubing: 16-25mph (25-40km/h)
- Wakeboarding, kneeboarding, slalom: 16-26mph (25-42km/h)
You’ll see when you shop for a boat that most of the boats do meet the speed requirement. Then again, it’s not only about power and speed. Here’s what else you need to take into account:
3. Boat construction
Besides sheer engine power, there are a couple of other features that decide if and how well your boat can tow skiers, and they’re related to how your boat is built.
- Maneuverability: generally, pontoon boats are about as maneuverable as a log with two paddles. As a rule of thumb, a 22’ boat has a turning radius of 25-30’ at average speed. If you like going crazy with turns, maybe you should turn your attention towards a traditional ski boat. Otherwise, a pontoon is good enough for all practical purposes.
- Wake shape: a classic v-hull leaves a hump-shaped wake behind, due to the wedge shape of the boat. Don’t ask why, it’s physics. In the meantime, a twin-hull (catamaran) pontoon will leave a wider wake, with two small humps, and a trimaran will leave a very gently curved shape. This isn’t good news for those who enjoy catching some air and jumping on the wake.
Well, this is about it. You only need to use this checklist with whatever boat you’re planning to buy and you’ll see if it’s a good choice for skiing. Of course, you can buy a traditional ski boat, but that’s if you only want to ski. If you’re also planning some nice fishing trips and maybe a hardcore boat rave party, a pontoon boat is exactly what you want.