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Advantage of a ski boat, advantage of a *nice* ski boat?

I'm a beginner course skier, 15'off 30mph, so in some sense this question doesn't personally matter too much (yet:), but curious either way:

Let's say you have 3 different boats, from worst to best for slalom skiing. A wakeboard boat, a decent older ski boat, and a brand-new top-of-the-line ski boat.

As you step up the 3 levels, what are the advantages for the skier? The obvious one is a smaller and smaller wake... but is that really it? Or is there something else? If so, can it be articulated, or does it just "feel" better somehow?



  • JordanJordan Posts: 1,221 ★★★Triple Panda Award Recipient ★★★
    The other difference between the older boats and newer boats can be the type of speed control. Before 2008 there was Perfect Pass in most boats. Later models will likely have ZO.
    This will not affect the fun factor for recreational skiing, but if you want to go to competitions, it's better to train behind the same kind of pull that you will get at tournaments.
  • jjackkrashjjackkrash Posts: 645 Crazy Baller
    You want a boat with the engine in the middle and the pylon right in front of the engine. Almost any direct-drive purpose-built ski boat should be fine for most novice and intermediate skiers. They track better, drive better, and ski better than boats with the engine stuffed into the stern.

    Note: There are a few older outboard boats I actually like skiing behind, like a Barefoot Sanger. I'd take one of these over any wakeboat with a v-drive, but they don't drive or track as nice as a good inboard.
  • JetsetrJetsetr Posts: 424 ★★★Triple Panda Award Recipient ★★★
    edited August 2019
    How much $$$ are you willing to invest in a boat (one of the 4 “F’s)?
    A new boat is 100K +....
    There a lot a really good boats out there for less than 25K.

    I have a total of 6K in my 1989 Brendella. Stargazer Perfect Pass, Digital Speedo, only 951 hours on the boat...
    I’m a good wrench and do all the work on the boat myself. The 351 carb motor is bulletproof. No EFI issues, no TP sensors to mess up etc etc. It’s a simple, lightweight 240hp boat that gets the job done. The ONLY issue I had last season was 1 time the rear needle stuck on the carb and a wack on the float bowl with the crescent wrench fixed that (knowledge is power!!) and we skied the rest of the season with no issues.

    It just depends on what YOU want/expect from your boat...

    The hardcore competition skiers hate PP but for anyone else the extra 94K buys a lot of gas, insurance, burgers, beer and fun...

    I’m pretty sure Terry Winter could rip off a 39 off pass behind my boat with his wife driving (she’s an awesome driver)...

  • DWDW Posts: 2,139 Mega Baller
    Circa early-mid 90's the top ski boats have very good wakes and probably more importantly, the elimination of wood stringers thus all fiberglass construction. Many posters on this site revere SN196's & Prostar 190's as having some of the best slalom wakes of any current boat. The other factor the hard core skier opines about is what brand speed control, PP v ZO.
  • Chef23Chef23 Posts: 6,006 Mega Baller
    In the low teens you can pick up an early 2000 vintage Malibu Response say between 2000-2003 (I think the RLX came out in 04 and they are more money). Those boats have great wakes for beginners almost as soft as the new boats.

    Most inboards from the 2000-09 time period that have been well maintained will continue to run strong. You definitely don't want a wakeboard boat. For where you are as a skier a direct drive ski boat with PP will be great. Until two years ago I trained behind a few different PP boats and competed in tournaments behind ZO and made it work fine.
    Mark Shaffer
  • MDB1056MDB1056 Posts: 405 Solid Baller
    Agree with @DW . Amazing older boats < $10K with crazy good wakes for those starting out. Wakeboard boats are slugs.........
  • BraceMakerBraceMaker Posts: 4,243 Mega Baller
    @DW @MDB1056 - I proudly own a 94 Prostar 190 - has basically the same engine as a 1991 Chevy Suburban and parts are available for nearly everything about it so extremely low running cost.

    But - the boat is great for 3 adult skiers (driver spotter skier) it is OK for 4 adult skiers but you'll start to notice the extra weight in the wakes, a 5th adult skier puts someone on the floor and the wakes get terribly unbalanced.

    The newer boats - particularly the prostar can sit 3 on the bench, a driver and a skier (5) and the wakes don't really seem to notice.
  • swc5150swc5150 Posts: 2,381 ★★★Triple Panda Award Recipient ★★★
    edited August 2019
    I think I can safely say not one person here would ski any better behind a '97 and beyond Ski Nautique (ok maybe repowered with ZO) than a brand new tug. Driving is a different story, depending on who your pulling though. The new, bigger boats are freight trains, requiring less driver input. You can't beat the new tugs for family-friendliness, with all the space and creature comforts.
    Scott Calderwood
  • escmanazeescmanaze Posts: 778 ★★★Triple Panda Award Recipient ★★★
    edited August 2019
    What makes a good ski boat?
    Small wakes
    Soft wakes
    Less Spray
    Better Tracking
    Smooth and consistent speeds / times

    How much you care about each of these depends on you and also on your level of skiing and on the level of the driver you have access to.

    A wakeboard boat will be very bad at pretty much all of these items. Don't even consider it.

    The oldest/cheapest boat I would personally even entertain would be the 91-94 MC prostar 190. No wood. Great wakes. Small soft wakes. At your level, you don't care that it had pretty big spray. Also at your level, especially if you have access to a pretty good driver, you don't care that it doesn't have as good of tracking as newer boats. You slap perfect pass on it and you are a really happy camper.

    The next oldest boat to consider would be the TSC1 hull nautiques starting in 97. No wood, small soft wakes, even the spray isn't bad. Pretty good tracking and PP speed control is again, good enough at your level of skiing.

    The next oldest would be a malibu response with the diamond hull and no wood, somebody will have to help me know what year that starts on.

    Boats created after those 3, don't really do any better at the 2 things you probably care most about at your level, which is a small and soft wake. The next 20 years were spent largely in a pursuit of reducing spray, better tracking, and bigger boats overall, and then the switch to ZO speed controls. All of these are things that matter a lot to some people, but I would doubt that they will matter all that much to you right now. If you're getting into 38 or even 35 off and you are skiing tournaments, then ZO really matters, less spray really matters, better tracking probably even matters even if you do have a really good driver just because you are cranking on the thing so darn hard. Shoot, apparently if you're into 38 off, then you think the new microtuners are awesome as well.

    For your purposes, I think you're mostly interested in a small soft wake at your slower speeds an longer line lengths. For that, the 20 year old boats mentioned above can pretty much do just as well as the new boats.
  • Mastercraft81SnSMastercraft81SnS Posts: 116 Baller
    One bad thing about buying an older boat is that some places won't work on them. We won't work on anything 1998 and older. Then agin its most ski boats have a 350 chevy so the might not turn you down.

    I skied behind a Mastercraft NXT when I lived in FL and it was not a wake I would want to ski behind agin.

    If I was looking for a good ski boat it would have to be a direct drive with no wood. I see a lot of 90s Mastercrafts for cheep on Facebook.

    A new boat the best part is you can tell people you have a new boat.

  • Kwoody51Kwoody51 Posts: 58 Baller
    There is a ‘94 PS 205 on the mastercraft forum for $10k right now. Has 1700 hours but looks to be well taken care of.

    PS 205 and PS 190 share the same Hull so generally the comments you hear about PS 190 apply to 205.

    I had a ‘94 PS 205 and the wakes were small and soft - like not noticeable! I don’t shortline so the chine spray was never an issue for me.
  • MDB1056MDB1056 Posts: 405 Solid Baller
    @BraceMaker - 94 MC190 is an awesome boat. Keep it foever
  • MDB1056MDB1056 Posts: 405 Solid Baller
    Older boats are SO simple to work on, which to me is s huge plus, and money saver. Very little you can’t do yourself.
  • 6balls6balls Posts: 5,345 ★★★Triple Panda Award Recipient ★★★
    '91-'94 MC Prostar, Bubble Butt TSC-1 Nautique, Supra Ts6m...awesome bargain slalom boats. No wake general very difficult slalom wakes.
    New big 3 slalom boats...great but $$$$
    Dave Ross--die cancer die
  • andjulesandjules Posts: 836 Mega Baller
    edited August 2019
    a) I agree with @DW: most dedicated ski boats from the mid-90s on are fine (and some from even earlier). If you ski significantly worse on one vs another model in this category, there's something significantly wrong with your techniques through the wakes.
    b) there are lots of direct-drive but larger/heavier/deeper-hulled family-oriented and hybrid (wakeboard/ski) out there and that's where it gets tricky. Some are great, most are not, and while many won't agree with me, the companies that are best known for (a) are often terrible at (b).
    c) on this site, you need to beware reading too much about which boats are the best: we're often talking exclusively about shortlines @ 34/36mph, and usually in the context of skiing sets off the dock on a private lake, with a driver and at most one other person in the boat, and completely dependent on the latest speed control (e.g. 'zero off').
    If you (or people/kids in your crew) ski below 32mph (or like to wakeboard, etc), or you ski from the boat (vs dock) on a public lake spending hours on the water, your use case is different and your priorities should be too. There are boats that are great for the latter use case and they are not the same as the former. Most of the gems people have mentioned above have great wakes at slower speeds but may also be a bit stripped down if you're spending hours skiing from the boat.

    @escmanaze I agree with a lot of your insights. To answer your question, the Response got the diamond hull in '98, although in '99 it also got the rear trunk which can be helpful if you ski from the boat on a public lake.
  • MNshortlinerMNshortliner Posts: 142 Baller
    I’ll respond with my experience. I skied my first year in the course with a ‘97 Malibu VLX(not the diamond hull) and at speed (34-36) the wake is excellent at 15 off. However that is the only length it is good at. Any closer and the wake turns into a big spine.
  • BraceMakerBraceMaker Posts: 4,243 Mega Baller
    @andjules sort of disagree re trunks. Often the trunk shortens the floor behind the drivers seat so you can't fit a ski there. I usually have 3 or 4 skis behind the driver they don't fit in the trunk well either
  • BrennanKMNBrennanKMN Posts: 518 Crazy Baller
    edited August 2019
    I think 'nice' is a subjective term. I will say having a few extra features helps though.

    I had a 1997 TSC1 Ski Nautique - one of the best hulls around according to many. I sold it and got a 2007 TSC3 Ski Nautique 196 with Zero Off. The wake is very similar, but I'd say my bubble butt was better. What I will say is ZO is a night and day difference for me as a skier. I was just starting to run 36MPH 22-28 off (moving up from 34MPH) and our lake has a short setup that requires turning in 100 feet before the 55s. PerfectPass Star Gazer always struggled with getting a consistent speed before 1 or 2 ball. Having the exact same pull every single time made a HUGE difference for me. I went from running [email protected] maybe 20% of the time to running [email protected] 80+% percent of the time in 12 months.

    As long as the boat had ZO I don't think I'd care much. I might get lucky any pick up a few more balls, but I highly doubt it would give me the 12 ball jump having a consistent pull did. If I had a lake that was more accommodating to my PP boat I would have kept it.

    It's all about getting the job done. If you have an older boat at it is getting the job done correctly, I don't see any reason to upgrade. If you have an older boat that is not performing correctly then it might be a good investment for you. This goes back to the 'nice' and subjectivity thought. What does getting the job done correctly look like for you?

    Good wake, open bow, accurate times in a course, easy to drive, just a pylon and an engine? All of that depends on what your goal is.

    If you're not running the course just about any DD boat would be a great ski boat. The course makes a whole host of new problems appear for skiers.
  • HMan66HMan66 Posts: 42 Baller
    The real advantage? You can buy an older tournament boat for $14k and take what you would have paid for a new boat and put a down payment on the private ski lake house.
  • BraceMakerBraceMaker Posts: 4,243 Mega Baller
    @HMan66 - of course when you do that your neighbors will probably all have brand new boats and not want to ski yours.
  • Jody_SealJody_Seal Posts: 2,914 Mega Baller
    Snobbish neighbors! Or chicken..
    Hobby Boats can be expensive when the hobbyist is limited on their own skill and expertise.

  • JetsetrJetsetr Posts: 424 ★★★Triple Panda Award Recipient ★★★
    @BraceMaker I’m glad to see this sport has declined to the level that you must have a new boat otherwise you’re not worthy to participate, or your neighbors won’t ski behind your boat because it’s not new enough...and you wonder the the sport is declining? What a bunch of elitest bullshit....
  • dvskierdvskier Posts: 596 Crazy Baller
    @Jetsetr Not really as much elitist as wanting to be on an equal playing field with your competitors in tournaments. If you ski behind an older model without ZO and then go to a tournament you could be not ready for the pull you get. People who are serious about competing through a lot of resources to this sport. I realize you may not compete and I felt the same way until I started skiing tournaments at age 70, time changes things and we’re not promised tomorrow.
    As for me I train behind a 2004 SN 196, but also behind a new 200. It certainly isn’t a cheap sport to be sure. Very addictive and a thrill when you run a pass.
  • BraceMakerBraceMaker Posts: 4,243 Mega Baller
    @Jetsetr - I get what you mean, I own a old prostar 190 and enjoy it.
    That said, this year I've skied behind the 19 nautique, 2 different '19 Prostars, a 1990 Ski Nautique, 2 different 80's prostars, a 2005 Prostar 197 and a Ski Nautique 2001 hull.
    They are all different and some are way different than a new boat.

    But what you're saying sort of misses the point. Of people who bother to buy homes on private ski lakes they usually also bother to buy new skis, new boats etc. Of those people they typically want to ski at the same times of the day that you want to ski like before and after work and in the evening. If given the choice between having you hop into their new boat or them hopping into your older boat to ski I think you'll find that they usually will prefer to ski their new boat (unless maybe it has a mechanical problem or maybe they're trying to sell it and its super clean) You will also find that many private ski lakes operate a club that purchases a new boat every year or two as a club asset and doesn't want people trailering older boats that get used on public water into the lake to control the spread of things like zebra mussels and milfoil.

    Its not always the case - definitely lakes that you'll see people who have older model year boats on their lifts. But then again if you talk with them they might have it more to entertain their guests than for personally skiing.

  • HMan66HMan66 Posts: 42 Baller
    edited September 2019
    @BraceMaker let's do a little comparison. In 1998 Andy Mapple had the world record with [email protected] In 2017 Nate Smith claimed the world record with [email protected] In almost 20 years of upgrades and technology, a world class skier gained a ball and a half. Was it the ski? The boat? The location? The weather? Who knows. Could Nate do it today behind a 96 Prostar or Nautique? Would I like to have a new boat? Of course. But will I spend $90K? Nope. Will my smile be just as big if I get 6 @ 22' off behind my 96 Prostar? Hell yes.
  • UWSkierUWSkier Posts: 1,437 Mega Baller
    @BraceMaker re: trunks, I love mine on my 01 Malibu. My 71 inch Senate and all my gear fits back there. My guests' skis go on the floor behind the captain's seat. With the back seat out, there's plenty of room for a crew of 4 in my Response. Sure, a Prostar or TXi would be wider, but I love the pull and the wakes from my boat.
  • BraceMakerBraceMaker Posts: 4,243 Mega Baller
    @HMan66 - world record is one thing to look at, if you go to '85 Andy wasn't that many balls behind 98, and if we keep watching people will slowly take more and more off of '43 over the next 10 years.

    Another thing you could look at is how many Open Men's tournaments now require essentially the whole field of competitors to not just run 38, but run 39 to make it into the finals - which was not the case in 1998.

    That however wasn't my point - I personally also own mid 90's prostar 190.
    For the original posters question, when I pull my wife through a course at 28mph behind my boat she skis worse and dislikes the wakes compared to the new Prostar doing the same thing. The new Nautique she has the same comment. So for new skiers learning to run the course I think there is a decided advantage to the new boats - do you need to buy one? Of course not - in fact the reason that I own a mid 90's prostar is that the vast majority of my time in the course is either while taking a ski lesson or during a tournament. Most of the time that I ski my boat we either are open water or trick skiing. When I do get to ski the course behind my boat it is decidedly different and I do not score as many balls as I get behind the newer boats. But some of that is conditions.

    The final aspect is simply that private ski lakes aren't really all people think they are. I think @LakeOneSkier could probably give you a run down of his experiences.
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