At some point the kids are going to move beyond tubing, and their goal will be to carve or shred or elevate like their heroes on YouTube. Suddenly, the family boat won’t seem so cool. But have no fear. You don’t have to upgrade to a specialized inboard ski or wakeboard boat to get a rad towing experience. There exists a number of innovative products that can enhance the tow behind any boat to give water skiers and board
riders a better, more mission-specific pull.
As the various tow sports continue to mature, and as each becomes more specialized, manufacturers of inboard tow boats design features to match. These features then migrate to family boats, giving many more boaters the ability to improve the water-skiing or boarding experience, regardless of skill level. So what can you do to ramp up your boat’s tow-sport performance potential?
1. Ski Pylon or Tower
Many boats don’t have a tow pylon, and that leaves the transom eyes as the logical tow points. But attaching the line to the transom eye gives the skier a downward pull, making starts harder and following the boat more difficult. Also, smaller boats can be pulled off a straight course.
So think higher. A sturdy pylon gives skiers a solid, consistent pull. You want to have a pylon that raises the towing point above the height of the boat’s deck. Many family-boat manufacturers offer a removable tow pylon. Attwood Marine (attwoodmarine.com) offers nifty aftermarket models. A pylon makes it easier to attach the line and gives the skier a level or slightly upward pull.
For its smaller boats, Boston Whaler makes a sturdy removable pylon. Also, Whaler’s Dauntless 180 features an optional sturdy bracket-style pylon that mounts on the transom, fitting directly over the outboard motor.
The higher towing point doesn’t stop with a ski pylon, though. In the late ’90s, wakeboarding’s tow point went higher with the advent of the extended pylon. These pylons fit over an existing pylon in the center of a ski boat. The higher pull provides for a lot more air time, making spins and inversions easier. The extended pylon gives existing ski-boat owners the ability to get more air inexpensively.
Shortly after the advent of the extended pylon, the tower came into fashion. The tower, which attaches to each gunwale, gives riders a more consistent pull than an extended pylon does when they veer to the wake and launch into a trick, because it has more support points.
The higher towing point of a tower, about seven feet above the deck of the boat, works for more than wakeboarding. Barefooters feel lighter on their feet with the upward pull, and recreational slalom skiers get up and cross the wake more easily.
The great news is that most family boats can accommodate a tower. They fit on sterndrives, outboards like the Bayliner 190 Bowrider, and even pontoon boats. Towers are an option offered by many boat manufacturers these days, and aftermarket towers like those from Monster Tower (monstertower.com) are plentiful.
To get up even higher, Barefoot International’s Super Fly High ($999, barefootinternational.com), attaches to the top of the tower and adds another seven feet of height. Since the ultrahigh pull of the Super Fly High makes them feel really light, some wakeboard riders and many competition barefooters are using it.