Purchasing a new boat these days can be more confusing than ever. There are more models, more options and more money involved than ever before. As water-ski-specific boats have declined in production over the last 15 years (only three companies are currently making direct-drive boats), there is also the battle of less (direct drive) versus more (V-drive). Do you go with the hyper-specific direct drive that really caters to the smallest wakes for serious slalom skiing? Or do you sacrifice a bit in the slalom department for versatility? These days, boat companies are recognizing the need for that versatility and fulfilling it in epic fashion. Enter the crossover boat.
Malibu 20 VTX
Boats have been dubbed crossovers in the past, but that was mainly a marketing strategy trying to compensate for a lack of true versatility. They were either water-ski boats with a tower or wakeboarding boats with a pylon. As the original generation of wakeboarders has aged though, there has been an uptick in interest and sales in water skiing (and, of course, wakesurfing). Combine that background with new interests and you have people who love watersports and who want to be able to go out on the boat and have fun getting a pull doing whatever they please, rather than being confined to what a boat is specifically made for. With today’s technology in advanced hull designs, integrated wakesurf systems, customizable trim tabs and more, the capability to design ultra-versatile boats is better than ever, and the results are surprising.
While crossover boats are often labeled as compromises with a negative connotation, we prefer to look at them as compromises that present unparalleled opportunity. With some of the new boats on the market today, Dad or Granddad can ski, Mom can surf, and the kids can wakeboard. Or even better, everybody can do everything — all within minutes of each other and with just a couple of pushes of a couple of buttons. Not every manufacturer has a true crossover that is advertised to do all three sports, but most do. The standouts today are the Malibu 20 VTX, the Nautique GS20, the Tigé RZR, the Supreme S202, and the MasterCraft XT20. The Supra SR and Moomba Helix are incredible wakeboarding and wakesurfing boats that are also small enough to have fun recreationally skiing behind. What makes all of these boats even more unique is they are all in the 20-foot range. That size has a lot of advantages, including better fuel economy, easier towing and easier storage. All of the above boats will fit in a standard garage with the tower lowered. And if you’re thinking 20 feet is too small, think again. With some creative design and engineering, along with the V-drive build, all of these boats have plenty of room for friends, family and gear, since each boat holds at least 10 passengers.
In the end, the best part about skiing — and any towed watersport, forthat matter — is that it can’t be done alone. We have to be with friends and family to make it happen, and that social connection and camaraderie are what make what we do fun. Being on the boat together and enjoying each other’s company is just as rewarding as getting towed behind it. These new crossover boats allow everybody to try everything and not feel like they’re making a huge sacrifice. Never before has this really been the case, but over the last couple of years, it’s become reality. Are you going to get world-class slalom wakes? No. Are you going to get giant, competition-level wakeboarding wakes and wakesurfing waves? No. But you are going to get results that are more than adequate for most people, especially people sharing a boat. Don’t think of a crossover as a compromise, think of it as the opportunity to bring everybody together to have more fun. Think of it as the true convenience it is.
Keeping up with the Joneses over the past 15 years meant constantly getting bigger and bigger boats, which aren’t necessarily as easy to handle, tow, store, or fill up at the pump. And all of that usually meant leaving skiing behind, unless you were somehow lucky enough to either a) have both a big boat for the family and a ski boat for yourself, or b) just say no thanks to the big boats and stick with a ski boat. Truth be told, water skiing was being phased out by boat companies because traditional ski boats weren't selling. While that's a tough pill to swallow sometimes, it’s the truth. As purists, we love the idea of sticking with skiing, but what probably matters even more if we really think about it is being out with friends and family and having fun together. It is refreshing in this day and age to see the top manufacturers addressing this and delivering boats that allow us to do everything. Each of the boats listed is more than capable of providing you and your family with a great time on the water. If that’s item number one on your checklist when looking at a new boat, then consider taking a serious look at any of these.