A mirror can be the captain’s most effective tool when participating in wake sports. The driver can continue to face forward, and quickly look in the mirror and then back at the water ahead. This allows the captain to gain greater situational awareness in terms of what is happening both in front of and behind the boat.
The mirror has been a standard feature on specialized wake-sports boats for the past 60 years, but it is not yet standard on other types of boats. Brands such as Attwood, Cipa, PTM Edge and Roswell offer mirrors in various shapes and sizes. The most common design attaches to the windshield frame, but manufacturers also make mirrors that mount to the dash, the plastic windscreen found on deck and bass boats, wakeboard towers, the hardtop of a center-console, and the fence rail of a pontoon boat. If your boat allows for it, the best place for the mirror is on the windshield, just to the left of the wheel. This puts the mirror above the heads of crew and provides for a symmetrical view behind the boat.
Mirrors can range in size from 2 ½-by-8 inches to 7-by-20 inches. A bigger mirror will take up more space but allows for a wider field of view. Mirrors also feature some curvature to the design, resulting in a more panoramic view. The combination of a mirror’s size and amount of glass curvature determines the field of view, which can range from 110 degrees to nearly 180 degrees. A wider view allows the driver to better see slalom skiers, wakeboard riders and tube riders when they swing out from the boat’s wake.
A mirror can range from $15 to $500. Cost factors include the size of the mirror, the complexity of the mirror’s bracket and mount design, and the quality of the glass. A more sophisticated bracket and mount allow for quicker mirror adjustments. A better mount also keeps the mirror more tightly affixed to the boat. Better glass provides the sharpest image. Your goal is to get the overall best quality your budget will allow.
Here are eight tips to maximize the use of this tool to make you a better and safer watersports captain. The more aware the driver is, the safer the tow-sports experience will be for everyone. Using a mirror achieves this. Once you have one, you will not want to tow without it again.
Use the mirror to:
- Make sure the skier or rider is safely away from the stern of the boat before starting the engine, and verify the person is safely back in the boat at the end of the session.
- Observe the skier or rider’s start. The driver can help the person in the water by verifying the line is taut and the skier or rider is in proper position. An anxious individual may signal the driver to go when the skier or rider is not ready.
- Check on the crew in the boat, making sure everyone is properly seated and their hands are away from the towline.
- Make sure the boat’s wake is symmetrical and even on both sides. If the boat’s wake is turbulent, drivers of outboards and sterndrive boats can trim down the engine to achieve a cleaner, smoother wake.
- Be aware of the skier or rider’s location in the water at all times.
- Observe boating traffic behind the person you are towing. You don’t want a boat or personal watercraft to come close to the person in tow, in case that person falls.
- Aid the person you are towing. For example, someone who is bent forward at the waist or apprehensive could use a little less speed, while a bit more speed might benefit someone not coming out of the water easily.
- See the moment the skier or rider falls. This allows the driver to react immediately and decelerate, keeping the boat near the fallen skier. Every second the driver is not aware the individual fell, the boat travels farther away. The goal is to stay as close to the fallen skier or rider as possible. If the individual wants to continue, the mirror allows you to observe the towline as you circle the skier or rider.