Tips for Shaping the Perfect Wake

Designing your tow-sports wake for an optimal experience takes a little practice. Use these tips to achieve perfection.
Boat with a wakesurfer
Adjusting the boat’s speed up or down by less than 1 mph can change the quality of the wake. Garrett Cortese

There’s a reason that every boat purported to be for tow sports has a lot of buttons and gadgets and computer programs installed. No matter how cool a boat looks, it’s all about the wake, baby.

While pros are highly attuned to wake characteristics and their impact on performance, the wake affects all enthusiasts, particularly beginners. For instance, the boat’s wake must be tall enough and ­feature a clean, wave-like surface to generate sufficient push for a wakesurfer to finally release the handle.

Here are some tips for achieving optimal wake characteristics for your sport.

The hull’s shape, transom deadrise, and the boat’s weight have the biggest effect on wake size, shape, and quality. A boat with plenty of deadrise (more V shape) will create a bigger wake, as will more weight. However, adjustments made by the driver can also shape the wake.

For wakeboarders and water-­skiers, the boat’s wake should ­always stay symmetrical, and the wake’s table should be level ­because ­performance and fun are diminished when one side of the wake is taller while the other side is smaller. There are several ways that the ­driver can keep the boat’s wake symmetrical. First, the driver should maintain an exact, straight path, except when turning. Even for wakesurfing, where the wake is biased to one side, a straight boat path keeps the surfing wake consistent.

Second, the driver should ensure that the boat is always riding level. A boat that doesn’t have crew and ballast evenly distributed from port to starboard side will not be level, causing the wake to be asymmetrical. The remedy: Move ­passengers to make the boat level.

When it comes to wake size and quality of the wake for ­outboard- and sterndrive-powered boats, trimming the outboard or outdrive up or down will increase or decrease wake size. Trimming down makes for a smaller wake, ideal for water-skiers, and creates a softer table advantageous for barefoot water-skiers. Trimming up creates a bigger wake, ideal for wakeboard riders and kneeboard riders to get more air time during wake maneuvers.

Using weight in the form of ballast and people is another way to create a bigger wake. Placing ­ballast and crew in the stern section creates a taller wake but a shorter wave for surfing, providing more push for the surfer.

Placing additional ballast and people amidships and in the bow pushes the hull deeper into the water while keeping the boat’s attitude more level. This affects wakesurfing by creating a longer wave for surfing.

Read Next: How to Get Up Wakesurfing

For boats with surf tabs or ­using an aftermarket add-on wake shaper, adjustments can further shape and clean the wake for ­surfing. At surfing speeds of approximately 10 to 12 mph, the driver needs to ensure that the top of the wake is crisp and the face of the wave is clean. Minor adjustments in surf tabs or the use of the wake shaper can accomplish this.

Minute adjustments in boatspeed also affect wake shape, ­critical for surfers, wakeboard ­riders and trick skiers. Adjusting the boat’s speed up or down by less than 1 mph can change the quality of the wake. Having a GPS speedometer or speed control makes adjusting boatspeed by small ­increments easier.

Being sensitive to the wake’s characteristics for your favorite tow sport allows you to design and build your personalized optimal wake for maximum on-water fun—no ­matter what your level of expertise.