Can You Ski Behind a Pontoon Boat? (The Definitive Answer)
Can you waterski behind a pontoon boat? Absolutely! I do it a few times a week! Can you ski behind every pontoon boat? No, definitely not.
Your Boat Engine's Horsepower
The biggest question when choosing a pontoon boat that you want to ski or tow a tube behind is the horsepower of the engine. The following are 3 very very hasty generalizations about what horsepower engine you'll need on a pontoon boat for skiing. Each boat performs very differently, so do not take these as the gospel truth, but it should provide a good general idea for newbies. Some factors that would dramatically change this equation are things like a tritoon that usually goes a bit faster, a boat over 22', an unusually heavy boat with a top deck, etc.
- If your boat has a 70hp engine, you'll probably be able to do very basic skiing and towing on tubes. If you really do some work and install something like a Water Glide, you'll probably be able to water ski just fine as long as the load is light or medium.
- If your pontoon boat has a 90hp engine, you'll be able to water ski just fine. If the boat is loaded with more than 5 or 6 people, you'll feel the sluggishness and you'll be at the lower speeds necessary for skiing.
- If your pontoon boat has a 115hp engine, you'll likely be able to tow tubes or ski even with a full boat. It won't be as much of fun as with only 4 or 5 people, but you'll be fine.
How Fast Do You Need to Go?
The question remains... how fast do you really need to go to successfully ski behind a pontoon boat?
- Waterskiing with two skis - 21 to 26mph is pretty normal (34 to 42 kilometers). And for kid waterskiers, it could be even slower.
- Tubing - 16 to 25 miles per hour (26 to 42 kilometers per hour). With a 115hp engine on my 22' pontoon boat, I can easily make most adults fly off the tube within 60 seconds. It's tougher than a fast traditional v-hull ski boat, but believe me you'll get a crazy enough ride to entertain just about anyone on a tube.
- Wakeboarding, slalom, and kneeboarding - 16 to 26mph (26 to 41 kph). Most wakeboarders prefer slightly slower speeds.
Limitations to Water Skiing with a Pontoon Boat
There are two major limitations to using a pontoon boat for water sports like skiing and wakeboarding: (1) The wake has less shape, and (2) The boat is not as maneuverable. Serious wakeboarders and water sports enthusiasts don't like the shape of the wake behind a pontoon boat.
Whereas a traditional v-hull boat has a more humped shape, a pontoon boat makes a wake from the prop and two small wakes for the pontoons. This makes for an unusually wide wake with less of a hump in the center. That makes it tough to catch any air behind a pontoon boat no matter your speed. You'll get a little jump, but not as much.
Next, the maneuverability of the boat. Pontoon boats have a wide turning radius. Usually, it's just about right for water sports, but some people really like to whip the boat around wildly, so for those people, a pontoon boat isn't a good choice. When it comes right down to it, choose a traditional ski boat if all you want to do is water sports like tubing and skiing.
But if you want to do water sports AND fishing AND cruising AND have a ton of people on comfortable couches... it's impossible to beat the versatility of a pontoon boat.