Wake Boat Vs. Ski Boat: What’s the Difference?

‘Wake’ boats and ‘Ski’ boats, their purposes are conspicuous in their names themselves. But what confuses many is what are the differences between these two boats besides their purpose.

Can a skier use a wake boat to ski? Or, can a wakeboarder enjoy a ski boat display their aerial extravaganza?

Well, in this post, we’ll discuss it all! What are wake boats? What are ski boats? What are the differences between the two? Read on to find out!

What are Wake Boats?

What are Wake Boats

Wake Boats allows wakeboarders to jump the waves by making a fairly large, well-shaped wake as they move forward. These boats feature a deeper-V-shaped hull.

Earlier, when there were no ‘Wake Boats’, wakeboarders used to add extra weight such as ballast tanks or shift passengers to the aft in order to strengthen the quality of waves.

The engine is positioned at the rear end of the boat, and in-built ballast or hydrofoils are used to create larger and more prominent waves to create the perfect launch ramp for wakeboarders to perform their aerial tricks.

Wake boats use pivoting rudder for the steering purpose. Propellers are present under the bottom of the boat for the safety of the wakeboarders.

What Makes A Good Wake Boat?

Needless to say, a good wake boat needs to produce rampant big wakes of around 75 feet behind the boat. A good wake generally requires more than a 135 HP load. Therefore, the presence of ballast tanks and a wake plate for bigger and smoother wakes is definitely a huge plus.

Centurion Vi22, 231 SL from Sanger, 2020 Centurion Vi24 are some of the best wake boats, as per Boatsafe.com.

What are Ski Boats?

What are Ski Boats

Tricks, jumps, and slalom – ski boats are designed to facilitate these three skiing events. Ski boats feature a transom deadrise, meaning a shallow hull angle at the rear end of the boat.

These boats are typically designed with an inboard power system, and the engine is located at the centre of the boat. All these features allow ski boats to move with intense acceleration while producing minimal wash for a smooth skiing experience for the athletes.

On the downside, the center engine system causes the cockpit of a ski boat to be relatively crowded.

What Makes A Good Ski Boat?

In contrast to wake boats, the purpose of which is to create big waves, ski boats are designed in such a way that they displace a minimal amount of water, thus not forming big waves and washes. A true skier enjoys the smooth runway that a ski boat offers.

A good ski boat has a narrow beam and a relatively lower deadrise. It should feature a cruising speed of around 25 to 30 MPH range and even should be capable of going beyond that speed. Moreover, a good ski boat shouldn’t spray water too far aft or on the sides.

2021 ProStar, Ski Nautique, Alumacraft Trophy 175, and Malibu Response TXI are some of the best ski boats, according to Boatsafe.com.

Wake Boat Vs. Ski Boat: What’s the Difference?

What's the Difference

In this section, let’s discuss three major differences between a wake boat and a ski boat; wakes, size, and inboard engine.

1.   Wakes:

As the name suggests, wake boats create big waves and wash to entertain wakeboarders. They have, in fact, in-built ballast systems at the rear end of the boat to increase their weight, therefore the impact.

On the other hand, for skiers to best enjoy their sport, the lesser the waves, the better. Consequently, ski boats are built in such a way that they produce as minimum wakes as possible.

2.   Size:

Unlike wake boats, ski boats sit higher in the water, and thus, a ski boat features a shallow-side hull to achieve the purpose.

Furthermore, ski boats are relatively small than wake boats. 19 ft ski boats are known to offer flat soft ski wakes, whereas the magic number when it comes to wake boats is 24 ft.

Nevertheless, despite the size difference, ski boats are expected to demand a similar performance from the engine as in the case of wake boats. This is to ensure that it drives with a consistent speed on the water body such that the skier can smoothly ski behind the boat.

3.   Inboard engine:

In order to minimize the ramp in ski boats, the inboard engine is towards the middle of the boat featuring a straight shaft drive. Wake boats, on the other hand, use a V-drive to turn the propeller.

However, in recent years, the word that performing ski tricks is easier in a V-drive transmission has spread. The configuration results in a flatter wake on which slow-speed water skiers are known to perform some brilliant ski stunts.

On the other hand, inboard engines in wake boats are placed aft, which acts as a great wake booster. Moreover, this setup of engine placement frees up the interior space, making wake boats more spacious and accommodating to passengers than ski boats.

Can You Ski Behind A Wake Boat?

Can You Ski Behind A Wake Boat

Let’s get straight to the point – yes, you can definitely ski behind a wake boat! Are there any rules that tell otherwise? No, there aren’t any! Ask any watersports enthusiast, and they shall admit that they have experienced skiing behind a wake boat at least once.

Nevertheless, a vessel conspicuously named ‘ski boat’ must definitely provide the best possible experience for skiers, isn’t it?

Having said that, there are benefits to wake boats. Many skiers believe that the extra passenger space they get with broader wake boats is worth the inconvenience they have with the big wakes they produce.

Therefore, if you wish to experience skiing behind a wake boat, go ahead!

To be honest, if one dumps the ballasts and extra weight on the boat, wake boats are capable of providing quite a decent ski experience to the water athletes. Also, consider shifting passengers to the bow to reduce boat weight in the rear end.

Can You Wakeboard Behind A Ski Boat?

Can You Wakeboard Behind A Ski Boat

Once again – the answer is a solid yes. You definitely can wakeboard behind a ski boat. However, if you’re a true wakeboarder, a wakeboard experience behind a ski boat will definitely not fulfill your sporty soul.

Ski boats provide a minimal wakeboarding experience. Given ski boats’ size and design, it is difficult for this boat type to create wakes comparable to wake boats.

Nevertheless, many suggest that using add ons or fat sacks to increase the weight of a ski boat does make a wakeboarding experience behind a ski boat much more enjoyable. One can also shift more passengers to the stern to make a ski boat more wakeboard-friendly.

But the final question is – Do we recommend wakeboarders to invest in or rely on ski boats? The answer is a big No.

It’s equivalent to discounting a perfectly curated option just for the purpose and choosing a lesser effective subordinate version that isn’t even designed to serve the purpose in the first place. Who would recommend that? Not us.

Ski Boat and Wake Boat Crossovers

Ski Boat and Wake Boat Crossovers

It is amazing to witness some companies mastering the boats for both major watersports – skiing and wakeboards. Speculations are that such boats share a similar set of characteristics – about 20-22 ft long, featuring a wide beam, a flat stern design, and V-drives with deep V-hull.

Some Safety For Water Sports Including Wake Boats and Ski Boats

Some Safety For Water Sports Including Wake Boats and Ski Boats

First and foremost, we’d recommend all the ski and wakeboard enthusiasts out there to wear helmets. Many of us might not have the idea about how brutally hard water can hit you during sports. So, not only life jackets but helmets are also a no-brainer for water sports.

Second tip would be to stay away from propellors. And the final tip would be for the boat drivers to always take a marine air horn with them during sports such that they can alert others in case of any drowning accidents.

How Much Do Wake Boats and Ski Boats Cost?

How Much Do Wake Boats and Ski Boats Cost

As per Discover Boating, the cost to own a wake boat or a ski boat averages at around $150,00. High-end wake boat and ski boat brands can cost you more than $200,000.

Nevertheless, there are quite a few good quality affordable wake boats and ski boats available in the market that are in the range of $50,000 to $70,000.

As per the maintenance cost, you need to separate a fund of around $1000 to $2500 for winterizing, preparation for the spring, and maintaining your ski/wake boat. Also, it is recommended that you change your boat oil every 50 to 200 hours.


We believe we have shared with you all the information on what ski boats and wake boats are, what are their differences, and their price range.

Are you looking to own a recreational boat? If yes, it is only natural to be confused about which boat to invest your money in. Nevertheless, we wish you all the best. Let us know if you have any queries!

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