Watersports and Pontooning: Can You Ski behind a Pontoon Boat?

The beauty of pontoon boats is that they can serve a lot of functions. Some are great for cruising the lakes with your friends and family and others are designed specifically to help increase the action of your fishing trip.

But Can You Ski Behind a Pontoon Boat?

The short answer to that is YES, you can absolutely ski behind a pontoon boat.

However, the long answer is a bit more complex. You see, not every pontoon boat is designed to serve the same purpose. The boat that you use to fish or coast across the waterways with may not be the best pontoon for waterskiing.

What Makes a Good Skiing Pontoon?

Before you can ski, wakeboard, or tube behind your pontoon, you’ll need to have the power to do so. Engines with 150hp and more are absolutely strong enough to drag people across the water. On the other hand, you can forget about even trying to ski behind your old 40hp fishing pontoon.

There are a number of pontoons that are designed specifically for sporting. They come with powerful engines, tow bars, and aerodynamic body styles that make it easier to glide over the water. More often than not, these stylish boats are equipped with engines that put out between 250 and 350hp. While it can be nice to have such a powerful pontoon boat, a 350hp engine can be overkill if you just want to ski.

Even your run-of-the-mill 90hp engine is powerful enough to pull a ski or wakeboard provided it’s not overloaded with passengers.

Know about These Limitations

When using your pontoon boat for waterskiing, or any other form of watersports, there are two things that you need to consider:

  1. Wakes generated from a pontoon boat have less shape.
  2. Pontoon boats aren’t nearly as maneuverable as other types of watercraft.
typical wake from a pontoon

Don’t expect a lot of jumping

Because of the pontoon boat’s unique shape inhibits the creation of wakes, it doesn’t create a lot of turbulence in the water. You won’t get nearly as much wake as you would from a traditional boat with a v-shaped hull like a speedboat. While this isn’t a major problem, it does take some of the excitement out of waterskiing.

Serious wakeboarders probably won’t find water skiing behind a pontoon boat as exciting as with other boats. The pontoon’s ability to leave the water relatively still means that you’ll get minimal chances to go airborne as you ski.

There won’t be any tight turns

Maneuverability is the biggest limitation you’ll face when using your pontoon boat to pull skis, wakeboards, and tubes. One of the things that make waterskiing so fun is being slung from right to left by a boat that makes sharp turns. Unfortunately, pontoon boats just aren’t designed for this. The size and awkward shape of a pontoon boat makes it sluggish when it comes to turning.

If you have extra money to invest in your pontoon, opt for a sports model instead of your standard cruiser or fishing pontoon. This will give you a more aerodynamic boat that’s equipped with either power or hydraulic steering. Just keep in mind that expecting you sporty pontoon to zig-zag through the water like a speedboat is as likely as expecting an 18-wheeler to handle like a Ferrari.

Let’s Talk Safety

Some people have asked me if I thought waterskiing behind a pontoon is safe. The fact is, using your pontoon boat for watersports is just as safe as using a sporting boat; it might even be safer due to the pontoon’s performance limitations. However, it’s up to the captain to ensure that everyone safely has fun in the water.

Here are some important safety tips that can help prevent injury:

  • Wiping out at high speeds hurts. Nobody wants to faceplant the water at 30mph. Slow it down and remember that the optimal speed for to skiing is between 20 to 22mph.
  • Slow down even more for children. Keep it under 10 mph.
  • Never ski in no wake zones or crowded areas.
  • When retrieving someone from water, always approach on the same side as you, the captain, are on so that you can always see them.
  • If someone falls off of the tube, have them raise their hand in the air so that they’re easier to spot.

Another part of ensuring proper safety is to have a channel of communication between the skier and the captain. Consider learning these hand gestures:

  • Okay sign: everything is perfect the way it is.
  • Thumbs up: faster please.
  • Thumbs down: slow down.
  • Open hand: stop the boat. Alternatively, some people also pull a finger across their throat to signal this.

Best Way to Ski behind Your Pontoon

Now that you know the basics about watersports, you’re ready to get started. If you don’t have one yet, you’ll need to have a ski tow bar installed on the back of your pontoon.

Like I covered earlier, engine power plays an important role in how well you’re able to waterski and tow tubes. If your pontoon engine is 70hp, you’ll be able to have very basic waterskiing fun with one other person. However, you shouldn't expect any high jumps with that power.

Furthermore, you need to know your boat and what it’s capable of in all situations. This is especially true of your boat has a low or mid-range horsepower. For example, loading a boat fitted with a 90hp engine with the maximum number of occupants won’t be good for ski towing. People are heavy and tend to slow down boats that aren’t powerful sporting models.

Final Word

Waterskiing, wakeboarding, and tubing are great ways to have fun on the water, especially for people who’re thrill seekers. While it’s likely that your existing boat can be adjusted to better accommodate watersports, it’s best to factor these things into your initial purchase.

Safety is the most important thing to consider when waterskiing. Make sure that you always do so responsibly and away from other boaters. As long as you follow agreed upon safety regulations, local and state boating laws, and restrictions for your pontoon boat, you’re guaranteed to enjoy waterskiing on your pontoon.

*Image by MyDifferentDrum​

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