The last huge step forward in wakesports was the wakeboard tower, creating a higher point of contact for the towrope and giving boarders more hang time when they jumped the wake. The next step? Customizable wake, one whose height and shape can be turned to each rider's preference with the push of a button.
Wakesports are split into two columns: the high-flying, fast-moving wakeboarding, and the slower, more technically challenging wake surfing, which entails riding the wake like a wave that never collapses. They require different undulations: wakeboarders ride around 20mph and use an even-sided wake for riders to use as a kicker, while wake surfers travel around 10mph and use a much larger wake that breaks to one side. In order to create a wake that can be surfed like a wave, a boat needs to ride slower and push the majority of the water to one side or the other to make a wave. In the past, this would mean adding weight to the boat via "fat sacks" full of water (or inviting a few hefty friends), then making everyone in the boat sit on whichever side the surfer wants to ride. It was doable, but inconvenient, especially when trying to convert from wakeboarding to surfing.
Boating companies are developing technology to address this issue, and one of the most impressive is Malibu's Surf Gate and Wedge technology. The Wedge extends below the boat to displace the hull in the water, providing up to 1,200 pounds of displacement and a larger wake, while the Surf Gate consists of a hydraulic arm on either side of the back of the boat which extends to alter the displacement of the water, letting the diver create a wave on either side of the wake.
We took Malibu Boat's Wakesetter 23 LSV out for some test runs in San Louis Obispo. At a max of 555 hp, the 23 LSV had enough power to pull an inflatable killer whale with me and pro wakeboarder Tom Fooshee while creating a wave big enough to accommodate two surfers at once. The interior sports a touchscreen dashboard, presets for riders' individual preferences, and a range of other technical touches.
The boat's interior is wide open with plenty of storage for vests, rope, beer and other essentials, and the 15-person capacity meant we hand plenty of room for the eight of us to lounge in comfort. The real story is the wakes that this boat throws. In a word: exceptional. The huge, clean sheets of cascading water create a sweet spot that was big and stable enough for me to do a headstand on my board. When engaged, the Surf Gates extend almost instantly, and the wave transitions from one side to the other so quickly that a surfer can jump the wake and drop right onto a just-formed wave on the other side. Once you've ridden a wave that's formed specifically for you, there's no going back. The next evolution in wakesports is here.
[From $55,000; malibuboats.com]
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