Five Top Crossover Watersports Boats
Watersports crossover boats allow enthusiasts to perform at high levels in a variety of watersports activities. The editors of Boating describe five of the best for 2020 in this article.
It is the rare person among us who wants to do one thing and only one thing all the time. Even the professionals who excel at wakesurfing, wakeboarding or water-skiing still enjoy trying their hand at other disciplines. The problem? Each type of boat needs different attributes to help tow-sports enthusiasts enjoy their day on the water. But what if there was one type of boat that could work well for all three? Enter the crossover boat, a style of inboard-powered boat equally capable of flattening the wake for a slalom run, ramping it up for a boarding launch point, or sculpting it for a surf session. Here are five crossover boats to consider. Is one of them right for you? Read on.
Malibu 20 VTX
Malibu designed the 20 VTX to be a boat that can do it all, calling it the “crossover king.” The key to accomplishing this lies in its hull design, which Malibu calls its Diamond Hull. Specially shaped, it helps generate respectable wakeboard and wakesurf waves, yet still allows for slalom skiing. It is able to offset the displacement needed to generate wakes and waves at slower speeds, with hard reversed chines and lifting strakes to help generate lift at the higher speeds required for water-skiing. In our sea trial of this boat, we noted that without ballast, the boat produced a soft, readily crossable wake at tournament slalom speeds.
Hardcore skiers will want to option for the center-mounted ski pylon and TXi Performance Tower, the mounting geometry of which allows a slalom towline to swing across the cockpit. With the center-mounted ski pylon, the boat will track straight and true while a skier carves through a course.
Time to wakeboard? Deploy Malibu’s Power Wedge III—a hydrofoil that adds a response equal to 1,500 pounds of ballast—and watch the wake grow. The standard ballast system fills to 765 pounds, but you can option the ballast capacity up to 3,575 pounds.
When the crew is ready to surf, engage Malibu’s Surf Gate—vertically mounted trim tabs that help shape waves—to sculpt the waves to the rider’s preference behind the boat. The waves are clean and long, and can be ridden as long as there’s enough fuel to power Malibu’s proprietary M5Di or M6Di engines.
• Power Wedge III hydrofoil creates displacement equivalent to an additional 1,500 pounds of ballast.
• Surf Gate vertically mounted tabs shape the waves for surfing.
• Optional center-mounted ski pylon puts the skier’s pivot point in the cockpit, as found in traditional ski boats.
• Malibu’s Surf Band allows the surfer to adjust the boat’s wave settings while riding behind the boat.
• Fold-down swim step on the swim platform makes it easy to get in and out of the water.
• Command Center touchscreen featuring mOS (Malibu Operating System) has a higher resolution and is even more intuitive.
Malibu Boats - Loudon, Tennessee; 865-458-5478; malibuboats.com
Nautique Super Air GS20
Many recognized world records in water-skiing have been set behind Ski Nautique models, and the builder’s G Series boats produce excellent wakes for boarding and surfing. For the rider who wants to do it all, even on the same day, Nautique offers the Super Air GS20. In its hull design, the builder features the Nautique Configurable Running Surface (NCRS), which includes an adjustable plate that automatically moves according to user settings in the in-dash Linc Panoray control system. Sensors in the NCRS help it electronically adjust to the ride conditions, similar to auto trim tabs found on many recreational boats.
With that, whoever is driving the Super Air GS20 can flatten the wake for a slalom run behind the boat and use the Linc system to set the boat for pinpoint direction and speed control. Nautique offers a pop-up ski pylon as an option to set the towrope at the lower angle preferred by skiers. (It also serves as a safer towpoint for tubing; we do not recommend using a tower to tow tubers because the angle makes the tube more prone to flying into the air and flipping.)
When you’re ready to surf or board, adjust the NCRS plate in the Linc settings and fill up the 1,850 pounds of internal ballast. While the wake and wave are smaller than those made by pro-level Nautique wakeboats, the GS20 produces a clean, quality wake for boarding or a wave for surfing. Nautique powers its boats with PCM Marine engines, and the Super Air GS20 can be rigged with a 355 hp ZZ5, 400 hp ZR4 or 450 hp ZZ6.
• Surf pipe on the transom sends exhaust into the propeller stream and away from the surfer.
• Pop-up ski-pylon option brings the rope’s tow point down, providing better control for skiers and even for tubing.
• Ballast capacity is 1,850 pounds.
• Linc Panoray system includes Ski Assist feature.
• Flight Control tower for boarding tow point.
Nautique Boats - Orlando, Florida; 800-346-2092; nautique.com
Tigé‘s 20RZX is heavier and beamier than the typical 20-foot crossover, so it is naturally up to the task of producing big wakes. Because of its dimensions, Tigé is able to build in a 46-gallon fuel capacity and create comfortable seating for up to 13 people. That means plenty of spotters for every session.
The first thing to consider is the 20 RZX’s patented Convex hull, a cathedral-style hull that curves upward at the transom and can produce a slalom-ready wake with no ballast and at tournament skiing speeds—around 34 to 36 mph. When it’s time to wakeboard, the driver can press a button on the in-dash Clear touchscreen to fill up the 3,000 pounds of ballast in a matter of minutes. Use the 11-inch screen to control Tigé‘s TAPS 3 System.
For surfers, the TAPS 3 system is a combination of three extended trim tabs on the transom that can operate independently from one another. These tabs help control three aspects of the boat to optimize the wave to the rider’s liking: pitch, list and yaw. For example, by working the tabs to either side, Tigé drivers can help the boat list to 7 degrees to port or starboard to help shape the wave, rather than adjusting the ballast to either side.
Tigé powers the boat with Raptor engines from Indmar, paired with a V-drive. The power options range from the smaller Raptor 440 up to the Raptor 575, a 6.2L V-8 inboard.
• Wider beam and deep freeboard allow for increased fuel capacity and storage space.
• Internal ballast system allows for 3,000 pounds of ballast that can be filled in minutes.
• TAPS 3 system allows the driver to adjust the boat’s pitch, list and yaw to optimize the surf wave.
• Alpha 2 tower is a great design for handling all watersports.
Tigé Boats - Abilene, Texas; 325-767-7777; tige.com
MasterCraft’s XT21 is the longest of the boats we’ve reviewed, although its 8-foot- 2-inch beam and traditional V monohull make it look sleeker than some of the others. With that, it has a large 51-gallon fuel capacity and is capable of holding 14 passengers.
Powered by a 6.0L Ilmor engine made exclusively for MasterCraft, the XT21 tracks true in slalom runs, with a minimal wake when at higher speeds with no ballast. When a wake is needed, MasterCraft equips its boats with its Gen2 Surf System, which is customized for each level of boat in its lineup.
For the XT21, the Gen2 Surf System has an integrated ballast system that provides 2,640 pounds of ballast, with 900-pound tanks placed near the transom to both port and starboard, and a 600-pound tank built under the console’s walk-through to the bow seating. The system also incorporates tabs, which MasterCraft calls shaping devices, to help sculpt and shape the wake or wave to each rider’s preference. All of these aspects can be controlled at the push of a button with the in-dash Murphy touchscreen system.
MasterCraft boats are highly customizable in terms of creature comforts, colors and options. One of the coolest options is the Dockstar Handling System, an innovative flanking rudder system that takes away the pain traditionally associated with handling single-engine inboard boats. Opt for it to make maneuvering in tight spots and around the dock or launch ramp a no-sweat situation.
• Gen2 Surf System.
• Convertible transom seat.
• Optional Dockstar Handling System makes bringing the boat into the dock, typically a challenge for watersports boats, a real breeze.
• Opt for the ZFT4 or ZFT7 Power Tower.
MasterCraft Boats - Vonore, Tennessee; 423-884-2221; mastercraft.com
Supra’s SR is also a heavier, beamier boat, with a larger 45-gallon fuel capacity and the ability to seat a crew of 14. Supra bills it as its crossover model, suited for both water-ski and wake-sports duties.
Key to the SR, and any Supra boat, is the AutoWake system. AutoWake is a proprietary autopilot system that goes beyond any other—it utilizes onboard sensors to control the boat’s pitch and roll to optimize the shape of wakes and waves. Updated for 2020, AutoWake now includes an auto-leveling feature that utilizes the surf tabs at the transom to keep the boat level, no matter where passengers are seated during surfing, skiing or just cruising around the lake.
The Swell 3.0 Surf system is another engineering feat. This technology deploys inclinometers to measure the boat’s movements, and adjusts the ballast and Supra Launch settings to get the boat aligned with the boat’s pitch and roll to optimize each rider’s preset wake or wave. The system includes vertical stainless-steel blades to each side of the transom, and the aforementioned center tab deployed on the transom just beyond the prop flow.
AutoWake and Swell 3.0 Surf can be controlled at the dash with the Vision touchscreen control system. The driver will find it easy to use in order to focus on giving the skier, surfer or boarder the ride of his or her life.
The Supra SR is powered by either a 400 or 450 Raptor by Indmar 6.2L V-8 engine that will propel the boat to speeds in the high 30s for skiing or cruising, and can also produce the slow-speed torque necessary for surfing.
• FX1 Folding Power Tower is well-equipped for sports and entertainment.
• Wireless phone charging pad at the helm is a nice touch.
• Vision control system at the helm puts every function at your fingertips.
• Swell 3.0 Surf system and AutoWake make prepping for any sport as simple as pushing a button.
• Supra Smart Plate can be adjusted to shape the waves or wakes and to flatten out rough water.
Supra Boats - Maryville, Tennessee; 865-983-9924; supraboats.com