Spring is coming around the corner, and it is time to start thinking about having some family fun for the summer. I am currently in the market to buy a boat. So I wondered, what are some of the best boat models currently available for under 30k.
While I am looking at wake surf boats, I am interested in other sports as well. This vaguely translates to needing more storage on the boat. I am interested in several water sports, including skiing, wakeboarding, tubing, and wakeskating. So the boat will have to be an all-around good towboat.
The majority of boats were still originally marketed as wakeboarding boats at the age of the boat, where our budget of 30k is. To get top performance for surfing, some ballast upgrades are likely required.
I have spent time reading the forum and Reddit posts about how they configure their specific models, their boat wakes looked like, and the surf results for the best boat brands in wake surfing. I have also read boat reviews for the various past modes to determine what has stood the test of time and is a great platform for wake surfing.
1. Moomba Mobius LSV
The Moomba Mobius is a very similar design to the Supra Launch. This is because they are owned by the same parent company Skier's Choice. Moomba is the value brand compared to Supra.
The Moomba Mobius is a good platform for a surf boat. I have seen many setups that produced good waves. It does not seem like the owners had to fuss too much with it either.
The fiberglass on this one looks amazing for being nearly 20 years old.
- Seating Capacity: 10
- Fuel Capacity: 40 Gallons
- Factory Ballast: 1,200 lbs
- Weight: 3,000lbs
- Length: 20′ 8″
2. Mastercraft X2
The X2 is a small but mighty boat. It is only 20ft long, which is the smallest in this comparison. Swell Wake did an amazing Mastercraft X2 Rebuild. If you are interested in this boat, you should probably check out the videos to see what it can look like if optimized.
- Engine: 320hp
- Seating Capacity: 11
- Fuel Capacity:45 gal
- Factory Ballast: 320hp
- Length: 20ft
3. Supra Launch 24 SSV
This boat comes in 24, 22, and 20-foot models. It is really a top-of-the-line boat in its day, and the Supra Launch line continued for quite some time. The Worlds edition does have a different hull shape, though.
- Engine: Indmar ‘Assault' 5.7L 325hp
- Seating Capacity: 16
- Fuel Capacity: 52 gal
- Factory Ballast: 1,950 lbs
- Weight: 3,950lb
- Length: 24ft
4. Correct Craft Super Air Nautique 210 Team
Air Nautique is the wakeboarding line from Correct Craft, the company behind Ski Nautique.
- Engine: 330 or 375hp
- Seating Capacity: 10
- Fuel Capacity:39 gal
- Weight: 3,190lbs
5. Malibu Wakesetter 23 LSV
The Malibu Wakesetter is the flagship line of Malibu. Once v-drive became the standard, malibu consolidated its line to pretty much be all their watercraft be part of the Wakesetter line.
As you can see with this specific boat, the upholstery is yellowed. This is fairly typical with boats of this age. Basically, there are a few conditions of upholstery in a 20-year-old boat. It can be worn to shreds, well maintained but faded like this one, or replaced with new upholstery.
- Engine: Indmar Monsoon 340 horsepower 5.7 liter
- Seating Capacity: 14
- Fuel Capacity: 55 gal
- Factory Ballast: 1,250 lbs
- Weight: 3,800lbs
- Height on Trailer tower folded down: 101 inches
Under 30,000, you are looking at somewhere between a 2003 and a 2006 model.
Trying to determine the ideal price point for a boat purchase is a bit challenging. However, where cars and trucks have a very clear steep depreciation at the beginning and then levels out, it appears that there is a similar first to second-year depreciation.
After that, it gets a bit murky. Since the price of new wake boats has been increasing dramatically over the past 20 years, boats in the same class that used to retail new at 60k are now retailing for 150k. As a result, manufacturers have found ways to cram every last cool feature into these boats to get the best price possible.
Because the price of new boats has gone up so much, it impacts the price of used boats. However, projecting the trend over the next 20 years is a bit more tricky.
Direct Drive vs. V-Drive
Essentially V-drive boats are inboard boats where the motor is placed in the back of the boat. A direct drive boat has the engine placed in the middle of the boat. The reason to place it in the middle is to create a minimal wake for skiing. This is the opposite of what we are looking for.
By the engine's weight being in the back of the boat, a V-drive boat will displace more water towards the back and create a larger wake.
Setting the Boat up for Surfing
When setting up the boat for surfing, getting the wave shape and volume correct is important. Unfortunately, most wake boats from 2003-2006, which you will find in the 30k range, were not built out for surfing.
That does not mean they cannot be set up to throw off a great wake. It just means you have to do a little configuring, or possibly the previous owner has already set it up for you!
Getting the ballast right for wake surfing is critical to your success. Unfortunately, in a 20-year-old wake boat, they were not made with wake surfing in mind. So a bit of aftermarket work is required to get the results similar to a much more expensive newer boat.
The good thing here is, many of the boats for sale have already had these upgrades and are ready to go. You have to know what you are looking for.
2 types of ballast are used on wake boats. The first is water ballast, and the second is lead ballast. There are advantages and applications for both types of ballast.
Lead ballast can come wrapped in heavy fabric pouches with handles to ease loading and unloading. It takes up less space than water because it is denser, but once you put it on the boat, it's there until you dock and unload it. Not a fun task.
One major con of the lead ballast is you are carrying around the ballast the entire time. Therefore, if you were to ballast a wake boat with lead fully, you would have terrible gas mileage and a poor ride until you docked and unloaded.
A great use for lead ballast is adding that last couple hundred pounds and fitting it in places where water ballast wouldn't fit.
Water ballast takes up more space, but you can pump it in and out. You can set up your boat, so it is plumbed to pump in and out water by flipping a switch from the cockpit.
Most wake boats in the $30k range have factory water ballast, but it is probably insufficient for wake surfing. These can be upgraded with larger bags. Fat Sac is a reputable manufacturer and has plenty of options and will even custom-size them for your boat. Some companies have pre-made exact fit water ballast bags.
A wake shaper is basically a wedge that you put on the side of your boat. The idea is that it will clean up the wake on one side of your boat. It will create turbulence and throw off a larger wave on the opposite side of the boat.
The prop on a wakeboat has one of the biggest influences on the wake it produces. Unfortunately, an aftermarket prop designed to create a deeper wake can set you back $500.
Since boats were not marketed with surfing in mind, there is a good chance a prop upgrade will get you better swells. This is also something to look for in the listings.
In general, for a wakesurfing wave, you want a prop with a shallower pitch and the largest diameter that fits your boat.
The advantage is you will get a better swell at surfing speeds. You will also get better gas mileage at surfing speeds. The disadvantage is you will get slower top-end speed and poor gas mileage when going faster than surfing speeds.
Other Factors to Look at:
- Perfect Pass: This is GPS-powered cruise control for your boat. Basically, it knows that as you turn, you have to throttle up to maintain the same speed. Important for maintaining a consistent ride for those riding behind.
- Hull Shape: The hull shape can impact the performance of the wake. Pretty much every manufacturer claims theirs is the best. In a 30k used boat, there will be some ski hulls that were either marketed as wake boats or have been modified to be wake boats.
- Wakeboard Tower: In the 30k range, most of these will be pretty bare bones. Less likely to have swivel racks, etc. One benefit is that they will likely be easier to raise and lower since the basic ones are just a few pieces of tube steel.
- Tower Speakers: Spending the day on the water, the stereo is an important part of the fun. Popular brands are Kicker and Wetsounds.
- Seadek: This is a replacement of the original carpet with a foam material that, in a lot of cases, is made to look like wood.
- Bimini Top: When you are out on the water, there is no shade. A Bimini top will help keep you covered.
Can you Surf Behind a Pontoon Boat?
No. Well… Technically, you could, but not safely. It is also illegal in most locations. There is a reason tow boats focus on inboard motors. The prop being placed lower on the hull greatly reduces the risk of prop injuries.
While this is less important to water-ski behind, surfing is riding much closer to the boat and is incompatible with outboard motors.
Can you Surf Behind a Ski Boat?
Yes, but ski boats are engineered to make less wake so that you will be battling against its design. It is still possible to configure a ski boat with added ballast and a wake shaper to put off a surfable wave. Not the best thing, but it could get you into the sport while still enjoying the water. The best thing about this option is there are ski boats on the market for under 10k.
In the 30k range, you have several different quality options for wakesurf boats. These boats were not originally equipped with wakesurfing in mind, so you will have to optimize them for surfing on your own.
Luckily, you can find some on the market that has already been upgraded for a good deal compared to the cost of the equipment installed.
Remember, enjoy the process and have fun out there with your family!