Ballast & Foot Forward
In order to wakesurf,
proper ballast is required. Ballast makes the boat sit lower in the water, and heavier on the side you will be surfing on. Ballast is necessary to build a wave that you can wakesurf. Some boats have internal ballast but it is not likely enough. Most boats require additional ballast. Pro-X brand ballast sacs are simply the best.
First, pick a side
Approximately 3 out of 4 people wakesurf on the left side of the boat. This is referred to as the regular side, port side or passenger side. The right side of the boat is referred to as the goofy side, starboard side, or driver's side. Some boats produce a better wave on one side than the other, some boats are equal, and some boats don't make a good surf wave on either side.
If you are new to the sport,
and you don't care which side you surf on, go with the side the rest of your crew is using. If everyone in the boat rides on the same side, you don't have to move ballast to switch sides. As the sport grows, there will be more competitive events. Any competition should have at least 2 boats on the water. One for regular, and one for goofy, with both producing equal waves.
Startle response to learn foot dominance
Sneak up behind someone, or have them sneak up on you, and then GENTLY push from behind. Notice which foot they put forward first. They would appreciate it if you didn't push them into a wall; however, you can push them into the water. Just be sure and notice which foot goes forward first.
Armed with this knowledge
The foot that first moves forward in the above test is typically the foot recommended you place forward on a surfboard. If you went left foot forward, you would ride on the left side of the boat. If you moved right foot forward, it is likely that you are right leg dominant, and you may ride better on the right side of the boat; your normal stance would be right foot forward, facing the wave.
We know how we are
We are always striving to go faster, higher, bigger. As you progress at wakesurfing, you will want to add more weight to the boat to produce a bigger wave. Beware, you can sink your boat if it is overloaded. Now would be a good time to be wearing a life vest.
Water ballast vs. Solid ballast
You should use fat sacks filled with water primarily as your source of weight (unless your boat has internal ballast). Lead, steel, or other solid ballast is convenient, easily moved for shifting weight, but should make up no more than 25% of your overall ballast weight. The maximum solid weight in your boat should not exceed 250 pounds*. If your boat should take on water, if you have water ballast only, the boat will not sink, it will just swamp (fill up with water and float at the surface). Swamping your boat is a bad thing, but not as bad as sinking your boat. Too much solid weight can cause a boat to sink to the bottom. Click here to watch the video of a boat sinking.
* These weights are guestimates
These weights will be adjusted if we learn differently. Please contribute to the safety of wakesurfing and don't get hurt and don't swamp your boat. If you have any comments, or recommendations on these guestimates, please write.
Do not trailer your boat with ballast in it.
The extra weight on your trailer will affect road handling, burn more fuel, wear out tires, and may cause failure of the trailer bearings. Boat lifts may have difficulty with ballast weight as well.
Be aware of the weight limits of your boat.
If your boat is less than 20' in length, the US Coast Guard requires that the boat be rated for maximum weight. If your boat is 20' or longer, there are not any Coast Guard requirements for rating the maximum weight. You are required by law to not exceed the weight limits posted in your boat. If your boat exceeds 20' and there is not a maximum weight listed, you are on your own as far as the maximum weight that you put in the boat.
Swamping the boat
We are not suggesting that you will swamp your boat. We are just preparing you with the knowledge of how to deal with that emergency should it arise. At this time, it appears that ballasted boats have a good safety record for not being swamped. Don't be a Wally and swamp your boat.
Use common sense and do not overload your boat
If you are going to be in calm water, near shore, you may wish to load your boat heavier. If you are in a large lake, far from shore, or might encounter large waves, put less ballast in your boat. If your boat has tall sides, you can add more. If your boat has shallow sides, add less weight. Remember, other boats ballasted for wakeboarding or surfing produce large waves too. Their large waves can swamp you. We were sitting still on a river recently, one wakeboard boat went on one side of us, another one went on the other. Their combined waves splashed over the rear of our boat.
If your boat should begin to take on water, FIRST, get everyone
into a lifevest
Then begin throwing solid ballast overboard. Next throw the fat sacks overboard. Run the bilge pump. Use fat sack pumps to empty the boat. Get help.
Turning a heavy boat
With your boat heavy, it will not handle as well. When you turn, turn towards the side that is heavy. If the left side is heavy, turn left. If you turn opposite, the heavy side is pushed down and can take on water. When you turn to go back to your fallen rider, be careful. Your own wave can splash over the bow of your boat. One technique is to turn 90 degrees quickly, then wait for your waves to pass before proceeding. By turning first, you can keep your eye on the rider and it warns other boats that you have a rider down. As you approach your rider, be extra cautious. A heavy boat responds more slowly than an unloaded boat.
CLICK HERE to see a video on turning a heavy boat.
CLICK HERE to see why.
Ballast placement and size
It takes trial and error to figure out where to put the ballast (and how much) to produce the best wave on your boat. Some boats require some weight in the bow, others require all the weight in the rear. Some boats require less weight on the side and more in the middle. Generally, the more weight in the back, the taller height and shorter length the wave. The more weight up front, the longer the wave and shorter height, and the greater tendency for the bow of the boat to take on water. You can add so much weight in the rear of the boat that the driver has difficulty seeing because the bow rises too much.
Ballast sacks can get expensive. Before you invest in ballast, determine how much you need and where you need it. Go to someplace like Home Depot and purchase several 30 to 35 gallon plastic garbage cans. Filled with water, these weigh about 250 pounds each. Start by filling one as close to the back corner on the side which you will surf on. Drive the boat at wake surf speed (approximately 10 mph) and observe the wave. Then fill more garbage cans, observing the wave after each one is filled. Be patient; it takes time to figure out what works best for you boat. If you look at discussion boards for wakesurfing, you will see that there are different opinions as to the "ideal" way to ballast any particular boat.
Once you determine the best configuration for you boat, return the garbage cans for a refund and purchase your ballast sacks. We sell the Pro-X Fat sacs. They really are as good as claimed. Pro-X makes a 150 pound sack with 2 handles that can be readily moved by 2 people. These are great for shifting the weight around to fine tune the wave. If you have both regular and goofy riders in your boat, shifting ballast becomes a pain. If you can budget them, 5 of these 150 pound sacks gives you 750 pounds of portable weight. If you buy 4 of these sacs from us, we give you a 5th one free.
People, gear and dogs count too
You must take into consideration the amount of weight that is in your boat BEFORE you begin filling the fat sacks. Extra weight means less ballast is needed.
Turn up the volume
We have been on boats that had a decent looking wave that did not surf well. Your goal with ballast placement is to get a big wave with lots of "volume". A wave with a large volume pushes better than a steep wave with little volume. You should find an amount and placement of ballast that produces a good wave. If you add more ballast past this point, the wave barely gets any bigger yet you are at greater risk of swamping the boat. Again, use common sense and be careful.
Get a phat pump
You should have a 2000 gph bilge pump (or larger) in your boat. A 3700 gph Rule brand pump sells for about $140. You will need to install larger hoses to accommodate this pump, but the extra capacity is worth the effort.
No seriously. You are responsible for any damage your wave causes to anyone else. Do not produce a large wave near boat ramps or piers. Try to surf in an area of the lake where your waves will cause the least disruption to other riders. If there are several boats surfing, congregate in the same area and leave the rest of the lake for wakeboarders, waterskiiers, etc.
Carbon Monoxide can kill!
When the boat is properly weighted for wakesurfing, the bow rises and the engine works harder to push the load. Unfortunately, this causes more engine exhaust to be drawn into the boat. Refer to the chapter on Carbon Monoxide dangers. Fresh Air Exhaust TM substantially reduces the risk of Carbon Monoxide poisoning. Do NOT take Carbon Monoxide carelessly. It CAN kill.
Get Fresh Air Exhaust .
Remember, Ballast must be used safely.
Wearing a life vest is the single most important thing you can do to make boating safer.