How To Get A Bigger Wake From Pontoon Boats

How To Get A Bigger Wake From Pontoon Boats | Life of Sailing

Last Updated by

Jacob Collier

November 7, 2022

Key Takeaways

  • Increase speed or redistribute the weight of the boat to increase the wake.
  • Owners and riders should always be safe when wakeboarding or tubing
  • The most extensive injury to riders and wakeboarders are head/neck injuries.
  • Most accidents on tubing happen when the boat is turning.

With the popularity of wakeboarding on lakes, most surfers want to get as much air from a wake as possible. How do you get a bigger wake from a pontoon boat?

A bigger wake is generated on a pontoon boat through weight distribution and speed. The heavier a watercraft is in the rear, whether through passengers shifting to rearmost seats or increased throttle, the more weight and the heavier the boat’s rear, the greater the wake generated.

Let’s face it. There is just nothing like a bit of wakeboarding air. The real thrill of riding a small board while being pulled by a speeding boat and feeling your body lift entirely out of the water is real. The rush of bouncing up and down over the boat’s wake, holding on for dear life, is becoming the best way to spend a summer afternoon. Whether it is wakeboarding or towed tubing (where the rider sits in an inner tube being pulled by the boat), this excellent activity is one of the reasons that so many families are turning to pontoon boats. A pontoon boat is ideally suited to this thrilling craze, and even though everyone wants to be safe, the push for a bigger wake is always welcome.


Table of contents

What is a Pontoon Boat?

A pontoon boat is a flat-shaped boat kept afloat by a series of two or more aluminum tubes. While a regular boat stays afloat due to a hollow shell below the surface for water displacement, the pontoon separates the hollow areas into two or three distinct areas.

These tubes are attached to the bottom of a flat deck surface and push the deck higher above the water. Because of the pontoons' buoyancy effect, the deck's surface area is generally more significant and expansive. This can also make the boat easier to maneuver and more stable than regular watercraft.

What is the Difference between Wakeboarding and Tubed Towing?

Even though they are similar, there are some differences between wakeboarding and being towed on a tube.


A wakeboard is a small wooden board used in a water sport in which the rider stands on the board's surface and is towed behind a motorboat across the wake of the boat. While holding onto a rope attached to the boat, the rider rides each crest of the wave, hoping to perform some sort of trick while in mid-air. Many wakeboarders can perform somersaults and other mid-air tricks while being lifted into the air and towed by the boat.

Wakeboarding uses the waves generated by the wake created by a motorboat. While a surfboard or a pair of water skis are longer, the wakeboard is much shorter, usually only 4 - 5 feet long and a little over 15 inches wide.

The best speed for wakeboarding is somewhere between 15 - 25 mph. The driver should be mindful of the wakeboarder at all times. The priority is safety rather than how many tricks can be accomplished.

Towed Tubing

Towed tubing differs from wakeboarding in that a large inner tube is attached to the back of a motorcraft, and a rider (called a “tuber”) hangs on while the inner tube is pulled along by the boat. The tube rides over the wake of the boat, so the faster a boat goes, the bigger wake that gets created. The best speed for tubing depends on the age and strength of the person riding the tube. If children are riding or the rider is inexperienced, keep speeds from 8-12 mph. Adults can handle speeds slightly higher in the 15-20 mph.

How Can I Get a Bigger Wake from a Pontoon Boat?

The wake generated by a motorboat depends on the weight distribution of the boat and the speed with which it travels. The faster a boat travels, the greater the wake that is created. This is because as the speed increases, the back of the boat sits down into the water while the front of the boat is lifted.

The same principle applies when shifting the weight on a boat to the rear. The heavier the rear end is, the greater the wake created. Since occupants are easily transferable weight, boat owners who desire a more significant wake should move passengers to the rearmost seats in the pontoon boat. This added weight in the rear will have a similar effect to increasing the boat's speed.

What are Some Safety Tips to Remember for Towed Tubing?

There are several considerations to be aware of if a boat owner is planning on doing some tubing.

Choose the Right Space

Tubing is a freshwater lake adventure. Since towed tubing needs room for speed and enough room to make turns, the boat owner needs to ensure plenty of room for maneuverability. Is there enough room to turn the boat around should a tuber fall off? Without getting into another boaters way? Is there enough room for the tuber to not come near obstructions or the beach when turning? Since most tubes are towed by at least 100 feet of rope, be aware that you will need a 100-foot diameter around the boat at all times.

Be Safe With Speed

The experience of a tuber and boat owner should always play a part in deciding how fast to go. While kids might be screaming for more speed, it is the responsibility of the driver of the boat to make the best determination. While faster speed can create a more significant wake, pushing the needle that far is not always best.

When turning, the boat and tube are not traveling at the same speed. The tube may slow down, but the tube’s momentum will cause the inner tube to go faster. If a boat slows to 15 mph, the inner tube and rider go close to double that speed.

Be Safe with Lifejackets

It is a best practice for occupants of boats to wear lifejackets at all times. It is essential for tuber and wakeboarder to wear a lifejacket when they become separated from the boat and land in the water. Careless behavior by the driver can turn into tragedy. The primary injury in towed tubing is neck and head injuries, so wearing a bike helmet is not bad.

Have a Spotter on the Tuber or Wakeboarder at all Times.

Since the boat's driver needs to focus on not crashing (which means eyes in front), a spotter is always a good idea. The spotter can notify the driver to slow down when a tuber goes flying or a wakeboard lands in the water.

No Alcohol

Just as most boat owners know that alcohol and boat driving do not mix, the same thing needs to be said of riders or wakeboarders. If the rider or water surfer is even slightly impaired, it is advisable to limit their exposure to the water. The primary injury in towed tubing are neck and head injuries

How To Get A Bigger Wake From Pontoon Boats
Jacob Collier

Jacob Collier

Born into a family of sailing enthusiasts, words like “ballast” and “jibing” were often a part of dinner conversations. These days Jacob sails a Hallberg-Rassy 44, having covered almost 6000 NM. While he’s made several voyages, his favorite one is the trip from California to Hawaii as it was his first fully independent voyage.

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