Wake surfing on lake

How to Create an Endless, Perfect Surf Wave from Any Inboard Boat

This is how any inboard boat can be outfitted to shape an endless wakesurf wave.
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Wakesurfing has exploded in popularity over the last decade. With boat hulls getting deeper, waves are getting massive! But you don’t need to go out and buy the biggest, heaviest boat to create the perfect, sculpted wave. 

Today, we’ll cover how any inboard boat can be outfitted to shape an endless surf wave for every wakesurfer.  

Safety First: Inboard Motors Only

There is one hard and fast rule to wakesurfing. Only surf behind an inboard motor. 

The prop on inboard boats is located underneath the hull and behind a rudder. Considering that most surfing happens within about 10 feet of the back of the boat, this is the safest setup.

An inboard/outboard (I/O sterndrive) is not a safe choice. Since the prop and lower unit stick out from the rear of the boat, there is a huge hazard to the surfer of falling toward the boat and close to the spinning propeller. 

One exception to the “no surfing behind an I/O boat'' is Volvo Penta’s Forward Drive. It’s an I/O system safe for wakesurfing because the prop is located on the front of the lower unit, in front of the transom. 

Never surf behind an outboard engine. No exceptions.

More Weight Equals Bigger Waves

A heavier boat displaces more water. The more water that can be displaced, the bigger the wave you can create. 

Of course, the easiest way to create a perfect wave is to start with a heavy boat. Most wake boats created in the last couple decades have been fitted with stock ballast systems: a hard or soft tank inside the boat that can be filled with water to add extra weight. 

If your boat isn’t outfitted with a built-in ballast system, an aftermarket ballast bag, like a FatSac, is the easiest way to add weight. These are simply large bags you fill with water.  

Safety note: Even when in search of the perfect wave, it’s important to keep it safe. Never exceed the recommended weight capacity of a vessel, which includes ballast, passengers and excess gear. 

A Better Way to Distribute Weight for Wakesurfing

A common misconception when weighting a boat is that all the weight needs to be loaded on one side in the rear. While this will create a massive wave, it's not the easiest to surf. 

A great wave for beginner surfers is a long wave.  A long wave is easier to ride because there is a larger “sweet spot” for the rider. Waves on newer boats can reach up to 25 feet from the platform of the boat, but you can create this on any boat with our tips. 

To create a long wave, weigh down the bow of the boat.

  • Fill the hard ballast tanks first, if the boat has them. This typically includes a left and right rear tank, plus an optional center tank, 
  • Then add one additional ballast bag on the desired surfing side of the boat. 
  • With passengers, ask your boating friends to sit up front to keep the nose of the boat lower. 
  • If you don’t have many passengers, add an additional sac toward the bow to help lengthen the wave and make it a more enjoyable ride. 

And again: Remember to always stay under the weight limit of the boat. 

Aftermarket Surf Wedges are Key to Creating the Perfect Wave

The most important tool for creating the perfect wave may be the surf tab or the surf wedge. These are pre-installed or aftermarket trim tabs that help a boat gain additional lean to the surf side. These products work just like a normal trim tab that helps level out a boat but instead tilt your boat. 

Most newer boats come with a surf system pre-installed. In these systems, all it takes is the push of a button to position a surf tab from the opposite side of the surfer. 

But no one needs a new fancy boat in order to create a great wave for wakesurfing!

Lots of companies now make what is called a surf wedge. It’s essentially an aftermarket trim tab that’s easily installed using only a few suction cups. A wedge does exactly what all the fancier systems do by providing the boat with a tilt. 

surf wedge on wake surf boat


When installing a surf wedge, plan to play around with it until you land on the right setup for your specific boat. For some boats, the wedge may need to be fully submerged. While others may create a better wave when the wedge is only partially underwater. 

In our experience, some in-boat surf systems are even made better by the addition of an aftermarket surf wedge.The surf wedges make a good wave even better. 

Some of our favorite companies that offer aftermarket wedges are Swell Wake and Liquid Force. Both of these companies make great products that are built to last. 

The Best Wakesurf Wave is the One That Fits Your Style

Big. Small. Steep. Shallow. It’s all about having fun, and learning how to make small tweaks in your equipment that suit whomever is in the water – from beginner surfers to experts.  

Hopefully, these tips will help you get out there and create your perfect surf wave. A quick round-up: 

  • Make sure you have the proper equipment, which first and foremost is a boat that’s safe to surf behind. 
  • Add weight. Friends are the most fun form weight, and they may even pitch in for gas!
  • But don’t add too much weight. Know your boat’s max capacity and never exceed it.
  • Invest in a surf wedge. It’s the cheapest and most effective way to turn any inboard into a wakesurfing boat. 

Be safe and have fun out on the water!

Photos and text courtesy of Clay Burgener, IMPACT master craftsman and wake surfer