Setting Up Your Boat For Wakesurfing with Todd Gaughan – Part 1
SETTING UP YOUR BOAT FOR WAKESURFING WITH TODD GAUGHAN : PART 1
This past week, during one of the freak 80 degree June days in Seattle, the team over at Inland Surfer took evo out on Lake Sammamish to teach us how to properly set up your boat for wakesurfing and how to do it safely. Jordan, our production information manager, snagged Todd Gaughan to do a two part interview going more in-depth about this topic. Part one is below. Enjoy.
Also, be sure to check out our guide on How to Setup & Weight Your Boat for Wakesurfing>
By Jordan Sunshine, Seattle, WA: These days it’s all about wakesurfing. And why wouldn’t it be? Have you tried it? Way too much fun. But it’s only fun if you know how to use your equipment properly and safely. Whether you are riding behind a 2013 Centurion Enzo SV244 wakesurf boat or a ’99 Malibu Response LX ski boat, there are some necessary steps to take to get the most fun and safety out of your boat. I interviewed Todd Gaughan, Business Development Officer at Inland Surfer and Director of Marketing at Fineline Industries, Inc., manufacturers of Centurion Boats, to learn more.
Part 1 of 2 (For part 2 click here)
evo: Are there specific types of boats to use for wakesurfing and boats that you should not use?
Todd Gaughan: So the specific types of boats to be used for wake surfing are simply inboards. It’s not exclusive to V-drives, direct drives are fine. No exposed props is kind of the general statement we like to say; so not your traditional outboard or inboard/outboard. I know people that have wake surfed on jet boats – my personal opinion on that and my experience shows me that they put significant amount of weight in those boats to get them to perform, and it’s not ideal because there’s a threshold you’re crossing when you’re weighting a boat safely; you’re no longer building a wave, you’re trying to make the equipment do something it’s not capable of. So the specific types should be limited to your inboard direct drive and V-drive inboard boats only.
evo: What do you need to know to stay safe?
TG: I have my personal licenses as a tournament driver; I’ve kept every certification you can buy outside of a captain’s license because I just don’t drive vessels that big. Fundamentals are the most critical when it comes to safe wake surfing. At times depending on what type of boat you’re in, you are no longer as mobile or as nimble as you are with the way manufacturers designed the boat. Today’s boats are built by the manufacturer to be wake surf capable, but before it blew up, there were many other boats out there that were just wakeboard boats. When wakeboarding was at its peak, wake surfing wasn’t popular, so the manufacturers weren’t determining what the boats were going to be like when hiked over with a thousand pounds on one side of it.
So when it comes to staying safe, to me it’s really fundamentals. You need to know your equipment, you need to know the sport, you need to know your crew, and you need to be in a position to command that operation and not jeopardize anyone’s life. There’s no exposed propeller right? But that doesn’t mean someone can’t come crashing into the back of the boat. The risk is still there, the idea that you’re going get your hand chopped off, not so much, but there’s still a boat you can hit. So, what you need to stay safe is general common sense. It’s a different sport but you can get just as messed up; somebody obviously has the risk to drown when you’re in water. There’s a lot that can go wrong and you can prepare yourself by knowing your equipment, the sport, and the crew around you, and your environment.
evo: Can you get away with using a boat that is not designed for wakesurfing?
TG: No, doesn’t matter if you’ve seen it. It doesn’t matter if you know that you can do it, or you were out on your outboard in 1972 and you guys were doing it on a longboard. For those of us that are a responsible parties that manufacture boats, boards, or retail either or any of the equipment, the answer is no. All it takes is one person to go out there behind their IO (inboard/outboard), fall into that thing, and then that story halts boat sales and board sales, and the news and the legislation is ridiculous. You just say no. Never endorse it, never make excuses for it. There are no bolt-on devices, there’s no cage apparatus. You don’t use anything but a traditional [wake]board boat. That’s the type of responsibility that we all have to have.
Yeah I mean, because there are people doing it. The reality is, if you see somebody on the lake or river and they see you wake surfing and they are impressed and they come over to check it out, and you know they are sitting in their I/O, it’s important to educate them. That’s the responsibility for those of us that operate wakeboats and participate in these sports: to be available and ready to provide the people on the shore, the dock, the beach, at the marina, wherever – that this is a boat that’s designed to do this, and if you use a boat that’s not designed to do that, you will die. If we don’t drive that fear home universally about the vests and the props, boats and things like that, we will all be penalized when someone gets hurt.
evo: There aren’t any laws against that are there?
TG: None. Federally there is nothing about wake surfing behind a particular boat. There are a couple states that have outlawed and specified inboard wakeboats as a wake surfing approved vessel. I think Virginia was the first one and Ohio had some early legislation. Those are two states. I think Virginia implemented a ban initially in 2011 and said no more wake surfing. You’d have to look up the current laws and history to be sure – the WSIA (Water Sports Industry Association) among others have worked hard to educate others and have provided clarity around these knee-jerk laws that were put into place initially. There was a large, and warranted uproar around teak-surfing, which is the act of hanging on to the platform, dragging while underway. The confusion between the two brought on early laws that were just simply uneducated. That’s OK, it’s up to the watersports community and us wake surfers to help keep wake surfing legal.
evo: Are there boat makes/models that you would recommend in particular?
TG: It’s a super biased answer. I’ve got more hours surfing in the Centurion than anything, following that a Malibu, other than that it’s kind of distributed behind any other wakeboat that I’ve hit a wave on. It’s just a bias. The Centurion Enzo, that’s the standard in wake surfing. It was developed ten years ago. The weight distributions, the ballast systems, the technologies regarding the speed control, the things Centurion added have just perfected that hull. While the competitors have tried to build boats and bolt-on devices to accomplish the biggest, longest, hardest waves, that was already mastered with the [Centurion] SV hull. With the FX hull, the adjustability degree between plates, the technology they have hanging off the back of that boat, that’s yet to be released, it is for the next level of wake surfing. What I mean by that is now Centurion is not looking for the biggest, longest, hardest wave because they have that checked off the list. Now they are building the ability to fine tune and adjust the waves to rider’s skill set.
As far as what I recommend, I’m going to stay with the one that everyone is chasing because it’s the biggest, longest, hardest wave with the greatest degree of adjustability.
evo: What is the easiest boat to get started with wakesurfing?
TG: The easiest boat to get started with wake surfing is your traditional wakeboard boat, a V-Drive wakeboard boat. With a standard boat like that, you can put a 1000-pound type ballast in the locker and safely drive with a calf high wave and use a longboard so you can get familiar with the sounds and the speeds and the conditions before you try to go wake surf professionally. Unfortunately someone will go to WakeWorld or Facebook and see this monster swell that’s twenty two feet long and three feet tall, and they go try and create that. Next thing you know they’ve got eight people sitting on the sundeck, which is incredibly unsafe, and they’ve got the boat hiked over and they’ve never driven like that. The reality is, the easiest way to learn to wake surf is to take a bigger board, excess of 5 feet, even one that would be considered a short board in the ocean, a standard wakeboard boat with a little bit of weight in the rear, and get everyone accustomed to the experience.
There are states in the United States specifically that don’t require the use of a life vest while wake surfing or waterskiing. There are some places that don’t even require the use of a mirror or a third person to watch as an observer. So knowing the laws is important, but also thinking above and beyond the law is recommended. I come from Texas; in Texas we don’t have to wear vests when we wake surf. Now you have a sport that everyone’s in love with, and they are soul surfing and they ride on the coast; now these traditional surfers want to crossover and do that stuff in Nebraska. The reality is it’s stupid. You have the boat you can run into, if the boat hits a sandbar and you crash, hit head first into the back, that’s probably the end of you as you go to the bottom of the lake.
So to me, I always talk to people about having that separation and discipline between blue water ocean surfing and inland wake surfing because it is a different sport. There are different variables, objects, and risks. I don’t let anybody ride without a vest. And I would say anybody that does permit such things, or promote it regardless of what the law says, you’re introducing a risk to all of us: the friends, families, and athletes out here that count on this sport that can be taken away as fast as it blew up.
No one slows down enough to realize that I’m going to get up with the rope and I’m going to throw it. Many new wake surfers ride with the rope for an extended period of time. The rope is most dangerous part of the sport. You’ll see some people that toss it on the opposite side of the boat. That’s unsafe, dangerous, and not recommended. If the rope comes over on your side of the boat for whatever reason, or you air out and catch it with your leg or your arm, now you have another object that can likely kill you or pull a limb off.
So if you start up and expose the new riders to the correct conditions and process – you lay on the back, you hold the rope, you get up on a big board on a small wave, you catch the sweet spot, you throw that rope into the boat or into someone that’s going to receive it in the observer space – then they can get familiar with what its like to be back there. Early wake surfers are intimidated by the sounds of the engine, the new wave and the whole experience. You want to start out very slow. It always comes down to the fundamentals and that will help a crew safely grow into the sport. No the dangers and protect your crew.
Recreating something off of YouTube with $5000 tower speakers blaring at somebody is not recommended at all. You’re actually going to fall a lot; the risk is the driver can’t hear you or communicate if you are going too fast or too slow and they are just kind of all over the place. There is a time for loud music, but it is not when you’re starting out and learning. You go get a coach in baseball or football, they start with the absolute fundamentals including the balls and the environment.
-Thanks to Todd, Jeff and Lance for helping out with the interview!
About Todd Gaughan: Todd is the Business Development Officer at Inland Surfer and Marketing Director for Fineline Industries, Inc. manufacturer of Ski Supreme and Centurion Boats. Hailing from Dallas, Texas, he previously worked 7 years in wake surfing retail, Director of the World Wakesurfing Championship, managed the Centurion pro team, founded the World Series of Wake Surfing and is the Vice-Chair of the Competitive Wake Surf Association (thecwsa.org). Gaughan and his family now reside in Merced, CA where in his own words, he “lives and breathes wakesurfing.”