Setting Up Your Boat For Wakesurfing With Todd Gaughan Part 2
Setting Up Your Boat For Wakesurfing With Todd Gaughan Part 2

Setting Up Your Boat For Wakesurfing With Todd Gaughan Part 2

Part-2- Setting Up You Boat for Wakesurfing

This is part 2 of our 2 part interview, for part 1, click here>

This past week, during one of the freak 80 degree June days in Seattle, the team over at Inland Surfertook 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>

Now for the Part 2 continuation>


evo: Does how you set up the boat have anything to do with personal preference or the type of wakesurfing you plan on doing?

Todd Gaughan: The short answer: There are two sports, wake surfing in a surf style and wake surfing in a skim style influence. The big major difference between those: The boards on the surf style are thicker, they have bigger deeper fins, but those fins are used to generate drive and power, which you convert into speed. So in that surf style board, it traditionally rides about a mile an hour faster, and the more fins you have the faster that board is going to be, depending on the degree of tow-in and cant. You know that statement is not always accurate because somebody may design their own board for their own degree of response and what they are looking for.

The best thing that I’d recommend is that surf style riding is faster, it’s more aggressive, the emphasis is on aerials, slashing, carving, and snaps – minimal surface rotations. On the skim style the wave is typically a little bit flatter, they take the lip off the face of it. They do that with a trim tab or a wing plate, just something to put the bow down, put the keel down in the water a little bit lower, make the wave flatter. This gives it a little bit cleaner face, and when they ride like that, they slow the boat down. Like I said, it’s about a mile an hour slower, and then the focus is going to be on surface rotations and shuv-it rotations on the 1, 3, and 5s. There’s a lot of riders out there that spin a lot, you know 7, 9, 10s, all the way up and 24. Just a lot of rotations front, side, backside, regular and revert. The emphasis is on rotations and the aerials are minimal.

There’s always exceptions to the rule. Keenan Flegel’s aerials are not minimal. Drew Danielo’s aerials are not minimal, but that was prefaced with the fact that the styles of those particular riders are so blended that it doesn’t matter what board they are on. Keenan has the same amount of air, surf and skim. Same thing can be said for Drew and James Walker.

evo: For that flatter wave, how did you say to mellow out the lip and make it flatter?

TG: Most boats will deploy the trim tab that will bring the bow down into the lake or river deeper. When that happens the wave will clean up and it will be less steep. When you have the trim all the way up, the keel is exposed; the bow is higher in the air, and the wave is going to be taller and steeper and have a more defined lip.

As far as setting up for personal preference, if someone wants to ride slower, a beginner, a little bit more tamed wave is easier to ride. You’ll deploy the tab and make it flatter. It’s as much a personal preference as setting up the boat for the rider’s skill set and what they are trying to get out of it. Typically you want a boat that is capable of both. What you see when you go at least a mile an hour faster is the wave lengthens out, and just like wakeboarding, it becomes harder. When you are wakeboarding and you are directly behind the boat and you do an ollie, it’s about a foot tall. The water’s not hard; it’s a little bit soft. But if you edge out into the flats and get out there 75 feet, and pop an Ollie there, you’re three and a half feet into the air, and that’s because the water’s harder and when you press the tail in and you’re on edge, the waters going to buck you that much harder. That principle applies to wake surfing too.



evo: If your boat has internal factory ballast, how should you set this up?

TG: It’s going to be dependent upon the manufacturer. Some manufacturers have ballasts built into the floor, and typically a professional configuration would be putting after-market sacks on top of that. What an owner must do is determine, what is the material that is on top of their in-floor ballast? What I mean by that is, is there a white sticker on a three quarter inch piece of marine ply that says “Don’t exceed 370 pounds”? They need to be conscience of what the manufacturer says that floor can withstand. ‘Cause it is still a boat, it is still [the owner’s] life.

evo: How should they set it up?

TG: They should check with their local dealer to determine what kind of plug-and-play systems are available to go with the  manufacturer’s ballast and what type of custom ballast does the manufacturer offer. From a Centurion boat’s perspective, the leader in wake surfing, they have a locker sack there and they have a giant sack that runs up the floor of the seats, and you don’t have additional ballasts, because there’s no room for it. There’s a hull-flooding system underneath it, and that’s a really good indicator of a company that takes wake surfing so serious that you don’t have to go buy something after the fact. From a Supreme perspective, with the second deepest degree of V in their hull, rivals the [Centurion] Enzo, but they sell ballasts underneath the floor. So you are required to go put a 750 pound sack in the locker and that 350 pound type tube sack that runs up the length of the wrap around seating. In that scenario, two different completely opposite companies, so to speak, in design.

I would say go to your local dealer and say, “What are other people doing? Here’s what I want to accomplish. What’s safe to use, given that there’s ballasts under the floor? And if I order a brand new boat, do I have the ability to customize my ballast? Can I buy just plumbing? Can I buy multiple pumps? Can I buy rocker switches?” So it comes down to working with the guys that design these boats and sell these boats.

evo: How should you setup ballast bags for optimal surf? 

TG: Traditionally you weight on the side that you are going to wakesurf a greater amount of ballast next to the engine in the back of the boat. Then there’s a smaller amount of weight that goes directly in front of that, either under the seats or on the seats, still relative to side that you want to surf on. You want to get a slight list and keep the rub rail above the water and experiment from there.

So if you’re regular, put a little bit of weight in the regular locker, put a little bit of weight in the regular seat, either under it or on top of it, directly in front of the locker. You want to make sure that the rub rail is out of the water, for safety. That’s kind of an indicator, if the rub rail is under the water, you are probably doing something wrong. And then experiment from there. There’re two reasons [to make sure the rub rail is out of the water]. One, the manufacturer dang sure designed that to not be underwater. But two, you’re engines performance is going to impacted. That’s where the air is taken. So if you’re taking in water directly on your air intake, you’re going to damage your equipment.

evo: Does how you set it up differ between V-drive and direct drive boats?

TG: Yes, direct drive is going to have the bulk of its weight centralized right in the middle of the boat, which means you’re going to have to put ballasts not only where the locker would be but directly behind that engine, centrally located and behind that engine. So if you picture, you have your driver directly to the back and port of them. You have a giant engine that weighs a lot. You need weight behind that driver and behind that engine to get that boat to run. The direct drive engine has the greatest amount of risk. There are two reasons. One, it doesn’t have as much freeboard, because it’s a ski boat for the most part. There are some crossovers, but the freeboard is going to be less on the boat. The second item is, its going to be a hull that’s not just meant to create a wakeboard wake, let alone a wakesurf wake. Most direct drive owners do this because they have a traditional background in slalom skiing, whether it’s recreational or pro.

evo: Right, and then as far as a V-drive, just set it up how you previously mentioned.

TG: Exactly, and some boats depending on the shape of their hull and what they are designed for as far as a wake surf-capable boat. Some of them like a lot of bow weight, some of them like to be very heavily listed.


evo: Where should passengers sit in order to optimize surf?

TG: In a Centurion, everybody sits evenly wherever they are comfortable but this is not the same for all boats. So, it again comes down to how you want your wave and that experimentation statement I made. If you’ve only got three people out with you and one of them is surfing, well, one’s going to drive, and one’s going to probably sit in that back corner, depending on your boat. If you go get in the big Enzo’s, it doesn’t even matter. You can go sit in the bow while someone drives and you can sit opposite side of the driver. People should sit in a safe, comfortable space that doesn’t introduce any risk of falling out of the boat. That’s the easiest way to say it where it doesn’t look like your picking on anybody. The next statement I will be making is, people should never sit on the sun deck or the swim deck to increase the size of the wave.

evo: That’s illegal correct?

TG: Well, no. It’s not illegal everywhere. It might be in Washington and it is in California, but people do that as much as they ride without a license. So this is one of those moments where you get to take that responsibility  to reiterate that people should never do this, because some are out there doing it whether it is coaching or risk taking.  Somebody sees an amazing YouTube video of somebody kicking ass and a passenger is on the deck, they want to go out there and recreate that, and somebody says “Hey what if I stand right here?” and it helps because now there’s more  weight there. The next thing you know they got three guys standing there, and that’s incredibly unsafe. It’s unsafe when somebody starts thinking about it. It just gets worse.

evo: Are there other boat laws related to wakesurfing that we should know? I mean it sounds like there are probably not as many laws that you think there should be.

TG: That’s the truth. Before you go take the law book that says a tethered rider… the laws are so clear about being a tethered rider, like wakeboarding or skiing, because when they wrote these laws that was the sport. So every wake surfer out there has got it figured out that “I’m not towed by the boat.” That’s the number one thing you’ll hear somebody say that’s wake surfing at night and why they can do it when the sun’s down. You can’t be tethered behind a boat 10 minutes after dusk. That’s completely reckless and not an excuse. Those loopholes are dangerous.

evo: Anything else we should know?

TG: Yes.



Most good waves will form around 10 mph. Professional surfers will cap out around 12.5. If you are on a river, your speedometer can be adjusted to accommodate the moving water. Typically it’s a mile and a half slower for skim than surf style. I ride between 10.8 and 11.8 mph. It is all relative to the gear and capacity of the boat. Always make sure your speedometer is calibrated. Start at 10 mph, you’ll get white wash, and spend a half hour to two hours to figure out your wave.

Upgrade Your Boat:

Boats are shipped with wakeboard props. The first step you should make is to upgrade your prop. An underpowered boat can be unsafe revving from 0-10. OJ and Acme are the big prop manufacturers. Call them (you need to know your elevation) and upgrade your prop. If you don’t, you’ll be wasting gas and not get the most out of your boat.

The engine block on wakeboard boats was not designed to be on its side all day. The boat may act as though it is out of oil if the oil pan is on its side all day, so you might need to address this. Do your research and check your fluids often.


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 has is the Vice-Chair of the Competitive Wake Surf Association ( Gaughan and his family now reside in Merced, CA where in his own words, he “lives and breathes wakesurfing.”