By Kara Hildreth
Today’s modern tow boats are engineered to produce world-class wakes, waves and sweet rides on cool open waters. “Surfing has been the big deal and the driver of that market for the last number of years, and everyone of all ages are going to the tow boats because it is no longer about wake boarding or water skiing, it has been driven by the surfing,” said Brad Nelson in sales for C&C Boat Works in Cross Lake, Minn. The tow boat demographic are families who engage in all kinds of water sports and wish to remain active on the water.
In recent years, tow boats are engineered to appear more polished and feel more luxurious, as well as perform at peak levels on open waters, Nelson said. Most tow boats travel up to 38 miles per hour, even though surfing is an 11-mile-an-hour water sport. “Wake surfing is just like it would be on the ocean but you are doing it on the wake from the boat and on lakes, and it has taken off on the fresh water lakes of the world,” Nelson said.
Tow boat market sales are strong, according to Luke Stoker, general sales manager with River Valley Power and Sport in Minnetonka. “Wake surfing has really taken the center stage and leads the desire for tow boats,” Stoker said. He personally enjoys the water sport and surfs at least three times a week on the lake.
Tow boats and water sports allow families and friends a way to relax and even become competitive in a fun, engaging way on the water. “It is the lifestyle that comes with the surfing – everybody is very supportive of everyone who is trying to learn and everybody wants to share the sport, and everybody wants to get their party to ride better and be able to do more with surfing behind the boat,” Stoker said.
River Valley Power and Sport sells premium tow boats that offer superior ride experiences. “One thing that sets our boats apart from others is our Centurion boats offer a ride experience that is superior, as well as it has the fastest filling ballast so you can spend more time riding behind the boat rather than waiting and setting up your boat,” Stoker said.
The transition to a new hull or watertight technology for tow boats has been upgraded during the last 10 years, Stoker explained. “We have come from boats where you are going to strictly wade out one side of the boat to the point where we can evenly weight out the boats and we can be surf level – and it is using a surf system which is going to determine which side the rider rides on behind the boat,” Stoker said. “It has really changed and made it much easier for the average family to get into the sport,” added Stoker.
The newer tow boat engineering has led to more people being able to engage in water sports who are varying ages and possess different abilities and skill levels. “With the older boats, you would put all your weight to one side of the boat and you were really weighing down one corner to develop that wave,” Stoker said. With the new tow boats, you can weigh down the boat evenly and the surf system determines which side to surf on.
“It makes it more comfortable for young families with young children to drive flat across the water and not to one side, and it opens the doors to riding on a boat that was one time scary and you had balance bags all over the inside of the boat and you could not entertain on the boat,” Stoker said.
“We pride ourselves on providing premium tow boats that offers world-class wakes, waves and rides right out of the box,” said Stoker.
Today’s tow boats are built larger to accommodate more people. Back in the 1970s, a 16-foot ski boat was premium. Then in the 1980s and 1990s, the industry introduced 17 and 18-foot ski boats that landed on the water. Then the boats grew to 21-foot tow boats that took over the waters and could accommodate 12 to 14 people.
Today newer tow boats have even more interior space and are large enough for boat owners to welcome 16 to 20 guests. “Tow boats are going all the way up to 26 feet long – they call them lake limos because they have integrated a lot of features for entertaining as well,” Stoker said.
Stoker added “The tow boat family is actively seeking a boat for on water recreation.”
Most tow boats on the market today are designed to be conscientious and respectful of lake property owners and to reduce noise pollution. “They have developing new audio systems that alleviate some of that and they have self-containing audio sound for boats so you don’t always have to have the music blaring out of the boat and you have different volume controls and zones on the boat,” said Stoker.
Tow boat luxury features offered are convertible and adjustable seating, cockpit tables and integrated coolers that enhance the boat experience and turn the boat ride into an outdoor entertaining space.