When I was thinking about buying a pontoon boat, one of the first questions that my 11-year-old daughter asked was “can you ski behind a pontoon boat?” I’m not sure why she asked this since she doesn’t even waterski. However, I know that she would love to ride on a tube, so this got me to thinking…
After doing a little research and asking a few pontoon boat salesman, I found out that yes…in most cases a pontoon boat can pull a skier, a tuber, and even a wakeboarder, assuming that you have a big enough engine. Most of the information that I found suggested that you have at least a 115 hp motor if you plan on pulling someone behind your boat.
If your pontoon only has a 40 horsepower engine, then you might run into some problems trying to pull an adult on skies or a wakeboard. My daughter only weighs about 50 lbs, so pulling her on a tube with a smaller motor wouldn’t be a problem. However, she won’t be that small forever!
Let’s take a look at what size motor is best for pulling someone behind a pontoon boat and the best way at doing it.
Why It Comes Down to Horsepower
There are many different factors that will determine whether or not your pontoon boat will be able to pull a skier behind it. However, the most important factor in determining this is the size of your engine.
While a 40 hp engine might be okay to push a pontoon boat around the lake for a leisurely ride, it’s not going to be strong enough to pull most skiers.
In general, an adult of average size needs to be going at least 20-25 miles per hour in order to water ski. This will vary depending on the type of boat, the boat’s load weight, the size of the skier, as well as the level of experience of the skier being towed.
Kids and tubers will require less power in order to have fun!
As far as the exact amount of horsepower needed to pull a skier, I recommend at least a 90 horsepower engine. This size motor will give you plenty of speed for towing tubes, as well as pulling most skiers and wakeboarders too.
While 90 hp is the recommended minimum, if you think that pulling skiers and tubers will be a top priority for your family, then if you can afford it, I suggest going with the biggest motor that your pontoon boat is rated for.
Pontoon Boats Are Not Ski Boats
Even though most pontoon boats that are equipped with enough horsepower can pull a skier, keep in mind that pontoon boats are not built for skiers.
If you are a serious skier or wakeboarder, don’t buy a pontoon boat thinking that you’ll be able to have the perfect party/family boat and still get to ski as if you were behind a souped-up Ski Nautique.
Many experienced skiers require a boat that will not only pull them but can also turn much sharper than a pontoon boat can.
Also, since pontoon boats essentially have a flat bottom, they don’t produce a wake that is optimal for skiers and wakeboarders to do their tricks off of.
This won’t be an issue for tubers or inexperienced skiers, but for those who love to fly out of the water, this is a real problem.
How to Pull a Tube Behind a Pontoon Boat
Since pontoon boats are known for being able to carry groups of people and are great for entertaining, naturally the idea of pulling a tube sounds like fun!
Although pulling a tube behind your pontoon may not be rocket science, there are several things that you need to know before tying the tube and going full throttle.
First and foremost, ensure that your rope is new or in good condition. Even a little frayed to start can end your care-free, fun day out-on-the-boat real fast!
Also, you’ll want to check for any tears or wear in the tube especially where the rope and handles are connected.
Although pulling a tube behind a pontoon is definitely doable, knowing the amount of horsepower you have versus the amount of weight on the actual boat and the amount of weight of the person being pulled on the tube, will definitely play a part in how fast the tube will go.
Basically, the higher the horsepower, the more likely you’ll be to be able to pull the person on the tube at a faster speed, no matter how many people are on board.
Can You Wake Board Behind a Pontoon Boat
Believe it or not, you can actually wakeboard behind a pontoon boat, assuming that you have the right equipment!
This includes a motor of at least 115 hp and a tow bar that specifically made for pulling wakeboarders.
Can you still wakeboard using a regular ski tow bar? Absolutely! However, wakeboarding is much more fun with one.
Wakeboard towers allow the wakeboarder to jump higher and get more hang time, which in turn will allow you to do more awesome tricks.
Again, let me reiterate that a pontoon boat is not a ski boat, so don’t expect the same performance out of it when it comes to pulling someone behind it.
In the case of wakeboarding, a pontoon boat won’t produce an optimal wake for you to get the maximum air for doing your tricks.
Safety is King When Pulling a Skier
A couple of things that are always important to remember when tubing, skiing, or wakeboarding is of course safety and also staying legal!
No matter the age, be sure each rider has a USCG approved life vest and each vest is checked for wear and tear. You may have a USCG approved vest, but be sure to ensure that it is properly fitting each rider.
Know your riders!
Don’t go faster than your rider feels comfortable. This is mainly for children, as it’s important to use common sense and not scare the child enough into letting go and hurting themselves.
When it comes to laws, each state has its own laws regarding boating and towables. Most states require an observer aside from the driver OR may require a wide, rear view mirror. Again, this is why it’s important to know what your laws are regarding this.
How to Attach a Tow Rope to a Pontoon Boat
There are several ways to attach your ski rope to your pontoon boat. The easiest (not recommended) is to buy a ski tow bridle.
A tow bridle attaches to the two eyes on the back of your boat and as the name suggests, bridles your engine. The bridle also comes with a float at the end that attaches directly to the main tow line. The float helps to keep the main line out of the water, thereby preventing it from getting tangled in the prop.
Like I mentioned above, if your pontoon boat doesn’t already have a tow bar, I highly recommend that you get yourself one.
They make towing a skier, tuber, and even a wakeboarder that much easier!
I personally think that the Aerial Wakeboarding Universal Ski Tow Bar for Pontoon Boats is the best one on the market today.
The reason being is that it’s universal! You can use it to pull a tuber and because it’s a “Pylon Style” tow bar, it’s perfect for pulling skiers.
Also, while it’s not specifically made or the optimal height for wakeboarders, it still can be done and is much better than not having one at all.
Pontoon boats are not necessarily built for skiing or for pulling tubers. However, with the right amount of horsepower and a few pieces of equipment and gear, they will be able to get the job done for most.
Pontoon boats have always been known as leisure or party boats. Some are even used for fishing! So naturally, it’s more fun to go for the larger horsepower and add a little excitement to your party by cranking it up and pulling some people along the waves, whether by ski, tube or wakeboard. The key here is having fun and enjoying the experience!