Just The Basics: Towing Riders With Your Boat
Published on August 19, 2021
For watersports thrill seekers, there’s nothing quite like the exhilaration of hitting a wave, catching air and landing with a splash. Wakeboarding, tubing and waterskiing are fun for the entire family and can make a day on the water in your Sea Ray boat even more exciting. Before you hit the lake or river, learn the ins and outs of towing riders with your Sea Ray to ensure everyone has an enjoyable and safe experience.
If you’re new to watersports, don’t miss Wakeboarding: 101 by Hyperlite's Greg Nelson.
Gather Your Gear
Get the right gear for the right activity. Not all ropes and equipment are interchangeable, and what works for one watersport might not be appropriate to use for another.
Different watersports require different rope lengths for a safe, controlled ride through the water. Use this guide to identify the proper tow line to use for your riders and Sea Ray boat.
- Wakeboarding: 65–75 feet – Ideally, the rope should be strong and sturdy with no give.
- Tubing: 50–60 feet – Select a rope rated for the weight capacity of your tube.
- Waterskiing: 75 feet – A waterski rope typically offers some stretch.
You’ll also need to position your line appropriately for your desired activity.
Wakeboarding: Secure the rope from a high tow point, like from the ski tow attachment on your Sea Ray’s hardtop or Power Tower, to facilitate airborne tricks.
Tubing: Attach the rope to your boat’s transom ski tow eye.
Waterskiing: Use a transom ski tow eye or pylon to help waterskiers carve.
For certain watersports, you'll want to tow from the centerline of your boat. If you have an outboard in the way, you’ll also need a tow bridle. The bridle attaches to the boat on each side of the engine, and the tow rope attaches at the center of the bridle. This creates a pull point along the boat’s centerline.
If you don’t know what options are available, choosing wakeboards, tubes and water skis can be overwhelming. Discover what you can expect the next time you go shopping for watersports gear.
Wakeboards and skis are available for a wide range of skill levels and come in a multitude of colors, styles and prices. If you’re a beginner, a local used sporting goods retailer is a smart place to shop. Once your skills improve, you can upgrade your gear to best fit your needs.
Tubes come in a seemingly endless variety of shapes and sizes. You can choose from options that provide a specific ride experience, reduce splash or accommodate multiple riders. Tubes are also available for different riding positions like seated, reclined or prone. Just remember, the larger the tube, the more horsepower you’ll need for pulling. Don’t forget to purchase an electric air pump for quick inflating aboard your Sea Ray.
Although you already have life jackets aboard your Sea Ray boat, you might want to consider purchasing a personal flotation device (PFD), or vest, specifically for watersports. PFDs intended for wakeboarding and waterskiing ensure a superior range of motion and easier movement on the water.
To purchase PFDs, tow lines, tubes and other watersports gear online, visit Sea Ray’s online shop for boating accessories.
Assign a Spotter
When towing a rider, you should have a designated spotter on board. The spotter will be the go-between for the rider and you, the driver, so you can focus on safely captaining your Sea Ray. The spotter will be responsible for relaying signals from your rider and ensuring the tow line stays away from the prop once the rider is down. Before you let riders enter the water, make sure you, any spotters and riders are comfortable using universal hand signals.
There’s nothing more important than being safe on the water. States have different laws for watersports safety and guidelines for displaying flags that indicate boats are towing riders. Read up on the rules for your specific area, follow all state and local laws, and watch for flags on other boats.
Never boat for watersports near shore, swimming areas, shallow water or in unknown waters. You should never participate in watersports near swimmers, divers or anglers. Stay vigilant with tow lines to ensure they don’t injure passengers or get tangled in your boat’s prop. Always turn off your engine when a rider enters the water, boards a tube or attaches their equipment, or approaches your boat from the water.
Your boat ultimately controls the direction of the rider, so avoid traffic. If the water is too busy, it’s best to wait or find another area.
How to Drive While Towing a Rider
Follow these steps for driving your boat while towing a rider. You’ll need to be more careful and deliberate on the throttle, and watch for signals from your spotter to guide your actions.
1. Move slowly away from your rider to take the slack out of the line. Speed up once the rider signals they’re ready.
2. Put the right amount of pressure on the throttle. If you move too fast, you’ll jerk the rope and pull it from their hands. If you move too slow, it’ll be difficult for wakeboarders or waterskiers to get on their feet.
3. Start low and gradually bring the throttle forward until your Sea Ray is on plane. Maintain your speed at a rate appropriate for your rider’s skill level and sport:
- 8–10 mph for young tubers
- 16–20 mph for beginners or waterskiers on two skis
- 18–22 mph for experienced wakeboarders
- 25–36 mph for slalom waterskiers
4. Once your rider is up, your spotter will communicate whether the rider wants to speed up or slow down. It’s important to keep a light touch on the throttle, using only your thumb and index finger while resting your elbow on the armrest.
5. Trim your boat to adjust the wake. If your Sea Ray is equipped with Dynamic Running Surface™, you can define presets for your ideal wake height and shape, or if it has Mercury Marine® Smart Tow®, you can create a custom launch profile for each rider.
Retrieving a Rider
When your rider goes down, throttle back to idle first, then turn your Sea Ray to cruise back to them. Your spotter will manage the tow line while keeping an eye on the rider. Approach the rider at an idle from the downwind side to ensure you don’t accidentally drift too close. Always turn off your engine before getting near the rider.
Now you’re ready to enjoy watersports! As the captain of your Sea Ray, you’re in charge of your rider’s safety and fun. Always practice safe and responsible boating and keep your eyes and ears open. If you want to try wakeboarding, waterskiing or tubing too, make sure you bring an extra driver with you so you can share the fun.
This is for general information purposes only. Your use or reliance on any of the information in this Blog is solely at your own risk. Under no circumstance will we have any liability for any loss or damage of any kind incurred as a result of the use of any of the information provided.