Who can remember struggling to get up on skis for the first time, or hanging onto a runaway inner tube towed by a dad determined to dunk you? Who hasn’t marveled at an athlete flying a wakeboard like a fighter pilot and wondered if they could do the same? Doing is more fun than watching at the cabin, and choosing the right boat brings the “doing” front and center.
A 2011 watersports boat shares few genes with your grandfather’s runabout. Today’s high-performance, purpose-built hulls plane faster, turn quicker and ride smoother than their predecessors, and some let you sculpt a custom wake with the touch of a button.
Our four watersports picks include a great value in a boat that can handle practically any kind of family fun, one from a famous tournament ski boat builder, an unusual hybrid gas-electric boat designed for extreme wakeboarding (complete with an extreme price tag), and an outstanding and unusual center-console model built to do just about everything well.
FOR CABINS: The affordable Q8 is a roomy, stylish craft stable enough for family cruising, skiing and general run on the water. It’s backed up by Mercruiser engine options ranging from a fuel-sipping V6 to a spirited 320-hourpower V8.
BEST FEATURE: This boat’s well-thought out interior shines. It features tough but plush wrap-around seating fore and aft, in-floor and under-seat storage, a large under-seat ice chest and a smaller cooler built into the swim platform. The seat at the helm station has a flip-up booster for better driver visibility. A tilt steering wheel adjusts to fit helmsmen young or old, and interior decks have non-skid fiberglass surfaces that flush clean with a hose.
ACCESSORIES & AMENITIES: Optional snap-in carpeting is available, and the boat comes in five standard package colors and three optional Extreme Splash color schemes. Items that are typically optional, like an AM/FM/CD player with iPod jack and a Lowrance digital depth finder are standard on the Q8 SSi.
by Allan Tarvid (Allan has been writing about boating, fishing and marine electronics for more than 30 years. He has no plans to get a real job.)