Believe it or not, summer is almost behind us and 2017 is quickly approaching. Before you know it, we’ll be digging into the brand-new boat fleets to feed your brain with anything and everything you’ll need to know for your next wakeboat purchase. But while there will no doubt be a ton of new features and tech to talk about, we couldn’t wait until then. We had to bring you a handful of our favorite models that we’re anticipating being hot sellers in the 2017 model year, and for a lot of good reasons. Believe me when I tell you that there’s plenty of new stuff to talk about in next year’s models, as every manufacturer has stepped up its game: backup cameras, steering-wheel controls, big and beautiful screens, and most importantly, the best wakes and waves we’ve ever tested.
MALIBU WAKESETTER 21 VLX
Once a mainstay in the line, the 21 VLX is back for Malibu, and it’s super impressive. Fans of traditional-bow boats, along with those looking for the perfect size to trailer or store in a tight spot, are going to be pumped on the offerings that the 21 VLX has for 2017. It’s a good choice for someone who wants to get all the amenities of a Malibu, but in a slightly more manageable size and with a manageable price as well. We were also blown away by what the 21-foot boat is capable of doing on the water.
The thing we focused on during our initial walk-through of the boat was the all-new layout of the interior. We really loved the Soft Grip flooring option that Malibu has done with SeaDek, because it’s so much easier to keep clean. While carpet feels great and is a nice choice for a lot of people, there’s no more mildew or soaking-wet carpet with the way Malibu had this particular boat configured. It had all the amenities.
If you’re a fan of the driving style of a Malibu hull, you should know that the 21 VLX actually might be one of the better-handling hulls in the line. Docking and maneuvering were a dream, but sometimes that’s a trade-off when you’re trying to hold a line with a stronger rider on the end of the rope: Sure, the 21 VLX probably didn’t hold as steadily as the 22 MXZ, but we certainly weren’t being yanked around out there, and we felt it was pretty easy to drive a straight path.
Now for the good stuff. When we had a chance to get behind this baby at our shoot at the Malibu headquarters, we were taken aback by what this boat had to offer at the 21-foot length. The surf wave was incredible thanks to Surf Gate, and the wakeboard wakes were just as good. As for the surf wave, it’s almost hard to get into the gritty details about it, only because it can take so many shapes. Waves behind a Malibu are now so customizable that you can create whatever you want out there. Whether you want to surf a wave that’s mellow, get really far back, or if you like it steep and short and fun for tricks off the lip, it’s all too easy to change on the fly with Surf Band. For the wakes, we were able to get the 21 VLX mellow and rampy, steep and poppy, and everything in between. These wakes are honestly all you’d need for beginner up through intermediate riders, and maybe even for lower-level advanced riders. The best part was that they never washed out on us. We found the wakes to be super clean on the 21 no matter the speed or wedge position we had.
The 21 VLX is an incredible boat to finish out the Malibu line for 2017. If there was a spot for improvement on this legendary boat, we didn’t notice. Malibu certainly thought of everything to make this model better. And with all the Malibu amenities, this boat is offered at a great price.
|21 VLX SPECS|
|Dry Weight||4,000 lb.|
|Fuel Capacity||48 gal.|
|Maximum Capacity||13 people|
The A24 has been a staple in the Axis line for a while, but we wanted to highlight it here as one of our favorite boats to look out for in 2017 for a few reasons. The first, and definitely the most important, is the wakes and waves behind this thing. For a lot of manufacturers, displacing enough water with a massive hull always seems to create its own unique set of obstacles.
To get a good wake behind a 24-footer, you have to add a lot of weight, and when you add a lot of weight, you then need a ton of power to get all that weight up and out of the water. I’m honestly not sure how Axis did it, but the A24 seems to wakeboard and surf great right out of the gates. We weighted down this boat with stock weight and simulated almost a full load of friends, and the wake was unreal. The A24 could probably generate a slightly lippier wake, but it was still big, clean, and had plenty of pop. Typically, the surf wave on a boat this big is long and super mellow, but the A24 as we rode it was the perfect mix of being vertically large and still having an enormous pocket to surf way back on. Year after year, it’s consistently one of the better boats we’ve surfed behind.
When it comes to styling and features, the Axis A24 is sort of like an old CJ-series Jeep. It’s practical, functional, and has a total no-nonsense approach because its primary function is to perform. That’s not to say the A24 doesn’t have its share of conveniences, with things like speed control and great-sounding stereo options, but it’s basically a machine designed for one thing: fun. At 24 feet, you can fit a small baseball team aboard, and it has a ton of storage for gear — and like we mentioned before, it performs better than a lot of boats that are double the cost.
Overall, the A24 is the perfect boat if you’re looking for something that performs well and if you don’t need every single bell and whistle you find on more expensive boats. While you might sacrifice a bit in that department, the styling of the entire Axis line has not been compromised by the lower price tag, and every one of the company’s boats looks great. If there’s one thing for certain, each one will deliver great performance.
|Dry Weight||4,500 lb.|
|Fuel Capacity||70 gal.|
|Maximum Capacity||17 people|
The all-new Centurion Ri217 is built with a riding-above-all-else mentality that we’ve come to expect from the Northern California boatbuilder. For proof of that ride-first ethos, look no further than the Ri217’s 4,950-pound ballast capacity. That’s an incredible amount of water in any wakeboat, but it’s even more impressive in a 21-foot-6-inch model like the Ri217, and allows you to sink Centurion’s signature deep-V hull for pro-level wakeboarding wakes and World Wakesurfing Championship-caliber waves.
But the nearly 5,000 pounds of ballast isn’t the crazy part. The really crazy part is that the more than 2 tons of water weight fills in less than a minute, because the Ri217 comes standard with Centurion’s one-of-a-kind, lightning-quick Ramfill system. That combination of capacity and speed makes this ballast system incredibly unique in the wakeboard world, and is another indication of Centurion’s overarching goal of getting you up and riding above all else. Just think about that for a second: Centurion is so committed to getting you up behind its boats that it designed a system that fills almost 5,000 pounds of ballast in less time than it would take you to put on your board. With Centurion, the boat waits on the rider to get ready rather than the other way around. Kudos, gentlemen.
While the quick-filling capabilities of Ramfill come standard, you’ll want to opt for Centurion’s QuickSurf Pro system, because it will allow you to switch the Ri217’s substantial surf swells from side to side with the tap of a touchscreen. With QuickSurf Pro, you can go from wakeboarding to wakesurfing by simply selecting “surf left” or “surf right.” The system also allows you to adjust the shape and length of your wave to suit your surfer’s ability and style, allowing every member of your family or crew to have a successful surf session behind your ride.
Now, just because the Ri217 was designed to create the best possible experience behind the boat doesn’t mean that attention wasn’t paid to your crew’s comfort and convenience inside its friendly confines. Deep accommodations, from the wraparound lounge to the traditional bow, create not only a comfortable perch to take in the behind-the-boat action, but also an assurance of safety. The driver in you will rejoice at the level of control that can be achieved with Centurion’s articulating tracking system, which comes standard on the Ri217. You’ll also love Centurion’s patent-pending Side by Side HD Touch Vision interface, which is comprised of dual touchscreens that give you multitasking control of everything from ballast and cruise control to QuickSurf Pro and audio.
At an easy-to-manage 21.5 feet, the Ri217 takes a lot of trouble out of towing and boat storage. Yet it boasts plenty of room for as many as 14 passengers. The end result is a versatile performer that fulfills all your needs behind the boat, behind the wheel, and on the road.
|Dry Weight||5,350 lb.|
|Fuel Capacity||63 gal.|
|Maximum Capacity||14 people|
This is probably one of our favorite new models for 2017. Since covering the release earlier this summer, we’ve been anxious to get on this thing and see what the team over at Moomba has been cooking up.
First things first, this boat was designed with the wakes and surf waves as the key focus. The Helix is deep, which means it displaces a lot of water and provides incredible wakes and surf waves for its size.
Because this is a lower-priced boat, it has a utilitarian feeling to it, but that doesn’t mean Moomba was short on design time. You can tell a lot of thought was put into every aspect of the Helix, from seating to the helm configuration and something I like to call “modern storage”: We all know of boats that have carefully designed underseat and locker storage these days, but the Helix also has a handful of nice spots for things like phones, sunglasses, cameras and any other small items you bring with you in the boat.
Getting back to the helm, the first time we sat in the driver’s seat, we could tell that the Moomba team went back to the drawing board a bit with this one. The offset gauges and screen, along with the lower dash profile, made a huge impact on overall visibility. Driving this boat is fun, and that has a lot to do with its size and power configuration, but not having a massive dash blocking the view creates a really comfortable overall driving experience.
Now, for a 20-footer, the wakes on this boat were way better than we expected them to be. Mostly due to the deepness of the hull, they were clean and peaky at around 21 mph, and provided plenty of pop for riders from beginner up through lower advanced levels. As far as the surf wave is concerned, it stood up tall and had plenty of push. Since the boat is only 20 feet long, however, the wave was also on the steep side, and it didn’t necessarily have the pocket length you might see out of a longer hull. Still, it was really fun and really big, and it had a ton of power, which is ideal for almost every skilled surfer you might have on the boat. One major breakthrough is that Moomba boats are now utilizing a built-in inclinometer to dial in the perfect pitch and roll for your wakes and surf waves so they’re identical every time you ride.
Overall, we loved the Helix for its all-around versatility and Moomba’s smart approach to building the modern-day wakeboat. The Helix comes standard with everything you could want to go out and have fun: great wakes and waves, speed control, an awesome stereo, and plenty of room for friends. If you’re in the market for a solid entry-level or value-priced boat, the Helix has got to be on your list of boats to test-drive.
|Dry Weight||4,000 lb.|
|Fuel Capacity||39 gal.|
|Maximum Capacity||12 people|
SUPER AIR NAUTIQUE GS20
Nautique truly has something with its G-series line, and the company just added a dynamic new model to round it out. Now, that’s not to say that Nautique isn’t vigorously engineering something new as we speak, but from our vantage point, there’s something to offer everyone with the 2017 G lineup.
The GS20 debuted recently and was a huge success in terms of creating buzz around the industry, and with good reason. The manageable 20-footer comes well equipped and is extremely versatile, doing a lot of things really well for an everyday watersports family.
When we first got into the GS20, the first thing we noticed was how well it was laid out for a 20-footer. Nautique is known for creating near-perfect interior configurations, from the captain’s chair to the lounge and all the way to the bow. All that is easier to accomplish on a larger boat, but creating an atmosphere conducive to being social on a 20-footer, and with plenty of comforts, can be tricky. Yet Nautique has pretty much nailed it with the GS20. We found it felt much roomier than we’d expected, and one of the best things about it was the helm configuration and dash landscape. The new 12.4-inch Nautique LINC Panoray touchscreen, found on all the G-series boats next year, is a pleasure to use. The offset design makes it easier to see and utilize the touch functions, and there’s also a handy phone holder and large, swooped storage space for holding frequently used stuff.
This leads me to my next topic, and that is how awesome Helm Command is. Helm Command is a knob right above the throttle, exactly where you rest your hand, that lets you easily navigate your way through all the functions. Seriously, this little knob is the best thing ever. No more driving bent forward, adjusting the settings on the touchscreen while underway — you can easily use the large screen’s menus while sitting back comfortably. I realize the silliness of claiming that a small knob on a boat of this caliber is the most impressive thing, but it truly changes the boat-driving experience.
Last but not least are the wakes on the GS20. Again, this is a 20-foot boat, so you’re not going to get competition-style wakes like the G23 has, but with that said, the GS20 is no slouch. The surf wave is great, and with the Nautique Surf System, it’s super easy to set up. The stock ballast also provides a really fun setup. The wakes are quintessential Nautique wakes: clean, tons of pop, and great for any level of rider. All in all, the GS20 is an awesome boat for a family that wants the look and features of a G-series boat, but in something a little smaller and price-conscious.
|Dry Weight||4,500 lb.|
|Fuel Capacity||39 gal.|
|Maximum Capacity||12 people|
We got a chance to get behind the brand-new 2017 Supra SR450 in Tennessee, and got the lowdown on where this boat fits into the already-impressive Supra offerings. Replacing the old SC in the line, the new SR takes a proven running surface and adds a ton of styling to make it much more cohesive with the other models. The SR has a more hybrid-style bow, with a ton of room and a sleek look.
The SR is all about luxury, and it shows in and out of the boat. Everything has been thought of, and Supra spared absolutely nothing in terms of amenities. Vision Touch screens control all your functions, Raptor by Indmar delivers an incredible power plant (whether you go with the 400 or 450), JL Audio offers configurable options throughout, and there’s the Supra Launch and the Supra Swell systems. Things like steering-wheel controls and rear cameras are all options, but definitely things to consider when you’re looking to buy.
Completely new for 2017 is Supra’s Auto Wake system. There are multiple rider profiles you can set in your system to program the boat’s pitch and roll for each particular setting. The boat then customizes the weight and Launch system to get itself perfectly aligned with those presets based on a built-in inclinometer on board. Sound techy? It is. Supra is using this system to allow its boats to become more precise set after set.
When it came down to it, we loaded up the SR, and the wakes were more than impressive for this size boat. At just under 21 feet, the SR produced incredible wakes due to its deep hull design. Because of the Supra Launch system and the incredible power provided by the Raptor by Indmar engine we tested, the SR also has the ability to include over 3,000 pounds of ballast and not get bogged down. When it came time to surf, we weren’t surprised that it did that incredibly well too. The Supra Swell system has been one of our favorites because of how intuitive it is, but behind the SR, the first thing we noticed was how massive the wave was. Being a shorter boat, the SR had a fairly steep wave, but there’s always the option to mellow it out by fine-tuning.
We spent enough time in the SR to know that Supra hit the mark in terms of creating a smaller-size boat that still provides all the high-end fit and finish we’ve come to expect from the brand. The SR will surely fit the needs of someone looking for a high-performing boat at a size that’s a little more practical, without sacrificing luxury features.
|Dry Weight||4,800 lb.|
|Fuel Capacity||45 gal.|
|Maximum Capacity||14 people|
TIGE RZX 3
Tigé isn’t the type to rest on its laurels. For proof of the Texas-based boatbuilder’s constant pursuit of innovation, look no further than the 2017 RZX 3. Tigé debuted its new 23-foot flagship just a year ago, and yet the second model year is already brimming with a host of enhancements. The most obvious place to start is the most visible improvement: the massive new touchscreen user interface, which just screams at you from the elegant, streamlined dash.
The Clear system is the latest in a line of clean, intuitive user interfaces from Tigé, but it’s unique for a couple of reasons. For starters, it’s 10.6 inches tall, giving it a sprawling surface area that’s a bigger playground for your fingertips than you’ll find in any other wakeboat. All that area gives the tap controls room to breathe, making it super simple to whip up a long surf swell or check in on the kiddies swimming behind the boat with the transom-mounted rearview camera. The second thing that sets Clear apart is its portrait orientation. Clear houses all the key ingredients to the perfect on-water experience — from Zero Off cruise control and ballast-system management to lighting and audio controls — in a bright, vertically oriented screen that you’ll feel comfortable with right away, thanks to humanity’s near-constant attachment to smartphones and tablets. Finally, Clear’s all-encompassing power allowed Tigé to dramatically simplify the RZX 3 dash, yielding a low-profile design that allows you to focus on what you’re supposed to do behind the wheel: pull perfect sets without breaking a sweat.
Clear is really just the beginning, though, because looming just over the driver’s seat is the all-new Alpha E2 tower, which electronically lowers to windshield height for effortless towing, storage or bridge-ducking. Like Clear, the Alpha E2 combines sleek design with state-of-the-art function. It’s easy to be wowed by the silent and smooth operation of the Alpha E2, which raises and lowers in less than seven seconds. Don’t overlook its polished aesthetics or robust construction, however, because this tower’s rugged yet elegant build matches its powerful function.
They’re not new, but we would be remiss if we didn’t provide a quick tip of the cap to three of our favorite features on the RZX 3: The Yeti Hopper 30 removable cooler keeps all your favorite bevvies ice-cold literally all day long, the transom-integrated Surf Locker provides smart storage for up to two wakesurf boards exactly where you need them, and the Surf Pocket bimini proves shade and surfer storage like a boss. They might seem small, but features like these can make a huge difference.
While Clear and the Alpha E2 tower are the shiniest of Tigé’s shiny new toys, we shouldn’t let them overshadow the RZX 3’s versatile wake performance. Tigé’s top-of-the-line ride carves large, clean surf waves and pro-level wakes befitting a flagship tow boat. The former is made even easier now that Tigé’s TAPS 3 Surf System comes standard. The system’s list-enhancement capabilities make manufacturing world-class surf waves quick and easy, and the integrated Surf Link remote allows riders to adjust the side, style and size of the wave they’re riding without ever leaving the wave.
|Dry Weight||6,000 lb.|
|Fuel Capacity||65 gal.|
|Maximum Capacity||16 people|