Why in the hell would a successful boat company give four wakeboarders a 750 hp boat and tell them to drive from Fort Lauderdale to the Keys in the roughest, nastiest conditions Florida has to offer? Well, that’s what happens when you get a few drinks into their marketing department late on a Saturday night you’re on your way Tuesday morning. Off we went to Flipper’s playground, the Florida Keys, by way of MasterCraft’s new X-80 STS (second turn screw). It’s basically the saltwater series X-80 with twin engines, but don’t ask me for more mechanical details because that’s all I got.
The trip kicked off on the Intracoastal Waterway in Fort Lauderdale. Josh Letchworth, Shawn “Meat” Kilgus, and four riders — Travis Stewart, Derek “Gilligan” Grasman, Andrew “The Professor” Adkison and me, Zane “The Skipper” Schwenk — met at a local Best Western. The next day, we were off. What we thought was going to be a simple “three-hour tour,” a 100-mile trip, turned into a six-hour extremely rough trek to Duck Key Resort near Marathon in the Florida Keys. On the way down, we hit no fewer than 30 no-wake zones, which isn’t fun when you have 750 horses at your fingertips. But the bow thruster worked out great, making us look like we actually knew what we were doing in front of the yachtsmen and their 40-foot Hatterases while trying to park our 28-foot beast at a bar.
While most boaters were looking for the ultimate fishing spot, we just wanted to find the best place to ride while taking in the open water we never get at home within the confines of the Central Florida lakes. Some of the best riding we found was in Islamorada in front of the Sportman’s Club. There was nothing like making Letchworth stand in shallow shark-infested water for hours trying to get the perfect silhouette shot.
On Thursday, our last day, we were cruising the open water in search of another new place to ride and this dude pulls up in his cigarette boat and is like, “Hey, what do you have in that thing?” I confidently reply, “We have twin Crusader 6.0-liter 375-hp engines — what you got?” Well, he only had one engine, but he did have two hot chicks and we only had one so he won.
The overall trip was so much fun, and totally different from the small-water riding on lakes and rivers I have become so accustomed to. Open-water riding has its own lifestyle and ambience, which I totally dig because you don’t feel the need to ride hard or learn something new. Instead, it’s all about being out in the boat with friends and living it up and trying not to get lost. Definitely get the GPS option!
If you haven’t ridden in salt water, you need to experience it.