Wakesurfing a Ski Boat

With today's wake shapers, it's both possible and fun
Wakesurfing behind a ski boat
With today’s wake shapers, it’s actually possible—and fun to surf to behind a ski boat. Garrett Cortese

Not all of us own or have access to a modern-day wake boat with built-in wave-making technology such as Malibu’s Surf Gate or Centurion’s QuickSurf. Fortunately, over the past few years there has been growth in aftermarket products that can attach to the side of your boat to help it produce a sizable wave. It’s easy to see how well these products work on older V-drives thanks to marketing videos and social media, but we wanted to take it to the next level. How well would these wake shapers work on a ski boat?

1999 Malibu Sunsetter wakesurfing
1999 Malibu Sunsetter LXi
This classic, family-oriented, direct-drive ski boat was one of the best-selling open-bow boats throughout the ’90s. These days it seems comically small when compared to modern wake boats, but keep in mind it was the same hull and dimensions as its V-drive sister of the era, the Sunsetter VLX. Length: 21′
Beam: 93.5″
Garrett Cortese
Wake shaper device
To actually make a surfable wave on a small, lightweight direct-drive, we knew we would need some extra weight. We removed the backseat cushion and filled up an Eight.3 ballast bag from Ronix to about 700 pounds. Our ’99 Sunsetter also was equipped with Malibu’s first iteration of the Wedge, originally introduced in ’98. This predated the fancy, electronic Power Wedge of today, and can only be deployed in one position: down. We pulled the pin and dropped it, knowing it would pull the back end of the boat lower into the water to help make a bigger wave. With a crew of four on board—650 pounds—we set out to attach the five different wave maker/shaper devices and see what was possible. Garrett Cortese
Liquid Force Wakesurf Edge
Liquid Force
System: Wakesurf Edge
MSRP: $300
Courtesy Liquid Force
Mission Delta 2.0
System: Delta 2.0
MSRP: $398
Courtesy Mission Boat Gear
Ronix Wakesurf Shaper
System: Wakesurf Shaper
MSRP: $400
Courtesy Tony Teske
Roswell Deflector
System: Deflector
MSRP: $400
Courtesy Roswell
Tidal Wake XLR8
Tidal Wake
System: XLR8
MSRP: $259
Courtesy Tidal Wake
Wakesurfing behind Malibu Sunsetter
Each of the wake shapers threw a surfable wave. Garrett Cortese

Originally the idea was to compare and contrast the five devices and make notes on how the wake/wave was different—but we quickly realized that wasn’t possible. The differences were too minute to really make accurate comparisons. What we did grasp was that they all worked, and surprisingly well, at that. On a boat as small as the Sunsetter LXi, what matters most is getting some weight in the boat to displace more water. All of the wave-making apparatuses did what they were designed to do, and in the process surprised everybody in the boat with how well they did it. By deflecting and diverting the flow of the water on one side of the ski boat, each device transformed the mushy, turbulent water into a clean wave that was easily surfable for all the riders in our crew—up to 180 pounds. The biggest difference in our setup was weight distribution. While I was photographing, if I moved from the back of the boat to the front, the 175-pound shift made a big difference in the quality and power of the wave. If you have a bigger V-drive with more weight distributed throughout, you will likely notice more differences between each device’s wave shape and characteristics.


  • While all the wave shapers made the Malibu Sunsetter surfable, they are all different. Moving the position and angle of each has a different effect on the wave. The bigger units, such as The Wakesurf Shaper and Roswell Deflector, perform better mounted closer to the transom. Others such as the Delta 2.0 and XLR8 seem to do better farther forward. All of this depends on your specific boat—and where these can be mounted based on design characteristics on the side of the boat.

  • Your board matters, especially on smaller, less powerful waves. A bigger board with more volume will be easier to surf and get into the pocket of the wave.

  • Each of the devices is relatively easy to mount, thanks to their suction cups—some took more effort than others—and all of them float. This makes changing sides or adjusting positions hassle-free.