Jumping Wakes Or Puttering Around

Boating has been an essential and much-loved part of summer camp for decades, and continues to be a popular offering at traditional and specialty camps. In the early days, all a camp needed was a 25-horsepower motor, a hull of some sort, a rope, and two planks of wood, and the camp had a full waterskiing program. Times have definitely changed, though, and for many camp directors, it has become a massive headache to keep up with how boating is still evolving. While many aspects of a boating program may need to be sorted out for your camp to be successful, this article deals with the most important part—selecting the right boat.

First, ”boating” in this article explicitly refers to motorized watersports, like waterskiing, wakeboarding, wake surfing, tubing, wake skating, and occasionally fishing. This article is not about selecting the right sailboats, canoes, kayaks, SUP boards, etc.

There are three primary types of boats:

  • Inboard
  • Outboard
  • Inboard/Outboard (I/O).

Inboard boats have the engine mounted inside of the boat, either in the center or stern (rear). If the engine is in the stern, it is known as a ”V-Drive”’ inboard because of the shape of the drive connecting the engine to the propeller. An inboard boat can easily be identified because:

  1. You cannot see the engine from the outside.
  2. The boat is steered with a rudder.

Inboard boats are best for high-level waterskiing (ski boat) and wakeboarding (wake boat) because the engine positioning helps optimize the weight distribution in order to create the ideal wake size/shape. Inboards also have swim platforms for easy entrance/exit from the water. 

Outboard boats have the engine mounted in the stern on the exterior, so it is completely visible. The entire engine turns to steer the boat. Outboards are great for fishing as well as other scenarios, in which you may be docking or operating in shallow water because the engine can be raised to protect it from striking a rock or the ground. Outboards are typically not recommended for watersports because:

  1. The propeller is exposed and could potentially make contact with a swimmer/skier/wake boarder.
  2. The engine is in the way of a ski rope so you need to purchase an extension device to attach the rope for use.
  3. The outboard motor creates a wake that is neither great for waterskiing nor for wakeboarding/wake surfing.

Inboard/Outboard (I/O) boats are a combination. The bulk of the engine is located inside the boat in the stern, but a section of it extends out from the stern and turns when you steer the boat. Usually, a swim platform is located above the propeller, and a ladder extends into the water for entry/exit. I/Os are thought of as ”cruising” boats because they are comfortable and versatile. They can support waterskiing and wakeboarding but not wake surfing. I/Os have a trim tab or ability to adjust the propeller angle in order to tweak the size and shape of the wake (up to a point). These are the ideal boats for tubing, if your camp is into that activity.

Step 1: Can your water body support a boating program?

In order to run a successful boating program, the camps needs to be located on or have access to a sufficient body of water. Know of any state limitations regarding boat size, maximum horsepower, or speed limits for the lake/pond. If the camp is on a pond with a 5-horsepower limit, you probably will not offer waterskiing, but you can offer other types of boating. Consider nearby larger lakes with available boat slips that you can rent and then transport campers.

Step 2: What watersports do you offer or hope to offer?

Some camps have hundreds of campers who may have limited time out on a boat and therefore have little time to experience higher-level watersports. Those camps would want to focus on a reliable and versatile boat that can cater to the majority of the kids who will be rotating through each day. Other camps may offer more specialized programs that allow select campers to be on a boat for more time for lengthier instruction. Those specific camps would want a boat to match the better instruction, such as a ski or wakeboard boat. Another camp may only want a boat with a motor for lake cruises, so comfort will take priority over power and speed. Here is a general guide:

My program hopes to offer:

Waterskiing, wakeboarding, and tubing to primarily beginners: Look at an Inboard/Outboard boat because it will be easy to operate and is cost-effective, fuel-efficient, with reasonable power, and versatile for different participants. A new, adequate I/O will cost between $25,000 and $40,000, with higher costs depending on options.

Waterskiing (higher-level): Look at an Inboard ski boat. A large, high-horsepower motor (350 HP or greater) is mounted in the center of the boat with a direct drive shaft to the propeller. The placement of the motor and the shape of the hull will minimize the size of the wake, allowing for high-level waterskiing (not great for wakeboarding). A new ski boat will cost between $50,000 and $100,000 depending on the brand, engine, and options.

Wakeboarding or wake surfing (higher-level): Consider an Inboard wake boat. It will have a stern-mounted engine with a V-Drive so all of the motor’s weight is at the back of the boat. This, in addition to a ballast system that enables water to be pumped into hard or soft tanks will help create larger, smoother wakes for riders to learn and progress in their jumps. For wake surfing, it is the weight that is pumped in along with the speed, hull shape, and boat manufacturer surf systems that will create massive waves on which to surf. A new wake boat will cost between $60,000 and $150,000 depending on the engine, ballast, surf system, brand, and other options.

Fishing: Consider an Outboard fishing boat. There will likely have one large outboard engine and an additional small, quiet trolling motor. This type of boat will be useful for quickly getting to the fishing spot and then silently maneuvering to catch that trophy fish! A moderately equipped fishing boat will cost between $20,000 and $50,000 with higher costs for options.

Cruising: If your program has minimal watersports offerings but you want to offer lake cruises, look for an Outboard pontoon boat (party boat). It can seat a dozen or more campers, is super-comfortable, and is a cushy way to cruise. Camps that offer nature study or scuba may like this option for the increased deck space and the shallow operating depths. A pontoon boat will run between $25,000 and $50,000 for an adequately equipped model.

A little bit of everything à If your program attracts intermediate water-skiers, wakeboarders, and wake surfers, and you hope to keep everyone happy, the way to go is a wake boat. Most wake boats can seat 12 or more people and offer trim tabs and ballast tanks that allow you to alter the wake size and shape for waterskiing to wakeboarding to tubing. If wake surfing—one of the fastest-growing sports in the country—is offered, you need a wake boat with an inboard engine and ballast tanks.              

Step 3: How do you purchase a boat?

Boats are not only expensive to buy, but also to operate and maintain. Like any other big-ticket item, you should shop around both online and at dealers. There are countless brands, sizes, and variations of boats, but now that you have the type of boat narrowed down, it’s time to do some research and find the best one for your camp. Boats have a tendency to need repairs, so pay special attention to the warranty details and get as much coverage as possible. Like cars, used boats are often purchased. Note the number of hours on the odometer: 200 hours on a boat is roughly equivalent to 100,000 miles on a car. A used boat may be just the thing your camp needs to have an amazing watersports program!

Evan Goldner is the owner/director of Water Monkey Camp, a watersports specialty summer camp in New Hampshire and loves talking boats and gear. Reach him at evan@watermonkeycamp.com.


Camp Basics

Student to Instructor Ratio: 2:1

Location: Lakes Region, N.H.

Cost to Attend Camp: $1,800 per week

Ages: 11 - 17

Started only five years ago, Water Monkey Camp has grown to become an innovative watersports destination for students and coaches alike.