It may be wintertime now, but before you know it, the weather is going to change and summer will be on the horizon. If you’re planning on doing some water skiing in the warmer days ahead, you may wonder, can pontoon boats pull skiers?
While there’s nothing stopping you from pulling water skiers on your pontoon boat, it won’t be the most exciting experience. Pontoons cannot get the requisite speed for the heart-pounding thrills most water skiers are looking for.
You may have further questions, such as what the average speed of a pontoon boat is or how fast you should go when water skiing. In this article, we’ll tell you all that and more. Let’s get started.
What Is the Average Speed of a Pontoon Boat?
As we shared in another post on this blog, pontoon boats are not very fast. The average speed is 22 miles per hour (MPH). It’s not unheard of for some pontoons to reach speeds of 25 MPH, but most models won’t go that quickly. In fact, pontoon boats can be even slower than the average 22 MPH. Some trundle through the water at a lazy 18 MPH max.
What Influences Pontoon Boat Speed?
Why is it that pontoon boats are so slow? There are several components of a pontoon boat that make it sluggish.
The first reason pontoon boats are not very fast has to do with their shape. Compare a pontoon to a typical speedboat. Speedboats are small, streamlined vessels. All aspects of their design are made to achieve the greatest speed on the water. Pontoon boats, on the other hand, are leisure vessels. They’re large, rectangular, and kind of bulky. They’re not meant for riding fast waves, but rather cruising along.
Pontoon Tubes and Positioning
Pontoon boats have two pontoon tubes on either side. These kind of drag through the water rather than glide upon it, which contributes to your lower max speed. By adding a third pontoon tube in the center, the tubes have greater balance. This allows the boat to ride more efficiently on the water, thus boosting speed.
Many speedboats and deckboats can zip by so quickly because of the shape of their hull. The V-shape lends itself well to easy acceleration on the water. Pontoon boats have no such hull shape. Theirs is flat.
While a flat hull can reduce a pontoon’s chances of capsizing, the stability is at the expense of speed.
One of the biggest reasons your pontoon won’t exceed more than 25 MPH is because of its engine. The engine has a certain amount of horsepower, which is the energy that must be exerted to reach higher speeds.
Engines that have lower horsepower, such as 60 or 70 hp, will never go more than 18 to 21 MPH. As you get into engines with more horsepower, the max speed increases. If, for instance, you have a 115-hp engine, you could get to 25 MPH with no problem.
Size and Weight
Yet another reason your pontoon boat might feel sluggish has to do with its size and weight. A bigger pontoon boat has more mass that must be transported. Even if your engine has higher horsepower, the engine still has to work harder to pull more boat. That means you could see speed cuts.
The same goes for weight. You could have a mid-sized pontoon boat, but if it’s full of gear, cargo, and passengers, you’ll feel like you’re dragging on the water. This is not an illusion. By dumping that extra weight, your boat can achieve its max speed potential.
What Is the Necessary Speed for Water Skiing?
Depending on who is going water skiing, the speed requirements vary. If you have kids, they don’t need to go any faster than 16 MPH. They should have plenty of fun even at that low speed (which your pontoon boat can totally achieve, by the way).
If you’re pulling adult water skiers, you’ll need more speed. Unless your boat is going 36 MPH, the ride is going to be boring and not really worth the time or effort. You’re better off using a different boat for these kinds of activities than a pontoon.
Are There Any Ways to Improve the Speed of Your Pontoon Boat?
You’re not exactly thrilled with the speed capabilities of your pontoon boat. Is there anything you can do to make your boat go faster outside of buying a new one with a higher horsepower engine?
Actually, there’s a lot you can do. Whether it’s a simple accessory or a modification to your pontoon, you have many ways of getting small to moderate speed boosts. Do keep in mind that if you do some of these mods, they could void your boat warranty. We have to warn you.
With all that said, let’s discuss the various ways you can speed up your pontoon boat.
One of the biggest issues with a pontoon boat is that it doesn’t slice effortlessly through the water. It just kind of drags. Even if your boat could go faster, you wouldn’t necessarily be able to get more speed because of the way pontoon boats sit on the water.
Lifting strakes solve your problem. These metal contraptions are installed on the pontoon’s sides and bottom. They provide lift to your boat so that it can ride on the water rather than drag through it.
If you want lifting strakes, it’s better to get them outfitted on a new pontoon boat. Paying for this modification on your current boat will certainly void the warranty. Lifting strakes are also far from cheap, with the job often costing $2,000.
For a less expensive mod, you could underskin your pontoon boat. Underskinning involves taking aluminum sheets and tacking them onto the deck of your boat. This way, when water inevitably rushes up underneath the boat, it glides right off the metal underskinning.
Some new pontoon boats have underskinning included from the manufacturer. If yours doesn’t, you can add this yourself, but again, say goodbye to your warranty (more than likely). While this project will only drain your wallet of about $500, you must get metal sheets that fit the boat perfectly. Also, don’t expect miracles. Your pontoon may go 2 MPH faster.
Upgrade to a Tritoon
We already talked about the benefits of having a third pontoon tube on your boat. You still get all the stability you have now with two pontoon tubes as well as more speed. How much speed varies, but you’ll certainly go faster than if you underskinned your boat.
The cost of getting a third pontoon tube added is incredibly high. You might pay $4,000 or more! In that case, you might as well sell your current boat and buy a pontoon that already has three tubes. It’d cost about the same.
If you want a much cheaper way to go faster in your pontoon boat, try a booster ball. Many pontoon boat owners recommend the SportsStuff Booster Ball, which has a very high rating on Amazon. For under $200, you can relish in a faster pontoon experience without voiding your warranty.
How does a booster ball work? This colorful ball is designed to better your boat’s fuel economy, lessen shock, and cut down on drag. It’s made of durable nylon and has a tough PVC bladder. You also get 60 feet of tow rope so you can adjust the booster ball how you like it.
If you do want to pull some water skiers in your pontoon boat, a booster ball makes it possible. The skiers gravitate near your boat’s wake with one of these babies installed. That makes the ride a little faster and more fun.
Finally, we suggest trimming your engine. This is easy and not really a modification, so you can keep on using your warranty. By trimming the engine, you simply reposition where the engine sits. Often, you’ll move it up using your boat’s hydraulic motor.
This little change may seem simple, but now your boat’s front will be able to rise from the water ever so slightly. That means better performance, so while you’re going just a smidge faster, you’ll feel like you’re even speedier. Sometimes that’s all that matters.
Pontoon boats can achieve an average speed of about 22 MPH. While some can go up to 25 MPH, very rarely will they go faster without some serious modifications. Adult water skiers should ride at speeds of 35 MPH or else they’re going to have a pretty boring time. That means pontoon boats aren’t really conducive to pulling water skiers.
Luckily, there are ways to increase the speed of your pontoon boat. Sometimes this is just by one or two MPH, but hey, it’s better than nothing, right? Whether you upgrade to a tritoon, buy a booster ball, or underskin your boat, more speed is possible. Just know that with most modifications, you will void your warranty.
Pontoon boats will never be speed demons, but they don’t have to ride sluggishly either. Finding a happy medium will let you enjoy a variety of activities aboard your pontoon.