Watersports have evolved over time into highly specialized—or not—activities that can be enjoyed by anyone. You can stay seated and take a lazy spin on a basic innertube, be more daring and stand up and glide across the surface on water skis or go airborne with a wakeboard. No matter which speed or thrill level you choose, the most important connection between you and the boat is the tow point.
You will find there are as many ways to connect the tow rope to the boat as there are ways to have fun at the opposite end. You can keep it basic with a ski tow eye/ring, add a pylon, go all out with a wakeboard tower and more. Here are the most popular towing options to get you started.
What it is: A stainless steel pole with a round eye at the top for attaching the tow rope.
What it does: The raised towing point above the back deck gives skiers a solid, consistent pull.
What makes it different: The pylon gives the skier a level or slightly upward pull. It also makes it easier to attach the line, as opposed to a transom-mounted ski tow eye. Tow pylons are available in fixed and adjustable height models and should enable the tow line to clear the outboard or the transom. A center/cockpit-mount pylon lessens the effect of the pull from the skier on the boat.
Where to find it: Removable pylons can be stowed when not in use, making them ideal for fishing boats and pontoons. Boat manufacturers offer them as options or standard equipment on some boats. That gives you the choice of permanent or removable options. Check your boat dealer for the best option for your needs.
What it is: Aluminum or stainless-steel tubing that forms a “tower” over the cockpit. The tower attaches to each gunwale and is used for attaching tow rope. Some towers have wakeboard and ski storage, while others have canvas tops for providing shade to the cockpit.
What it does: A must for wakeboarders. Shortly after the advent of the extended pylon, the tower came into fashion. The higher pull provides for a lot more air time, making spins and inversions easier. The extended pylon gives existing ski-boat owners the ability to get more air inexpensively. The tower, which attaches to each gunwale, gives riders a more consistent pull than an extended pylon does when they veer to the wake and launch into a trick, because it has more support points.
What makes it different: The higher towing point of a tower, about 7’ above the deck of the boat, works for more than just wakeboarding. Barefooters feel lighter on their feet with the upward pull, and recreational slalom skiers get up and cross the wake more easily. The great news is that most family boats can accommodate a tower.
Where to find it: Boat dealerships and ski shops.
What it is: A semi-circular stainless-steel tow bar with a pulley that can be installed on the outboard motor bracket without removing the motor. The tow rope attaches to the pulley that wraps around the motor cowling. The mounting configuration makes it ideal for boats not designed for watersports, e.g., pontoons and fishing boats, or those with limited deck/aft space limiting the ability to install a pylon or tower.
What it does: Provides great directional stability and response, a tow rope that always remains above the wake, a lower planing speed and a higher top speed. What that means is the driver has full control and greater comfort, while the skier's movements and tricks are much smoother.
What makes it different: A much better job of distributing the force of a skier, wakeboarder or tube rider than many pylon setups. Even better, it serves to help keep the line clear of the prop and even offers “bumper” protection for the outboard at the dock. Another added benefit is the lower fuel consumption as well as the increased safety of keeping others away from the motor.
Where to find it: Direct from the manufacturer. Available for outboards up to 350HP from $549. Turboswing.com
If you aren’t sure which watersport is right for you, read more about this fun activity in our watersports guide here.
You can gear up for watersports with just about any boat. Some boats lean more toward full-time watersports, while others are middle-of-the road. With them, you can fish, cruise or ski from the same boat. if you are looking for a new boat, or if you want to take your watersports game to the next level with accessories, you can do it all under one roof—Bass Pro Shops/Cabela’s Boating Centers is the place to find advice, products and service for any boat.