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Summer’s upon us, and in addition to all those straight-ahead speed runs, water-spraying sharp turns, and leisurely cruises a lot of you are going to be doing another fun activity – towing family and friends behind your craft on skis, wakeboards, and tubes.
Unless you’ve rethought your riding style, however, that seemingly simple task can lead to a lot of frustration. PWC are agile, quick, and have sensitive throttles. All those traits – and more – can translate into a lousy pull for the person at the opposite end of the towrope.
Want to keep your skiers and riders happy while taking a lot of stress out of the job for you? Here are five simple ways you can take advantage of your PWC’s existing features to be a better driver for water sports.
Skiers and wakeboarders long for a steady, consistent speed from their drivers, but PWC aren’t the easiest boats to dial in at towing speeds. Part of it is due to the trigger throttle; just the littlest squeeze or relaxation of your finger causes noticeable changes in speed, and trying to compensate for these changes can often set off a constant speed-and-slow cycle that will quickly aggravate both you and your rider. Wakes and wind, or even a good pull from the person at the end of the towrope, can also have a noticeable effect on your craft’s speed.
If you have the option, give up trying to control speed manually and turn that portion of the towing task over to cruise control. Yes, you will still have small fluctuations in speed, but cruise control dials things in far closer than you’ll ever be able to mimic with a finger on the trigger. And when your rider asks you to speed up or slow down, use the cruise feature’s arrow buttons to make small, gradual changes. The result will be a steady, smooth, and predictable pull.
Rearview mirrors are great to have, but don’t make the mistake of constantly checking them to keep tabs on your rider. Skiers and wakeboarders want a nice, straight-ahead path to enjoy the ride or perfect their next trick, and continually averting your eyes from the water to check on them will likely cause you to start wandering in your course. Instead, rely on your spotter to keep tabs on the rider and communicate their needs so that you can focus solely on controlling your craft and watching the water for traffic.
The occasional mirror check, however, can help you keep that path straight. Instead of looking at the rider, take the occasional glance at your wake. If it trails off behind you straight as an arrow you’re doing a great job. If it wiggles and curves, that’s a telltale sign you need to focus more on driving a straight path.
Pro tip? To keep things straight, don’t look ahead just at the water. Pick a reference point in the distance, like a building, power line or cell tower, or even a tree that stands out from the background and drive straight toward it. It’s the single best way to keep your PWC tracking in a straight line.
One of a PWC’s greatest strengths is its maneuverability, but that sharp cornering ability needn’t be utilized when towing. Underway a sharp corner can cause the towrope to go slack; when it suddenly gets taut again at speed, you’ll likely rip the towrope handle right out of your rider’s hands. Cranking a turn at speed when your rider falls is also a good way to possible run over the towrope, or simply just create wakes that will ruin the water for your rider’s next pull. Sharp turns also create challenges in speed control.
Whenever possible, keep turns gradual and wide. Your speed will stay consistent, and your rider won’t experience any slack in the line or jerk at the end of a turn.
Reverse is one of the best things to ever happen to PWC when it comes to overall control, but with a towrope in the water it’s a feature that will require your absolute attention. Back over that rope and you’ll quickly suck it into the jet pump and wind it around your impeller shaft. And if you’ve ever had the bad fortune to experience it, you know that rope doesn’t come out easily. Odds are you’ll end up cutting it, but only after you get towed back to shore, get access to the pump inlet… and lose valuable riding time.
When getting ready to pull a rider out of the water, think neutral whenever possible, not reverse. The idea is to never cause your craft to start moving back over the towrope. Or, simply kill the engine briefly if you need to slow your forward momentum. Better to restart several times and know you’ve kept that towrope at a distance than to take a chance and suck that rope into your pump.
Telling a rider to spin around 180-degrees and spot seems like a no-brainer, but for them it can be a perilous position. They can’t see where they’re going, they don’t have the driver to grab onto, and they can’t really brace themselves that well to stay secure on the craft.
Or maybe they can, and you both just don’t know it. Take a look at the back of your saddle and aft deck. That grab handle isn’t just for reboarding, it’s also a way to keep a rear-facing spotter secure. The odds are good the footwells also may curve upwards, or even have a small angle or “chock” built in for a spotter to brace their feet against. There should also be plenty of non-slip matting. Use it for traction. Even a saddle’s bolster can be used to provide security for a spotter; that same hump that offers back support also keeps the spotter from sliding backwards off the seat.
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