This season it looks like I’ll have the chance to demo a number of skis and bring you the result of those days on the water. It will be helpful for me in working with our demo sponsor to know what kind of skis the great listeners of this podcast should consider. Please let me know how you ski so I can bring you some ski demos based on your wants.
Utah Boat Show Thoughts
I walked away from the Utah Boat Show this year with a number of conflicting thoughts. There were exciting new innovations from major boat builders and small companies. Every vendor I spoke with told me that sales were up this year over last year, and that last year was a good year. I’ve covered these exciting thoughts over the past few episodes. I also wondered just how sustainable the current model of boat sales will be over the coming years. It’s these thoughts that I bring to this episode.
A while ago I had the chance to talk with a listener, Alex Sanford, about how water skiing is in decline. One reason we thought this may be was that the sport was getting so expensive. This thought was on my mind as I wandered the floor of the Utah Boat Show this past February. One of my goals for the show was to identify “affordable” boats for not just water skiing, but for towed water sports in general. I ended up being very disappointed with what I couldn’t find. I ended up, after three days at the show, with just a few options, which I’ll list below. Oh, and what did I qualify as affordable? I put the cutoff at $50,000. That’s right. I don’t know just how affordable that really is, but it marked a split in the market between boats that fell safely under that amount and those that went upward to the stratosphere.
The Scarab 165
was a surprise affordable boat from a more luxury boat maker. However at just 16′ 6″ long and a capacity of only four people, it had some real tradeoffs to get the price down. It did feature a tower to pull a skier or boarder from and a nice sized platform. With it’s low seating capacity, though, it would be hard to take out for a day. You are more tied to making short runs from a beach with a few friends at a time while others wait on shore.
There were a LOT of pontoons
at the boat show. The prices and features on these boats ranged from actually affordable models up to models with slides from the top deck that really started to get pricey. With affordable pontoons, you mostly got what you paid for: a bargain boat with limited amenities and less powerful motors that could be used for towed water sports, but would probably leave a slalom skier wanting on the pull up. One interesting thing about the pontoons is that they throw up a relatively small wake that could be good for skiing, but could make boarders or surfers wonder what happened to their launch and wave. Pontoons seemed to be where a lot of the growth in the market was happening, to judge from the numbers on the show floor.
was the boat line with the most to offer in affordable towed water sports boats. I saw a couple of smaller boats with great prices, then had the local sales person take me onto their 22’6″ boats. These still managed to stay safely under the $50,000 cutoff for affordability. What I know of Bayliner is based on what the company was doing two or three decades ago when they produced boats with the build quality of 1970s Detroit. If they made it through a few seasons, you felt like you got your money’s worth. With that expectation, I was pleasantly surprised by their offerings. These boats had a lot of the fit and finish of the more expensive competitors of just a few years ago, and felt like a boat I could spend the day on without bringing along a file and screwdriver to fix everything I saw. They were nice. In fact, the Bayliners were nice enough that I wondered why more companies couldn’t produce affordable boats to fill out their ranges.
showed a few jet boats that could be used for pulling skiers or boarders. While I know that a jet boat has a slower hole shot – trust me, my first experiences trying to ski were being dragged along behind a jet-powered Sea Ray – these boats do offer a transition for people moving into their own boats. They are generally shorter boats, but still have reasonable seating capacity. They’ve grabbed styling cues from other lines much like a bike at WalMart borrows from the look of a high-end mountain bike. I don’t know exactly how they’ll perform, but it seems like these models are improving every year and could represent a good way into the sport.
Comparison to cars
As I looked inside the Tige RZX, I saw a steering wheel that could have come straight off a luxury automobile. I thought that was pretty cool. Then it got me comparing the auto industry with the boat industry.
What if you couldn’t get a car for under $50k?
As I thought about defining an affordable boat as under $50,000, I realized that the auto show held just a few weeks before the boat show featured hundreds of car models under this same price point. In fact, a $50,000 car is considered luxury, not affordable. It made me wonder what would happen to car sales if there were almost no options under this $50k breakpoint. Would we start to see a reduction in new car sales like we’ve seen in past years with boat sales? How much more would my used car be worth if new cars jumped in price like new boats have over the past ten years?
I was also struck that at the auto show a car line showed up with model vehicles and a great display to support the local dealers. At the boat show, the local dealers showed up with boats in their own inventory from multiple brands. I also know that in more than one instance, the local dealers had ordered boats to display at the show that they couldn’t even get delivered from the manufacturer until after the show was done. This is a lot of pressure to put on local dealers to sell the brands they carry.
There are some brands where representatives come from the boat company to support their local dealers at the show, but these are the exception, not the rule. More often it is a local dealer emptying out their showroom and bringing every employee they have, plus a few interested family members or customers, to talk up these boats.
I share some other thoughts from the show in this final episode from the Utah Boat Show 2017, but I’ll let you listen to those rather than continue here.
Keeping Mice Off Your Houseboat with Offboard
Art Onweller created the Offboard after having a mouse crawl across his wife while she was sleeping on their houseboat at Lake Powell. His invention is meant to be a more secure and permanent solution to keep mice off houseboats than what many boaters approach with styrofoam plates on their mooring lines. Art has created a plastic disk that mounts solidly on the mooring lines and won’t blow off in storms. He’s adapted his original invention to meet the needs of boaters with various size boats and lines.
The Offboard has been designed to meet the needs of boaters on inland lakes and ocean-going vessels. He’s even designed these for the Coast Guard to meet the needs they have to keep rats off their boats. The design is not an adaptation of a toy or a disposable plate. It is designed to be rigid and permanent. It is made with stainless steel to survive salty and wet environments. There is a solid closure mechanism with inserts to match the size of your lines. It is available in white or black.
These run $49.95 for the larger guard or $18.95 for smaller boats. You can order from their website, or call at 1-866-643-0353.
Art says it’s easy to remember the name. You invite friends onboard, but keep pests offboard.
It was strange talking about Radar Skis without speaking with Chris Sullivan. However, this year I had the chance to talk with Brooks Wilson about the current state of the Radar line up. Actually I had the chance to talk with Chris Rossi and Brooks Wilson, but forgot to get the
There was no way I could review the Radar lineup without talking about the Radar Firebolt trainers. These are skis that I think my own kids would love to play with – even if they never skied on them. The skis top face is a white board surface that kids can color in with the included markers. The skis even have some great humor for the adults, including a submarine that looks like it’s straight off a Beatles album cover.
We started with the Senate. Brooks called this Radar’s most versatile ski in the line that anyone can hop on and feel good. This year’s Senate brought a lot of technology down from last year’s Vapor.
The Vapor skis use a new advance on the inside:PMI foam. This may not sound like much, but it creates a huge jump from PVC cores. Radar says that this new PMI foam does for the core of a ski what carbon fiber did for the body. Carbon fiber made the ski rebound back to its original shape more quickly allowing it to get back to speed quicker. PMI foam takes this all the way through the ski, making the ski rebound faster. This foam is also damps vibration better than PVC giving the ski a more forgiving ride in rougher water.
As we looked down to the entry level of the line, Brooks told me that Radar has taken carbon fiber construction through the whole line of skis, even on their Katana. They’ve seen how this material has helped make skis better, so they’ve worked to make it available to everyone. Seeing carbon fiber on an entry level ski is amazing considering how few years ago it was an innovation that was only available to the top skiers on the high-end skis from a few manufacturers.
Usually the manufacturers tell me about one of their top-end boots and I listen so I can report it to you. At the same time I usually wonder why I’d ever get a boot separate from my ski. This year I decided to try out the Radar Vapor boot with my ski. I was drawn in by the carbon fiber infused shell that blends the comfort of a soft shell boot and the responsiveness of a hard shell. At least that’s the claim. I’ll let you know more as I try the boots out this season.
Brooks Wilson shared with me how he loves sharing the joy of being on the water, whether that’s pushing a short line in tournament or riding a door behind a boat. He
Making Old Boats New Again
With boat prices always going up, many boat owners are looking for ways to make an older boat seem new again. The cost of making your old boat look or feel new is less that you may think, and can really be dramatic.
At the Utah Boat Show in 2017 I stopped to talk with TBD Graphics. They do wraps for boats. As we talked he showed me a number of different wrap styles that people have put on their boats. These designs range from simple stripes and wave designs, to corporate logos, and full sponsorship packages. These wraps start under $1,000 and go up with complexity and bigger boat sizes. We discussed that they wrap everything from new boats when owners just want to stand out from the crowd to old boats looking for a new lease on life.
For as long as there have been power boats, there has been propeller damage. I think that there are two rites of passage for new boat owners: trying to sink you boat by launching without the drain plugs, and damaging you prop somehow. If you haven’t done both of these, there’s a pretty good chance that you’ve only skied behind a buddy’s boat.
So, as soon as you damage your propeller the first response is to look for a new one. However, there are companies who can repair your damaged props in most cases. As I spoke with Perfect Pitch Propellers, we talked about how they determine whether to repair or replace a propeller. I was amazed at how much damage they can repair for less than the cost of a new propeller.
If you live in Utah, Perfect Pitch Propellers is a great place to look after you damage your propeller. In fact, there’s a pretty good chance that your repair shop is sending your prop to them to get it fixed.
If you live outside of Utah, look around for your local repair shop. They can do amazing things to get your boat running like it did before you met that submerged obstacle.
HO Water Skis
It is always a pleasure to talk with Joe Sassenrath at the Utah Boat Show. This year was no exception. Joe took me through some of the ways HO is working to make water skiing more accessible and easier for people at all levels. Despite the amazing things at the top of the line this year, I was more impressed hearing about HO’s commitment to grow skiing at the entry level rather than accepting that surfing and boarding are dominating the industry right now.
HO’s top-of-the-line ski this year is a work of art. From the spining along the boot area, to the pencil-thin tail area. They’ve taken out every bit of ski that’s not necessary and slimmed it to a razor’s edge. Joe and I talked about the reasons behind this design. Oh, and did you notice that the name is an homage to their top ski from a couple of decades ago?
Maybe HO’s most exciting ski for the masses this year is the EVO. This is a ski that HO has designed specifically to run behind the larger boats being sold for surfing, and behind more traditional stern-drive boats with larger wakes. The ski is built to flex more and absorb rough water and wakes easier than almost anything else on the water. You an flex the tail by pushing the ski down. And this isn’t just I think I see a few millimeters of movement. No. This is I saw that ski bend several inches while Joe pushed on it flex. HO says this makes the ski very forgiving and easy to ride. While most skis on the market have a foam core, this ski uses a wood core, similar to those found in most snow skis.
Syndicate Hardshell Boot
Getting back to the high end of the line, HO has partnered with Reflex to bring out a new Syndicate Hardshell boot system. They are using Refex’s release mechanism paired with a more stylish toe connection. Underneath that, HO has created a footbed that cradles the boot to eliminate any slop between your foot and the ski. With this, any movement you put into your foot moves directly to the ski.
HO Water Sports
2010 Malibu Response LXi for Sale
Update: We were successful in selling our Malibu Response LXi. I almost teared up as I watched it drive away attached to someone else’s SUV. Thank your for the interest and comments.
After seven seasons of enjoying our 2010 Malibu Response LXi, we are selling it. There, I said it. Sometimes it’s not easy to part with a great boat even when you know there’s another on the horizon. Selling our boat is that way.
We bought this boat to be a no-compromises ski machine with a few compromises for tubing and wake boarding. I know; that makes no sense. We had been in a Wakesetter VLX when we found ourselves on a private lake with a slalom course. It didn’t take much to realize that even though we had thought the Wakesetter was a good ski boat, we wanted more. Well, actually we wanted less.We wanted less wake. We wanted less width. We wanted less open-water. We wanted a ski boat – a thoroughbred meant to do one thing well.
As we looked at the options, we realized that despite wanting to be able to ski better – because a boat will make you do that, right? – we also needed to be aware that we had families who would want to do things other than hard-core buoy bagging. As a result we landed on the Malibu Response LXi. With the Power Wedge option, we could put up enough wake for the level of wake boarding we would need. It wasn’t a pro-level wake, but it kept our beginner to intermediate level friends happy, especially when we linked it up with a tower. Sure, both of these options added a few pounds to the boat, but it turned out to make very little difference in the skiing and open up a lot more use of the boat. As we put it together, this was the logical progression from a V-drive to a direct-drive boat. We could have the best of both worlds, with the focus more on skiing.
But after seven seasons and 357 engine hours, we find our needs changing again, so we bid farewell to this amazing boat. The tower creates some great storage possibilities, but with a private dock we don’t keep that much on the boat. So, I’ve often forgotten the storage under the seats and under the dash. The stereo – including the tower-mounted speakers – is amazing, but our forays onto the water are short enough that we don’t take the time to fire up the Sirius or connect an iPod most of the time.
This boat has gotten us through early- and late-season runs with the cabin heater and heated driver seat. The ZeroOff speed control has let us focus on improving as skiers and drivers rather than fidgeting with the throttle all the time. (And I should mention has given my wife the confidence to pull me.) We’ve found that our focus on skiing has pulled us away from using the MaliView presets for wake boarding or wake surfing, even though they are sitting right there for us to use.
Forgotten, but Loved
I rarely have thought about the Monsoon 350 engine that powers the boat. I just know that it pulls me up quickly and has been a stable companion for all seven years. I can only think of a few times when we’ve had to open up the cover to remember the engine at all. One has been to replace an impeller – a DIY project with a $20 part from the dealership – and the other has been to open up the quick-release drains on the engine during cold weather so we can push the season just that extra few weeks into October or November. Beyond hat we’ve just let the dealership take care of the annual oil change, winterization – and what should I call it summerization? de-winterization? – each year.
I guess we’ve babied this boat the whole time we’ve owned it. After every use it gets a rub down with Babes despotting solution. It’s stored above the water line at the dock all summer, and in a temperature controlled garage all winter. The mooring and travel cover has kept the dirt and dust out. It doesn’t look its age. The silver metallic accents in the gel coat still sparkle. The black is still stark. The white is still vivid. About the only place you can see some age is a bit of discoloring on the sun deck over the ski locker. Maybe that’s one reason it’s hard to let go of this boat. It seems like it’s newer than it is.
When we first picked this boat up one of the first things we noticed was the amazing trailer. It has the full lighting package, chrome accents (that still shine today) and some sweet low-profile tires that just catch your eye. The surge brakes, swing away tongue, and full-size spare tire were icing on the cake. It definitely complimented
This is the boat that I used to first run the full slalom course. This is the boat that my brother and nephew each trained on to enter their first competition. This is the only boat my son has ever known, and the only boat my daughter can remember. We’ve taken it on week-long vacations to Lake Powell. We’ve used it for church youth outings. But recently, we’ve kept it in the safe confines of a private ski lake where it never journeys far from its dock.
I guess that it’s been a part of the family that’s pulled the rest of our family closer together. And now it can be that for your family as well.
I guess that what I mean when I say, “2010 Malibu Response LXi for Sale.” I want for this boat to continue to bring a family and their friends closer together. I want it to help someone else take their skiing to the next level. I want it to continue to be loved and used for years to come by someone who wants to get a great boat at a great price.
Liquid Lumens Boat Lighting
At the Utah Boat Show I had the chance to learn about Liquid Lumens underwater lighting systems. Liquid Lumens uses a patent pending lens and power conversion system to get more light shining out the back of your boat than other lighting systems on the market today. What this means is that you can see your skier, boarder, or surfer longer as the sun goes down.
At one point in the interview we talked about their top-side lighting system and I commented on how bright it was. At that point, Rob turned the light up and let me know that the lights were fully dimmable, and that he’d been holding back on the output. The lights really were bright.
Liquid Lumens offers three underwater light options. Each comes with two lights and an installation kit. If you’re mechanically inclined you could probably do the installation yourself, or you may want to have your favorite boat mechanic do it for you.
You can find more information about Liquid Lumens in the Links below.
Utah Boat Show
The Utah Boat Show is going on at the time this episode is published, February 9 – 12, 2017. This year I’m again looking for unique products for water skiers and boaters. I’ve also seen some companies and people who I’ve interviewed in the past including UFloat, Dave Scadden Paddle Boards, and Defy Waterflight.
After the listener feedback I received about making water skiing more affordable, I’m also looking at the various options for affordable boats – or lack of options. I’ll bring a wrap up of that toward the end of the Boat Show episodes.
Utah Boat Show
Mermaids at the Lake?
Humor me here; I have a young daughter. Sometimes we say that she swims like a fish. But, I never knew that she could look like a fish as well until I met Oyuky Diaz, founder of Splash Mermaid Tails.
Splash Mermaid Tails
My attention was drawn to the bright colors and patterns in a booth at the Utah Boat Show earlier this year. This was not the standard insurance agent or jewelry cleaner that so often show up. This was something new. Something fun. There were mermaid tails and shark fins all over the booth.
As I talked with Oyuky, I learned about the various designs. All of the tails are designed for swimming. She says that they are safe to swim in, and can actually make a swimmer faster since they’re swinging a full fin instead of two measly legs. She showed me how they are easy to slip on an off when entering or exiting a pool or lake. Then we looked at the dozens of sparkling patterns and colors. It was a good thing that my wife wasn’t there to approve a purchase, or I would have walked out with a few right then.
Then Oyuky showed me something for the boys, like my own son. She makes a neoprene-covered shark fin that they can strap on their backs and imitate the great predator of the deep around the pool or lake. (Just a note, I wouldn’t recommend using these fins in the ocean.) The fins provide a little floatation, but are not meant to be flotation aids.
The booth was a fun break after the vendor trying to convince me to buy a forever lacquer – or wax or something odd – to seal my boat against spray paint.
Quietite Receiver Hitch
When you think about it, you attach a boat and trailer that can be worth tens of thousands to over a hundred thousand dollars to a towing vehicle itself worth tens of thousands of dollars with really just a half-inch metal pin – costing only about ten dollars – to hold them together. Are you nervous yet? When I put it that way, even I’m nervous, and I only have to tow my boat twice a year.
What is the Quietite Hitch?
Quietite has created an inventive solution that solves two problems associated with towing. The first issue is the rattle you hear with your hitch insert hanging around empty. It’s just rattling around back there being annoying. This is the smaller solution, but one that you will immediately notice. Through the unique locking mechanism that they’ve devised, the receiver hitch insert wedges securely into place eliminating all rattling. Actually now that I think about it, to my dad this may be the bigger of the two solutions: he hates rattles on his cars.
The second, and probably more critical solution is making the connection between your towing vehicle and your trailer more secure. While every hitch insert in the past has been held in place with just that single metal pin, the Quietite Hitch actually uses the wedging action of their design to attach the hitch mount securely to the vehicle. While they don’t recommend removing the pin, the design makes the pin almost a secondary security measure.
An Elegant Solution
Making both of these solutions happen with just a few twists of one bolt is an amazing and elegant solution. Even more elegant is the fact that when you’re ready to remove the hitch insert, just a few turns of the same bolt will loosen the wedged hitch making it easy to remove again. When you think about the money you spend on either side of the receiver hitch, it really makes the idea of spending a few dollars ON the receiver hitch seem like not only a reasonable, but sound idea.
Now, if they could just do something about the pain when I bang my shin on the receiver…