How To Trailer a Wakeboard Boat

Wakeboard boats are big vessels that take a lot of practice to control and maneuver exactly as the captain wants.  The center propulsion of a v-drive boat can be complicated to learn.  With the money owners spend on these crafts, knowing how to properly trailer a wakeboard boat is critical to keeping everything functioning and looking like new.

Let’s face it, if your trailering buddy is your significant other, the chances that someone is going to be sleeping on the couch during your first few tries is likely high!  Let’s explore a variety of tips, tricks, and checklists for getting your wake board safely on to your trailer, and hopefully keeping your loving relationships intact.

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Prepping Your Boat to Get It On The Trailer

First things first.  Let’s talk about things to do in the boat to get things ready to be trailered.  Here is a list of things to do while you wait for your driver to get the trailer down the ramp.

  1. Take down your Bimini. Especially in the wind, Bimini tops can act like giant sails and help push you all around.  If you are inexperience or if the wind is up slightly, we recommend making things more streamlined by taking that top down.
  2. Take your boards down.  For the same reason, we recommend taking your boards down.  The more streamlined you are the easier it is to keep things going straight.  Taking boards down give the wind one less place to push.
  3. Clear a path.  The front of the boat should have as few people and things in it as possible.  You want to be able to concentrate and have full visual of everything going on.  You also want to be able to move forward quickly if the need arises.  So clear people and things to the back.
  4. Have a rope ready.  Depending on what method you choose to load your boat, have a rope with a quick connect capability can help to get those last few feet from being an issue.
  5. Breath and focus. Turn down that bumpin’ stereo and get in the zone.  You can do this, it takes concentration.  Be the hero!

Methods for Trailering Your Boat

There are several schools of thought on the best way to get your shiny boat safely onto a trailer.  We think different methods are appropriate in different conditions.  Wind, ramp depth, dock location, ramp traffic, and how much help you have call all play into the decision on which method is right for you.

Some popular methods include

  • Walk it up: This method is done with the motor off, a long rope, and a couple of people in the water.  Simply walk that boat on like your leading a horse.
  • Glide it in: This might sound more tantalizing than it is, but essentially this just means pointing the boat slowly at the trailer and gliding slowly on using the guides to help get you to a certain point.
  • Hybrid load: A recommended method for newbs that includes getting the boat driven into a particular position and then using a manual loading method from there.
  • Come to me: This is not a recommended method, but I do see people get the boat in a certain position and then try to back the trailer further under it to position it fully.  No our preferred method at all.

Let’s explore the 3 most popular methods of trailering a boat more fully.

Walk it up

The walk it up method is potentially the safest way for newbies to get their boat trailered without major incident.  Essentially, you hook a decent sized rope to the front cleat and get in the water.  Wakeboard boats weigh thousands of pounds but can be moved around by hand fairly easily.

A few things to consider before you choose to manually load your boat.

  1. Be very careful. Wakeboard boats are heavy and don’t really care about your broken bones. Like Mike Tyson says “everyone has a plan until they get punched in the face.” So is true for manually loading a wakeboard boat.  Falling, squishing, slipping, or twisting can all be really bad things in this situation so consider all the precautions before you jump right in.
  2. Is it windy?  Wind makes loading a boat onto a trailer exponentially more difficult.  Loading the boat with a rope and an individual in the water is going to be a big challenge in a strong wind.  Either wait the wind out, or consider your full options if it’s really windy.  We have had experience with getting several people in the water when it’s really windy.  It can be a challenge, but may be a decent option versus trying to drive it on.
  3. Leave someone in the boat. We have had experience where the boat momentum was just too much and we lost the guide rope.  Rather than Michael Phelp’sing it to try and save your baby from floating way, it’s better to have a boat competent person in the boat to safely help you start again.
  4. Ramp conditions. Is your ramp super steep?  If so, forget this method.  Is your ramp covered in slippery algae.  Ya, that’s not going to work either.  You need a slightly graded and clean ramp to be able to have the pulling power to move that big boat around.
  5. Get a side. Loading your boat manually around other boats will not really work.  We recommend getting a loading point on the side of the ramp.  Pull the boat to the same side as your trailer and shut it off.  From there use your guide rope and helpers to gently persuade it to load on that trailer.

In the end, using a manual method of ropes and hand gliding your boat onto the trailer may be a great option for those that aren’t yet comfortable with hitting the mark while driving the boat on.  Precautions do need to be taken, but when done right, this can be a safe method for both you and your baby!

Glide It In – Driving Your Boat On To The Trailer

Most avid boaters become comfortable enough that they choose to drive their boat directly onto the trailer.  This still generally involves at least 2 people, but can be done safely in most any conditions.  A few keys to success when driving your wakeboard boat on to the trailer.

  1. Have enough time to straighten out. One of the biggest mistakes I see people make is trying to start driving a large cumbersome v-drive boat onto a trailer from just a few feet out.  Wakesurf boats don’t turn on a dime.  It is much better to go out from the ramp by 50-75 yards and give yourself time to straighten the boat out completely before you encounter the trailer.  By the time you get to the trailer you should be straight and only focused on hitting the center of the trailer with the tip of your boat.
  2. Watch your pace.  As Adam Sandler prefers, “do it at a medium pace”.  A wake boat needs to be in gear generally to have the most control.  Trying to idle onto a trailer can be tough to control and generally the boat tends to drift right or left.  Coming in too hot is never good and you’ll have people diving out of the way as you run your trailer winch right through the front of your boat (I’ve seen it done!).  Get straightened out and then come in just barely in gear. 

Continue to drive in at a slow pace until you are just to the tip of the trailer with the front of the boat.  From there, be prepared to put it in reverse and slow it down.  One good rev in reverse is usually enough to get the boat to just about come to a stop as you float onto the trailer.

  • Throttle is the key.  Practicing the art of forward throttle combined with neutral costing and backward thrust will help you become a master.  There is a bit of an art here to getting things just right so you can stay in control, have the boat still move forward, not go too fast, and still hit your mark.  Yes, it can be as complicated as it sounds 😊
  • Stop before you get to the winch.  A winch is a powerful tool that will help you get that boat to the proper place on the trailer.  Do not feel like you have to drive your boat all the way to the winch.  Have your loading buddy get in the water and extend the winch out 10 or 12 feet.  As you gently bring the boat to the trailer, the loading buddy can clip the strap to the front cleat and ratchet you the final distance.  I have seen instance where individuals think they need to drive all the way on.  Don’t do it!  You will damage the front of your boat.
  • Be prepared to try again.  Driving a boat exactly onto a trailer the first time is a challenge.  Keep your hand on that throttle and be ready to hit reverse if things just aren’t right.  Back up to a good distance and give it another shot.
  • Aim into the wind.  Windy boat loading is super tough.  One way to find success is to aim into the wind knowing the wind is going to push you as soon as you let off that throttle.  Aim a bit towards that guardrail and when you go to neutral the wind will move you to the center.  In the wind, I find it’s better to be a little slower just because you are going to have multiple tries potentially.  Also consider using the Hybrid method detailed below if it’s really windy.

The Hybrid Approach

Most beginners find the hybrid approach to loading their new surf boat to be attractive.  In calm conditions, this works great.  The hybrid involves the driver getting the boat to a certain point and then the loader(s) in the water getting it the rest of the way.

To accomplish this, use the tips in the “Glide It In” method to position the boat just in front of the trailer.  Have a helper then throw a connected rope to a loader in the water.  The loader can then use the “Walk It Up” method from there to get it fully on.  A few precautions.

  1. Safety First.  Never stand in between the boat and the trailer if it is moving.  Never stand inside the trailer structure.  Always make sure you know the conditions of the ramp.  Is it steep, slimy, heavy traffic around you?  Take the precautions to be safe.
  2. Float it slowly.  If you have other people in the water, don’t come in with any amount of speed.  Creep it forward as you approach and be prepared to back up slightly if the need arises.
  3. Have a helper on the boat too.  It is much easier if you have someone ready to throw a connected rope to the loaders in the water.  You can do this yourself, but it’s safer to have a rope thrower ready to toss that rope at just the right moment.

Backing Your Boat Trailer

“To be great at trailering your wakeboard boat means being great at backing your trailer.”  I think someone famous said that.  If not, they should have.  Backing a trailer is a skill and an art combined.  It takes a lot of practice.

Have a look at our guide to How to Back Your Boat Trailer for more instructions.

Summing it up

No matter what method you decide to employ here, trailering your wake boat will get easier with practice.  Many times, it’s good to wait out unsavory conditions to make life easier, keep emotions down, and hopefully prevent sleeping on the couch or damaging your most precious posession.  Practice makes perfect so give yourself and your team patience and grace as you undertake loading your wakeboard or wakesurf boat.