Words & Photos: Danny Braught
Chaparral Boats a premeire leader in the I/O (inboard/outboard) industry recently announced they licensed Surf Gate from Malibu Boats. Surf Gate is recognized as the #1 wake surf system in the world and it is now making waves in the I/O market. Chaparral Boats invited us out for test ride to surf behind the 2017 Chaparral 246SSi Surf. This boat comes equip with the Volvo Penta forward facing drive system + Surf Gate.
As an avid wakesurfer, I was a bit skeptical of how the boat was going to perform being the first forward drive boat I had personally surfed behind. The boat comes with about 1000lbs of ballast plumbed in the rear and center. I invited pro boarder Sean Silveira to come shred the wave with me and get another opinion on the surf wake via a skimboarder. Sean showed up before me and had already been riding. When I pulled up he was smiling ear to ear as he came back in from getting a tow. I jumped on the boat and we headed out.
Sean jumped in first and got right to it. He was throwing down tricks with ease! He came out right away with a double grabbed shuv, a big alley oop, followed by a 360 shuv, and then nearly sticks a 540 shuv-it! He rides on the regular (on the port side) and I was getting amped to see what the goofy side (starboard side) wake looked like. Sean was able to land every trick he normally would perform in a contest and land them all. He was really surprised by the amount of push the boat had to keep you in the sweet spot after landing a big trick.
The port side wave did have a line of wash at the top of the wave making it not completely clean but this could be easily solved by adding more weight to the boat. Specifically adding weight in the bow which had no ballast in it made a big difference. At one point in time I had 4 people move to the bow of the boat to test this theory and it cleaned up the wake nicely and lengthen it out. There is no replacement for displacement.
The deep V of the hull cut through rough water with ease as we crashed through our own wake back to Sean after he fell. It was my turn to jump in and give it go. I grabbed a board they had on the boat and hoped in.
The board was new to me so I took a minute to get used to the board under my feet which was small than I normally ride at only 4'4" with minute fins compared to what I normally ride. I took a few slayshes at the wave to test it out and then tossed in the rope.
I was happily surprised with the amount of force that was at the back of the wave to keep you surfing. As previously mentioned, I would add more weight to the boat to clean up the wave if I surfed it on a normal basis. I would be real curious to see what would happen if you added another 1000-2000lbs of ballast to the boat. I took a couple pulls behind the boat and goofed off having fun trying everything I could do from slashes, airs, 360's, a fire hydrant, and even tried a couple 360 shuv-its and came close to landing one.
I enjoy doing transfers behind the Malibu's and asked the driver if he could transfer the wave back and forth while I held the rope to see the transfer time. It was about the same time as a Malibu at 3 1/2 to 4 seconds transfer time. The boat did throw more water out on the opposite side from the wave than an inboard normally does with Surf Gate. I tried to transfer twice without the rope unsuccessfully but I do think it is possible.
I then asked the driver to speed the boat up to 12mph which is faster than most people surf at but I really enjoyed it. It lengthened out the wave by another foot or more and also cleaned up the lip of the wave. After some fun rides, the main thing I would have changed about the experience was the board I was riding as it didn't fit me very well.
Following me Sebastian jumped in and this is when I asked people to move to the front of the boat and you could definitely notice the difference in the wave from when Sean was riding as the lip was a lot cleaner.