Jan. 21, 2008 – Courting the towing market

By Jeff Hemmel
PWC Editor
PWC manufacturers have almost always flirted with the tow sports market. After all, a moderately priced PWC is a bargain compared to your average bowrider, and a virtual steal compared to dedicated towsports boats.
The challenge, however, always has been how to build an adequate wake for riders to truly seek out the boats, rather than view them as an afterthought. While most manufacturers haven’t bothered to tinker with the idea any further, Sea-Doo continues to aggressively pursue the towsports market.
Powersports Business recently had the opportunity to take a closer look at the company’s latest solution to the puzzle, the aptly named Wake.

Think Big
Since the 1990s, Sea-Doo has distinguished itself as the lone manufacturer truly targeting this market.
“Sea-Doo has been involved with wake sports since the dawn of the sport,” said Sea-Doo’s Tim McKercher. “In 1992, Sea-Doo partnered with the fledgling Bud Pro Wakeboard and Kneeboard Tour — kneeboard tells you how long ago that was — to showcase the towing abilities of the new Sea-Doo GT, the first three-seater watercraft.”
Later, a GTX fitted with gunwale-mounted board racks and a stern tow pylon became the first model dubbed the Wake and proved a favorite of the wakeskate crowd, who prized its agility, economical fuel costs and shallow water capabilities.
For 2008, however, the company is increasing its commitment to the board sports crowd. That commitment comes in the form of an immense, wedge-shaped plastic tank, which fits atop the rear platform and extends up into the footwells. Capable of holding enough water to add an additional 200 pounds to the very back of the craft, the tank — and its weight — not only increase the size of the smallish wakes a PWC produces, it firms up that wake as well, providing a more suitable launch ramp for anyone serious about launching skyward.
Boarders refer to it as delivering more “pop,” an added boost upward that results not only in more hang time, but also allows riders to more easily clear the second wake. The wakeskate crowd, who use the lip as the basis for tricks, also prizes the firmness of the wake. Sculpted footwells, as well as generous nonslip (both molded into the tank’s exterior and added via foam padding) provide the necessary grip for a rear-facing spotter.
Tanks are filled via dual valves by using water pressure from the venturi on the watercraft’s pump. Time from empty to full is approximately two minutes. Once full, the filling action continues; excess water is simply drained off via a number of small overfill drain holes. To fully empty the tanks, dual drains are located at the rear of the tanks.
Sea-Doo uses an innovative latching system to secure the tank in place. When not in use, owners can remove the tank and set it aside, essentially turning the vehicle into what it is below, a GTX 215 or 255. To that end, the unit (available as a $399 accessory) can be retrofitted to existing models all the way back to 2003, including the RXT and GTX.
“The coolest aspect of all these special components is they can be removed or stowed to return the Sea-Doo to a top-notch performance watercraft, to cruise on, play on, etc.,” McKercher said. “Versatility is the goal, and to offer a watercraft that is perfect for both the top level pro (and for all of those who want to be like those guys), and the dad who can go out and have fun by himself.”
Think Practical
Weight, however, is only one portion of the package. Sea-Doo has also equipped the Wake with its new electric VTS trim system, which allows the driver to trim the thrust nozzle down for better acceleration when pulling a rider from a deepwater start and then trim the nozzle up, which in turn raises the bow to further enhance the wake size or shape.
The system also features Sea-Doo’s new “double tap” button operation, which lets drivers quickly push the button twice to raise or lower the trim to a pre-set position. This enables the driver to stay focused on the water, rather than look at a gauge. It also allows driver and wake rider to dial in their favorite setups and then lock them in, rather than attempt to duplicate the same setting by hand each run.
Familiar returning additions include the extended tow pylon with grab handles for the spotter, and a single gunwale board rack, which allows boards to be carried on the craft but not clog the footwells. A second rack can be added as an option. Convex mirrors also offer an enhanced view (Sea-Doo says up to 32 percent more) of what’s taking place behind the craft. A fold-down boarding ladder gets that boarder aboard at the end of the session.
Whether the wake-riding public accepts the craft is yet to be seen. Already, however, tricks have been performed behind the Wake that were previously almost impossible behind a normal PWC. Sea-Doo will also reportedly soon announce a partnership with Nike 6.0 and its wake athletes that will certainly lead credibility to PWC as legitimate tow vehicles.
“Since its inception, the Wake edition has continually been one of the best sell-through models each year for our dealer network, even though most dealers are powersports and don’t carry a lot of wake gear,” said McKercher, who contends the gear is a prime revenue point. “The marine dealers usually do better with that unit as they usually carry a full line of wake equipment.
“The Wake is unarguably the most versatile family PWC in the industry. It should sell more, but the powersports dealer’s mindset is more ‘performance-engine,’ rather than what else you can do watersport-wise with a watercraft. And the Wake does a lot.”

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