Without a doubt, surfing is cool. The feeling of riding a wave, propelled solely by its power, is not only exhilarating but just downright fun. Until recently, however, it’s a feeling that most people could only imagine. Unless you had access to an ocean, surfable waves were hard to come by. Inboard and V-drive-powered boats changed that in recent years, proving that a safe, surfable wave could be produced on nearly any lake, river or navigable body of water.
With the introduction of Forward Drive, Volvo Penta took things to the next level by opening up the experience to an even greater number of boaters. By adapting the familiar, sterndrive powered craft that boaters know and love and making it surf-friendly, Volvo Penta arguably opened up wake surfing to the masses. And it was done by flipping the script, relocating a sterndrive’s props from the back of the drive to the front, where they were tucked safely up under the hull and away from surfers who typically ride in close proximity to the transom. All while retaining the benefits of a drive that can be trimmed to match load or conditions, and has the benefits of vectored thrust that makes docking, trailering and low-speed handling simple and intuitive.
So what’s it like to actually surf behind a Forward Drive? For starters, it’s all-inclusive. No matter the age, no matter the skill level, nearly everyone will be able to participate. A wakesurf board’s large surface area makes it relatively easy to pop on top of the water from a deepwater start, using a method similar to wakeboarding. Once up and riding, speeds are slow, typically between 10-12 mph, and falls easy. Rather than smack the water, most riders will find they simply drift out of the wave’s “pocket” and gently sink or, should they lose their balance, fall softly into the water.
The fun factor, on the other hand, is high. Take off on a casual soul ride, or if you’re more athletically inclined, make the wake your personal playground, carving up its surface. Experienced riders will find they can even pop off the lip or perform 360 spins. And unlike that ocean wave that’s ride ends at the shore, a Forward Drive’s surf wake can go on and on.
Got the basics down, but want to make that wave even better? Customize it to your personal preference.
One particular advantage that Forward Drive has over a V-drive is that a Forward Drive can be trimmed. Trimming the drive upwards will increase the boat’s running angle, settling the stern deeper in the water and, in return, pumping up the size of the wake. Experiment with trim to build the best wake for your surfer, paying not only attention to the wake’s size but also shape, cleanness of the wake face and how trim shortens or extends the surfable “pocket” riders play within.
Ballast, whether contained in built-in, onboard tanks or bags or simply created by passengers and their position within the cockpit, also plays a key role. Selectively filling tanks to varying capacity or seating passengers in specific spots significantly affects the boat’s running attitude. The port or starboard location of that ballast and/or passenger weight will also increase the amount the boat lists to a surfer’s preferred side, further transforming the wake.
The biggest transformation of that wake, however, will come from wake-enhancing “surf tabs” or pivoting “surf gates” located at the transom. Utilized by boat manufacturers to affect the flow of water coming off the hull, these devices not only greatly enhance the size of the wake, they also help shape it into that clean, ramp-like surface that surfers desire.
With the exception of passenger placement, all of the above features are typically controlled through easy-to-understand, touchscreen controls at the helm. Systems like Volvo Penta’s Water Sport Control lock in a preferred speed with GPS-based accuracy, eliminating an unsteady hand on the throttle. They also reduce selective control of ballast loading and tab position to app-like simplicity with easy to understand graphical layouts. Once a rider dials in their ideal setup — ballast weight and location, tab position and preferred surfing speed — save those settings as a user profile, ready to be quickly and easily accessed every time that person gets behind the boat.
Of course, the only way to truly appreciate a Forward Drive’s surf-friendliness is to experience it for yourself, on one of the many wakesurf models available from a collection of leading boat manufacturers. Take one for a test drive and you’ll discover that the surf is indeed up…no ocean required.