Wakeboarders want air, and lots of it. But as any accomplished boarder will tell you that to go really "big" you need a big launch ramp. Enter your boat's wakes — and everything you can do to make them larger.
The tried and true method of increasing wake size has long been to add weight to the boat. This can be accomplished in any number of ways, but one of the favorites is adding water weight in flexible, fillable bladders. While today's built-in ballast systems are more sophisticated, water bladders are still an effective and low-cost option for boosting wake height.
We recently tested a pair of Fatbuddies water-ballast bags made by ECI Water Ski Products, the manufacturer of Skylon extended pylons. Unlike a traditional single bag that can weigh up to 550 pounds and take up a 20-inch-by-50-inch block of space, Fatbuddies are smaller, measuring only 18 inches by 28 inches and weighing in at approximately 290 pounds fully loaded.
The advantage of two small bags as opposed to a single larger sack is that a pair of Fatbuddies can be packed away in tight spots that couldn't accommodate a single large bag. We loaded the Fat Buddies, one on each side of a V-Drive wakeboard boat's engine compartment, with ease.
Another plus? Fatbuddies can also be spaced to properly balance the load — a technique that top-level wakeboarders say is a must. With a boatload of passengers wanting to stay in the main cockpit, we tossed one of the Fatbuddies up into the bow, helping to level our bow-high craft to a safer and more desirable planing angle.
Filling and emptying the bags is relatively simple with the 1,100-gallon-per-hour accessory pump. Just thread the hose onto one of the two valves on each bag, and then lower the pump over the side and into the water. A cigarette-lighter adapter plug provides the juice. To empty the bags, reverse the hose and pump the water out of the bag.
Each of the Fatbuddies consists of a bag (the bladder that holds the water) and an outer bag. The inner bag is 16-gauge K80 PVC. The heavy-duty, mildew-resistant PVC outer bag provides protection from tears and punctures of the inner bladder. The outer bag also features adjustable buckles as well as a heavy-duty nylon zipper to keep the bag in shape.
There's no question that, when properly placed, the Fatbuddies make a huge difference. Wake size for our V-drive towboat, as well as that of an 18-foot-long runabout with a stern drive, was dramatically larger with the system in place.
We've used the Fatbuddies for over two months now and have yet to have any problems with leaks or tears. Of course, there are cautions to heed. Rated load capacities easily can be surpassed with the added 580 pounds a pair of Fatbuddies can provide. You also might notice a difference in handling when the system is completely full. As always, a healthy dose of caution and common sense are required.
For serious wakeboarders in need of big-air ballast, Fatbuddies make great sense. At $159 (plus $59 for the pump system) for the pair, they might be the best pound-for-pound investment you can make.
For more information
ECI Water Ski Products
2060 Chicago Ave., Bldg. C-8
Riverside, CA 92507