When it comes to wakeboarding, having the right wakeboard tower is important: A good tower promises speed, maneuverability, and, most importantly, safety.
Even if you only hit the water on your board occasionally, a tower affords some extra benefits for your boat. Your tower can provide shade from the sun with a canopy installed, and it can hold fishing rods and gear, lights, mirrors, and speakers.
1. Stick With Aluminum
Aluminum is the best wakeboard tower material for three reasons: It's lightweight, it's strong, and it'll never rust. Carbon fiber is a great alternative if you've got loads of cash to burn, but it provides little advantage over the typical 6061 or 6063 series aluminum tower.
We recommend avoiding stainless steel. It's heavy and adds needless extra weight atop your boat, increasing the risk of a roll-over -- especially if you're mounting it atop a light fiberglass hull. In spite of its name, stainless can still rust, too, leading to weak welds.
2. Measure Twice
Wakeboard towers are often made to order, and they may not be returnable. Before you start shopping for a tower, measure your hull's beam width -- that's the widest point on the topside, or "gunwale" -- and verify the length of your boat from bow to stern (that's front to back, landlubber).
It's also a good idea to measure the useable areas of the gunwale along both sides of the boat. Use this to determine the maximum and minimum widths of the wakeboard tower you can install.
3. Fixed or Folding Tower? It Depends
Fixed towers are inherently cheaper, but a folding tower may be required if your boat needs to travel under low bridges, trees, or other obstacles. Folding towers have maintenance requirements and more complex mounts, too. You'll need to ensure your hull can accommodate the swivel joints of a folding tower, and those joints will need to be greased regularly.
4. Assess Weight Capacity
It is essential to consider the weight capacity of the wakeboard tower, especially if you plan on adding accessories such as speakers, lights, or racks. Make sure the tower and the hull of your boat can handle the weight of these additional items without compromising structural integrity.
Modern fiberglass hulls are tough, but they have hard limits when it comes to weight -- lest you suffer a cracked or damaged hull that's no longer safe to use. Some wakeboard tower mounts use backing plates to distribute the weight of the tower itself across a larger surface area of the gunwale. This reduces stress risers at the mounting points on the hull itself, mitigating the risk of damage.
5. Consider Your Budget
Wakeboard towers come in a wide range of prices, so it's important to establish a budget before starting your search. While it's tempting to opt for the cheapest option, remember that quality and durability are key.
High-end folding towers with canopy systems and mounts for racks and audio can easily cost $2,500 to $3,000. Some of the best carbon fiber towers can run up to $4,000 or more and motorized, adjustable towers with integrated electronics can have five-figure price tags.
If these numbers are eye-watering, don't worry. A good, entry-level wakeboard tower typically starts at $1,000. That's for a fixed tubular tower made from 6061-T6 aluminum, with a simple polished or satin finish.
Of course, you can find cheaper "universal fit" wakeboard towers that cost $500 to $750. But buyer beware: These towers might be made overseas with inferior alloys. They may also have poor welds and cheap mounts that could crack or bend.
Worst of all, universal towers don't have mounts specifically designed for your boat. That often means you're left drilling into fiberglass, hoping to make it fit without damaging your gunwale. It's best to at least find a tower designed for your boat's make and model.
7. Seek Expert Advice
If you're unsure about which wakeboard tower to choose, don't hesitate to seek advice from experts in the field. Visit local wakeboarding shops or consult with experienced wakeboarders who can provide valuable insights and recommendations based on their own experiences.
By considering the material, design, compatibility, weight capacity, brand reputation, budget, and seeking expert advice, you can confidently pick the right wakeboard tower that suits your needs and enhances your wakeboarding experience. Remember, a well-chosen wakeboard tower can take your skills to new heights and make every ride on the water an exhilarating one.