To the the general observer, a wakeboard boat and a ski boat might not look like they have many differences at all. The purpose of the two is similar in that they both pull a water athlete behind the boat and create optimal wakes for water sport performance. Both boats come at a high price, but are both designed for high performance and are designed for very different reasons when you get into the details.
The biggest difference right off the bat between the two is the speeds each boat is designed for. Wakeboarders compete at top speeds around 20 to 25 mph, while competing skiers top out around 35 mph. These different speeds are crucial criteria that factor into how each boat is designed to perform for the respective water sport. With these speeds in mind, these boats are designed to create the most optimal wake possible. For example, a wakeboard boat will create a large, pristine wake, while the wake will be too shallow at high speeds, and not crisp enough at lower speeds. A ski boat on the other hand, while produce a thin wake around the ideal speed of 36 mph, which is not a wake of speed that will produce the best results for wakeboarders.
Wakeboard boats have many features and other design elements that make them better suited for wakeboarding than a standard ski boat. The tower, for one feature, is created as both a storage unit for wakeboards and can be used for aesthetic purposes such as lighting and speakers. As far as specific design elements are concerned, the location of the engine is a key aspect to the performance of the boat. For a ski boat, the engine is traditionally located in the center of the boat and keeps it very balanced. A wakeboarding boat however, usually has the engine located near the back of the boat in order to add weight in the rear to help create the ideal wake for performance.
Ballast systems in boats are crucial to the type of wake a boat will produce which will help you decide on what type of boat you need for your water sport. A wakeboard boat is great for wakeboarding over a traditional ski boat because they use these ballast systems to pump water into both the stern and the bow. The equal distribution and displacement of water helps to create a nice, balanced wake, that is optimal for wakeboarding.
If you are a wakeboarder in the market for a new boat, going with a wakeboard specific boat is a great option to get the best performance out of your wakeboarding experience.