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I bought a used 2007 Malibu 247 LSV last summer and immediately knew I would want a surf system, based on having one for a few years on a previous boat. I'm a fan of the surf wave and convenience produced by gates...
...or as our MB Sports members here call them, "goose slappers."
So I wanted a permanent, automated surf system with matching fiberglass/gel coat. We absolutely love this boat and hope to keep it a long time. We even upgraded the tower to an all black G3 last summer.
Here's a picture of the completed project. It was a PIA but worth it in the end. The process and more pictures are below -- all for educational purposes of course. Made several mistakes along the way. Documented these as they occurred in a Shop Talk thread, but all-in-all I'm very happy. Came out looking as well as I could of asked, from a knucklehead like me. Kinda stealth.
We made a generalized guideline in Wake Garage's Shop Talk for surf devices here. (Not a definitive guide, so feel free to add to it to make it helpful for the next guy as well. All in the name of education)
But for this project, here's my writeup.
1) Automated controller system. I played with manual push-pole gates back in 2012, then upgraded to lencos using basic switches, and then upgraded to the Wake Logic controller (first testing prototype) that used GPS speeds to automate the process. Makes a difference. So I chose to use Wake Logic again, especially now that its had a few upgrades.
2) Lenco based actuators. I know Lencos will fail eventually, but I knew they worked well with the controller and they are easily accessible and inexpensive. Thought about hydraulic, but Lencos are easy.
3) Swim platform modification - Had to make a decision to either keep the stock platform, modify the stock platform, or replace the platform with a surf gate shaped platform from a newer boat. I ended up with the later.
4) The gates had to match the boat, in this case black or red gel coat, and give them a little shape. I was already pretty sure I wanted black... I like the stealthy look.
5) Make the entire system look stock. I wanted the system to look seamless, like it rolled off the factory floor this way.
I used the Wake Logic controller. I will do a write up on the controller, but here were the basics. As you may know Wake Logic is a standalone controller that activates the Lenco actuators to do a number of things, but obviously a surf system is a great application. It includes a GPS antenna, to know when the gates should deploy and retract, has a remote for wake to wake transfers while surfing, safety features and the ability to adjust the timing and settings to fine tune your system. More info is found on the Wake Garage resources page. I do not work for Wake Logic.
For the switches to power the controller on, and to select the surf side, I upgraded my stock stereo remote bracket to the version that has 2 open switch ports. For the power switch, I used a simple contura switch that matched the stock OEM dash switches. (left side) For the wake side switch, I settled on a new rotary style switch, also from the Carling contura family (right side). This is a momentary switch, turn it to one side or the other and it snaps back to position, it comes w/ optional LEDs, and fits right into the normal switch bank.
So far we like it... just turn the knob to the right for goofy wake, turn it to the left for regular. It's easy for the driver to switch wakes on the fly as well. The Wake Logic also has a remote control for the rider to use as an option from behind the boat.
EDIT: I UPGRADED THE SWITCHES WITH THE WAKE GARAGE SWITCHES (MADE BY CARLING) WITH THE CUSTOM COVERS FOR SURF POWER ON/OFF AND SURF SIDE ARROW. THIS IS USING THE WAKE LOGIC SYSTEM STILL. FOR THE DIY ARDUINO SOLUTION I WOULD KEEP SURF SIDE ARROW COVER BUT REPLACE THE SWITCH WITH NON MOMENTARY VERSION.
I had to decide between using the stock platform, modifying the stock platform, tucking the gates under the platform, or replacing the stock platform with a newer version. I chose the later, and found an opportunity to buy a brand new 2015 247 LSV platform that was shaped for surf gate.
To do this I also had to replace the swim platform brackets. The old ones did not fit, I wanted the platform to be raised about 3" from the stock location for surfing w/heavy ballast and to accommodate taller gates, and I wanted a low point for the trailer straps to hook to as an option.
New brackets from Malibu would cost over $500, and would not lift the platform. So I built my own out of stainless steel for about $200 or so, including tig welding and powder coating.
And here's the new one designed for 2015 LSV w/ Surf Gate. Looks great, but I do miss the bigger size of the 2007 platform:
Here's the new stainless brackets compared to the stock aluminum brackets. Pulled the SS material from the scrap bin, cut everything out with angle grinders, chop saw and drilled the holes, then took to a TIG welder. Once everything bolted up fine, I had them powder coated in satin black. They achieved everything I was after, including the 3" lift.
My first step was to pencil out the basic gate shapes. I learned before it doesn't have to be too specific. Personally I think too much is made out of specific angles and adjustments. I went around 13.5"-14" high x 18-19" long with a taper I started with simple card stock cutouts, masking taped to the hull so I could check them in the closed and open positions. Although you can adjust the length the Lenco extends them with the Wake Logic.... its much safer to design it so they open and close all the way every time so you never damage your hull, surf device or platform.
I decided to use a Coosa style composite board for the main substrate. This works well, has zero water absorption and cuts like butter with a simple skill saw, table saw or jig saw. I used 3/4" thick board as the primary substrate, and then fiberglassed / gel coated over the top.
Once I had a basic size for the gates, I threw on A LOT of masking tape to cover anything that could be scratched. The coosa board will scratch your gel coat as you hold it up to the boat to mark up your hinges, brackets etc. Plus, the masking tape makes it easy to mark your measurements with a sharpie.
Marked the brackets in the open and closed position before drilling any holes into the boat. It was easiest for me to have one Lenco all the way extended, and another all the way closed so you can know where it will rest in both positions, and make sure your brackets are in the right place.
Once I had the basic shape figured out, I later played with a few tweaks to better match the boat hull and gel coat lines. I like the simplicity of the hull with large sweeping curves in the colors and shape. Didn't want the gates to disrupt that design.
I found the first time that it's also a good idea to label your gates as you work on them. Can easily get confusing as to starboard/port, inside/outside, top and bottom, etc.
Then I used the following scientific method to formulate curves. I recommend Sierra Nevada (pale ale or summerfest). Plus with many of my projects, there's often one within reach.
Next was the reinforce the design with fiberglass. I used heavy roving cloth for the inside of the gates. Those that were following the progress of this project know I ran into a snag using low heat resin the first time which caused bubbles when left out in the sun, so I ended up sanding and re-glassing using vinyl ester resin. This has a much higher heat rating which is important for black gel coat items. Low heat resin can lead to delamination/bubbles.
Now for my 03 gates, I recessed the bolts so the face was clean. I liked how that came out so I did the same for these gates. Options were to insert a nut inset into the gate, or inset bolts into the gate, or even use a dress up plate on the outside with fasters. I used bolts, however I think the other would have been easier.
I then sanded the gates to the right shape, and used 3Ms premium filler/fairing putty to smooth the curves and edges and fill the large holes prior to fiberglassing over the substrate.
Next I glassed the front sides of these. I used a few layers of 3/4 oz matt for the outside because of the curves. Was hard to take pictures because I had gloves, resin and needed to work quickly in the Northern California heat before the resin would flash.
Fast forward, prior to gel coating and finishing, I decided to add an emblem. I designed a DXF file in Adobe Illustrator based on the Malibu logo with a curved border. Then grabbed a piece of stainless from one of the metal supply company's scrap bin and took it to my local fabrication shop, same place that did the TIG welding on the brackets. We cut out the emblem with the CNC and then tack welded a few bolts on the back side. It was not as precise as a laser, but came out pretty good for plasma cutter.
Shiny stainless looks great. But I wanted something darker. So I chose to run black on black, which means I'd powder coat the emblems in glossy black.
- Next step was to cut the inside logo. I used a dremel tool and traced the emblem from the front side, cutting out everything in the middle all the way through. I then cut out the back side about 1/4" deep to create space for the LED lights that I'd add later.
- Next step was to then stand the front, smooth it out with filler and prep for gel coat. I sanded it down to about 100-180 grit prior to shooting it with gel. You don't want to sand smoother prior to gel coat because you need to give the gel something to bite into.
I've done a little gel coat spraying before and I hate it, so I dreaded this part. I had a few problems at first, sanded and re-sprayed, and found a cool trick in the process. I bought a $15 paint spray gun from Harbor Freight (bought a few of them), then drilled out the nozzle with a 5/64” drill bit. This puts the nozzle right around 2mm, which works better for spraying the thick gel coat. Worked great! And if you accidentally allowed the gel coat to "kick" (harden) while its still in the gun, no problem. Toss it and get another $15 spray gun.
Here's the nozzle, drilled out.
I used the Spectrum Gel Coat, ordered online to match the 2007 Malibu black gel coat. Thinned with with about 10-15% styrene and sprayed it. This time it came out great. Since the pieces had so many curves and edges, I ended up giving it 3-4 layers because I knew it would be wetsanded quite a bit and I'm no expert. Was afraid I'd sand too far if I went thin.
To get the see-through center for the LEDs, I then filled the dremel logo cutout with clear surfboard resin, combined with a little milled glass to add strength. I started by fiberglassing the backside of the cutout. This resin went in blue, but dries clear.
After the backside inset was glassed over, I filled the center with the clear resin/glass mill mix from the front side using syringes. That way when it was wet sanded, it would be completely level. I added black gel to tint the top layer. This way it looks black until you turn the lights on.
I got a lot of advice of one of our Wake Garage members ( @jfthunder) throughout the fiberglassing and gel coat process. He also advised not to start wet sanding at anything lower than 600 for black gel coat to prevent seeing the tiny scratches. He was right. I used 600, 800, 1000, and 1500. They polished to a high shine.
Polished! Now we are getting somewhere.
Didn't stress on the lights since they were just for fun. For now, I went cheap on the lights, just cut up some pieces from a waterproof 5050 red LED strip I ordered for $9 on Amazon. Soldered pieces together, then sealed them with resin. Not sure how waterproof they really are... but with fiberglass resin sealed over them I'd think it will last a long time. Time will tell. Should be easy to replace down the line with something better.
Made some quick lids with fiberglass. Hacked 'em down a bit and then affixed the lights to the lid. I ended up having to use less lights than I planned for, because the strips weren't fitting into the cutout. This is because I didn't cut the back out big enough... but that's an easy fix for another day. I could redo these lids very quickly and inexpensively.
Quick test with alligator clips to the battery, lights held with tape at this point.
Hope this helps the next guy. This project made my boat better, I think.
I know the LEDs are not really functional... were just added for fun... But I took a few interesting pictures at the campsite this weekend. Wife and her friends were in the boat listening to music and having drinks and it was the first time I'd really seen the LEDs lit up from the shore. Kinda cool
Looks like a Malibu sunset
The previous owner added interior LEDs already, so I updated the speakers and these little guys.