Boat Test: 2023 Sea Ray SLX 260 Surf
Several years in, it’s safe to say that wakesurfing is one of the most engaging watersports that people enjoy on the water. The thing is, most people want to enjoy it as part of their boating experience, not as their only experience, so they’re not looking for a dedicated surfboat. Boat companies looking to accommodate that crowd have sought to build recreational boats propelled by jets or forward-facing drives to make them safe to surf behind. The catch-22, as we have learned, is that many “surfable” runabouts do not produce a wave strong enough for a weekend warrior to surf easily. Sea Ray’s new SLX 260 Surf, however, delivers on that promise. During testing, expert rider Cody Prizer discovered that the SLX 260 Surf produced a strong wave with a pocket that extends far behind the boat, so surfers of all ability levels can enjoy it.
How did Sea Ray achieve this in a traditional luxury bowrider? It starts with swapping out the Mercury Bravo Three for a forward-facing Bravo Four S drive. Otherwise known as a tractor drive, the forward-facing contra-rotating propellers pull the boat through the water rather than pushing it like a regular sterndrive. This setup moves the props 26 inches forward of the transom under the boat, safely tucking them out of reach of any surfers or swimmers working around the swim platform. Sea Ray also incorporated an 1,800-pound ballast system completely under the deck rather than in stowage lockers, as you’ll see in some converted runabouts. Add in the customized Wakeworx surf tabs that help shape the wave on either the port or starboard side.
Interior and Accessories
The dual 9-inch Simrad multifunction displays at the helm feature an integrated watersports interface, allowing you to fill or empty the ballast tanks with one touch, easily control the surf tabs, and employ preset launch profiles for beginners to advanced riders. Not limited to surfing, the interface also features modes for wakeboarding, skiing and tubing. Sea Ray also uses C-Zone switching, which acts as the nerve center for all ship systems, so everything is right at your fingertips.
The standard watersports tower provides a great tow point for surfing and wakeboarding, and easily accommodates the optional Fusion speakers and adjustable board racks. Electrically actuated, the tower can quickly lower for trailering or passing under low bridges.
If you’re reading this review, odds are you’re interested in not just the surf features but also all the amenities that make the SLX 260 Surf a luxury bowrider. You’ll find them everywhere, from the spacious and comfortable seating laid out from stem to stern to the seat cushions that lift on gas-assist struts to reveal finished stowage compartments. The standard Fusion stereo system pumps great sound for your tunes. The removable teak tables let you create conversation pits in the bow and stern. The SeaDek flooring on the cockpit sole and extended swim platform is super-comfortable underfoot. The changing room in the port console can be upgraded with a VacuFlush head ($2,446), and the optional electric windlass ($5,277 with the anchor bundle) makes anchoring at the local sandbar an effortless affair. The transom sun pad is a great spot for staging watersports or just catching some rays at anchor. There’s a built-in cooler under one of the sun-pad cushions and a Fusion stereo remote close at hand. The large stowage compartment to port can hold all your fenders and even some of your watersports gear.
The spacious swim platform features a manual flip-down swim step, making it super-easy to get in and out of the water, whether you’re finishing a surf session or taking a dip on a hot summer day. As noted, the forward drive keeps the props safely tucked under the hull, so there’s no risk of slicing a toe, even when the engine is shut off.
Traditional runabouts with forward-facing drives are becoming more common on the water, so you might also consider the Cobalt R6 Surf, another luxury bowrider, which starts at around $210,483 with a 350 hp Volvo Penta Forward Drive. Another option is the Regal LS6 Surf, which starts at $166,870 with the 350 hp Volvo Penta Forward Drive and many standard amenities.
As far as performance, the SLX 260 Surf reached a respectable 43.8 mph on test day, and its deep-V hull, which tapers to a 21-degree deadrise at the transom, helps the boat handle any rough lake chop with nary a slam nor a shudder. The boat exhibited crisp handling in hard-over turns at speed, and the contra-rotating props kept the boat from slipping or blowing out. Because the props are farther forward, the boat’s pivot point is also farther forward than an outboard or sterndrive boat, which improves handling at slow and planing speeds. We climbed onto plane in under 5 seconds and hit 30 mph in under 10 seconds, both solid performance numbers.
All in all, the Sea Ray SLX 260 Surf is a boat designed to fulfill many missions on the water, from catching rays or waves and almost everything in between.
How We Tested
- Engine: 350 hp MerCruiser 6.2L ECT V-8
- Drive/Prop: Bravo Four S/24″ contra-rotating stainless-steel propset
- Gear Ratio: 2.20:1 Fuel Load: 75 gal. Water on Board: 0 gal. Crew Weight: 750 lb.
- Contra-rotating props and the farther-forward thrust point of the Bravo Four S help give the boat excellent low-speed handling in close quarters.
- Port console seat rotates fully aft to create a great spotter seat for watersports or keep an eye on swimmers when at anchor.
- Standard electric watersports tower easily raises and lowers with the push of a button.
- Port console changing room/head lacks a window or vent to allow fresh air to circulate.
- Although the wave is impressive by recreational bowrider standards, it cannot match the professional-level quality of a dedicated surfboat.
Pricing and Specs
|Price:||$258,125 (as tested)|
|Seat/Weight Capacity:||12/1,750 lb.|
|Transom Deadrise:||21 degrees|
|Fuel Capacity:||75 gal.|
|Available Power:||350 hp MerCruiser 6.2L ECT|
Speed, Efficiency, Operation
Sea Ray Boats – Knoxville, Tennessee; searay.com