Supra’s approach is to include just about everything as standard in its watersports boats. Its series of highly specified models are built in Knoxville, Tennessee, and imported by Australian distributor Ride Australia, based in Nowra, NSW. Operated by brothers Josh and Justin Sanders, the business has been involved with Supra since the start of the century, having built the boats under licence until 2008 and with Josh competing in the USA Pro Wakeboard Tour for some 12 years.
Supra Boats is a long-established company that’s still privately owned after 40 years. It supplies the official tow boat for the USA Pro Wakeboard Tour and is a sponsor of the Pro Wakesurf Tour.
In a nutshell, these are top-of-the-line watersports boats that are designed with higher-than-usual topsides to make them capable of handling open waters, such as on Sydney Harbour and Port Phillip Bay. As an example of their versatility, one customer uses his Supra on Jervis Bay, NSW, to go dolphin watching.
Our 22.7ft (6.9m) Supra SA550 World Series was loaded with features and facilities and priced at $199,850. Other Supra models start around the $150,000 mark. These are top dollars for a watersports boat, but the value is there if you examine the details – and there appears to be no shortage of customers who recognise that value.
The SA550’s format is typical of watersports boats, with a large bowrider area and a very spacious main cockpit. Triple plates across the transom automatically deploy when accelerating from rest, giving a smooth and swift lift onto the plane with minimal bow rise, making it comfortable for everyone aboard and saving fuel in the process. Once on the plane, the plates auto retract to the preset positions, which can be set to suit skiers, wakeboarders or wakesurfers.
The central Supra Smart plate can be manually adjusted when cruising to control the ride angle, while the outer Supra Swell Surf 2.0 plates can switch a surfing wave from one side to the other in 1.8 seconds. All three plates can be set (and the settings saved) to create the wave and wake pattern favoured by riders and surfers.
Similarly, triple onboard ballast tanks fill or empty to preset or manually adjusted levels. Even the driver’s seat can be preset to adjust to a required height by an electric motor, while also featuring fore/aft and swivel movement and a flip-up bolster.
A lift-up panel on the port seating forms a backrest to relax and watch the action astern, while the seating across the back of the cockpit is surprisingly convertible – it can slide forward and pivot over to form a table with drinkholders, while another section can hinge up to form another aft-facing seat for two to observe the fun at the end of the tow rope.
The cockpit seating has storage below in finely finished areas, with an Igloo cooler to starboard. Across the back of the SA550 is a sunlounge over a central engine bay and sizeable side storage lockers.
The helm has an excellent dash layout with a central colour touchscreen flanked by circular analog gauges. To the left is a tacho with inset fuel gauge and to the right is a speedo with inset trim gauge for the Smart plate. The touchscreen is crisp and easily read, with a myriad of displays available, including a Navionics GPS/plotter; it’s more intuitive than most and quickly becomes a familiar source of information.
The steering wheel is comparatively small in diameter and offers smooth and light steering with the convenience of inset buttons to control the stereo and surf wake, as well as the screen for the transom camera. Twin indicator-style stalks project from either side, so the driver can operate the controls without taking their hands off the wheel. The left stalk adjusts the angle of the Smart plate and the right adjusts speed when using cruise control.
Overhead is a stylish and strong tower with an effective Z5 Cargo Rack with bimini shade, which pivots on a counter-balance to easily stow boards or skis.
The engine is a masterpiece. It’s a 6.2lt Indmar Ford Raptor V8 that has been supercharged by specialist performance company Roush to deliver 575hp through the V-drive transmission into a four-blade, 15 by 15.75in (diameter by pitch) bronze prop. That much power (or, more appropriately, that much torque) gives superb performance in every way, with effortless acceleration and cruising, all the pulling grunt a rider could want and smooth, linear control for the driver.
On test day, the conditions didn’t allow us to try the wakes, but enough evidence is available to confirm the Supra is top-drawer in any of these watersports. A test ride would prove it to those wanting to check for themselves.
The sheer quality and comfort of the SA550 is clearly evident and, in terms of driving, is outstanding. The ride was soft and dry through wakes and washes, with those high topsides giving an extra sense of security. The Supra planed neatly at 2700rpm and 17.4 knots (32km/h) while mid-range cruising spanned 3500rpm for 26 knots (48km/h) to 4500rpm and 34 knots (63km/h). Top speed was at 5400rpm and 40 knots (74km/h). The controls are a delight to use and the potency of the Roush supercharged V8 is bound to thrill even the most conservative of skippers.
It’s the total package that impresses most, though. An example of Supra’s superior build is the way the SA550 turns. Josh suggested we try full lock at full speed so, in a fairly narrow section of the Hawkesbury River, we thundered near one bank and gave it a go. All my instincts from decades of driving fast boats shouted “back off!”, but the Supra calmly replied “why?” and promptly hauled around like a jet boat on steroids, with the g-force of a centrifuge acceleration test facility. The boat banked only slightly in the ultra-tight turn and behaved impeccably. One wouldn’t normally come anywhere close to that in real-world driving, but it did demonstrate how well the design – and the integration of all aspects of that design – has been implemented by Supra.
There’s much more to appreciate about the Supra SA550 so, if you’re looking for a high-end towsports boat, go check one out at your nearest dealer.
Weight (towing): 3000kg (approx)
Capacity: 16 persons
Fuel capacity: 246lt
Power (as tested): 575hp/429kW Indmar Raptor Ford V8 Roushsupercharged 6.2lt
Supra Boats priced from: $150,000
Price as tested: $199,850
More information: Supra Boats, tel: (02) 4422 4477. Web: SupraBoats.com.au.
Or: TR MarineWorld, tel: (02) 4577 3522. Web: TRmarine.com.au.