Starcraft MDX 201 IO Surf Boat Test

May 14, 2019, by , under Powerboat Reviews

Yes, surfing is the hottest tow sport of the moment, but if there’s one complaint we hear, it’s about the high cost of entry—dedicated surf boats regularly cost six figures. With its MDX 201 IO Surf, Starcraft is looking to lower the pay it takes to play by combining a versatile deck boat with Volvo Penta’s Forward Drive. The drive is configured with the props forward so they pull the boat rather than push it, which means they are tucked safely under the transom. This allows Starcraft, with a few necessary add-ons, to make a surfable deck boat.

I had the opportunity to surf the wave behind this boat and, while it has a smaller sweet spot and doesn’t generate the same push as waves from a dedicated surf boat, it is rideable. The key, beyond the Forward Drive, is the added weight. With the surf package, Starcraft installs three ballast bags that fill with water to add as much as 1,385 pounds to the boat. Surf-oriented trim tabs form and shape the wake to the surfer’s desired side. Zero Off speed control, ­located on the dash, keeps the boat locked in at a constant preset surf speed.

Even with all this, we found that the bigger the crowd we brought on board, the better the wave became. Thankfully, entertaining large crowds is mission No. 1 aboard any deck boat. This 20-footer can hold up to 12 passengers, with seating wrapping around the cockpit and extending to the port side into the bow, which is wide-open due to the full beam being extended forward. Add the removable backrest to the portside seating to create a forward-facing lounge. Flip it over for a rear-facing backrest for spotter duty. The aft sun pad over the engine compartment makes for a great tanning bed—flip up the backrest for a staging area for a surf session.

After surfing, we ran the numbers and hit 30 mph in 7.8 seconds en route to a top speed of 42.2 mph. Handling was nimble while making hard-over turns at speed, and the added bite from the DuoProp propset made the boat very responsive while ­docking.

High Points

  • Folding wake tower offers elevated towrope attachment point.
  • Extended bow and stern platforms both include four-step boarding ladders.
  • Reversible, removable backrest creates a great lounge or spotter post.

Low Points

  • Wave is fine for weekend warriors, but may lack the push desired by advanced surfers.
  • Lacks grab handles for passengers in the aft cockpit.


Toughest Competitor
Chaparral’s 21 H20 Surf is a runabout with Volvo’s Forward Drive, which lists for $55,765 with the added surf options.

Price: $65,641 (as tested)

Available Power: Sterndrive

How We Tested
Engine: Volvo Penta V6-240-FWD
Drive/Prop: Forward Drive/K1 propset
Gear Ratio: 2.32:1
Fuel Load: 22 gal.
Crew Weight: 330 lb.

Starcraft Marine – New Paris, Indiana; 574-831-2950; starcraftmarine.com

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