The inside on GILFLITE

From the perspective of a customer

Story by David Bennett – long time friend and business associate

The Inside on Gilflite

As an enthusiastic skier, 40 years ago I researched water ski boats extensively and decided to purchase my first new boat:  “The Boat of the Year” – A Gilflite Spitfire.

This began a long association with David Gill and Gilflite Boats.

I know a little about water skiing, having skied for 50 years, performed in over 50 ski shows, taught blind and wheelchair bound individuals to ski (here and in the USA) and taught over 1000 people on doubles – ranging in age from 18 months to 75 years. (The 5 state barefoot titles that have been won along the way are no real claim to fame in Tasmania where competitive bare-footing is very small.)

However, having owned 4 new Gilflite boats (and put an average of 1000 hours on each one) and after spending days in the Gilflite factory,  I can tell you what they are like to own, a bit about how they are built, and I can give you some insight into the workings of the mind of David Gill.

When it comes to designing and manufacturing ski boats: The man has experience.

He initially designed and built race boats, and then raised 6 girls around the family sport of water skiing. He knows what’s needed in a high performance craft which can also function as a family ski boat.

Every Gilflite boat has been designed to satisfy the skier who wants to push the envelope. David’s experience with hulls enables him to fine tune hulls and adjust the moulds to provide the required handling and wash for the end user. I recall him showing me a new asymmetric hull where the port strake was 15 mm shorter than the starboard strake “because we found the engine dropped 100 revs on left hand turns compared to right hand turns because of the direction of the prop rotation and I wanted to correct that”.

The man is fussy.

Providing room and comfort for every member of the family is important.

I remember David moving grab rails lower on the transom after he actually put his wife in the water to measure how high up she could reach when climbing in. “Kids and small women can’t reach a grab rail if it’s too high”

He also designed a driver’s seat which adjusts to raise up as well as come forward. Unless you have a super clean screen and there’s never any glare, looking over the screen is much safer. “Wives and girlfriends often need this height adjustment to safely see over the windscreen”

Speaking of windscreen ….it’s supposed to screen the wind!

Have a drive in many boats and you feel like you have your head out the window of your car. Even on boats with big screens, your vision is often compromised by windscreen joints and mirrors which can deflect wind onto the observer.

The wind in your face might be fine on a super hot day but even then, it starts to get tiring after a time.

Whilst every boat will take a wave over the nose under extreme circumstances, Gilflite boats handle oncoming boat wash exceptionally well. Drivers and passengers do not need to be continually stressed about taking a wave over the front.

Gilflite boats have never been the cheapest.

David Gill has always been committed to producing a quality product. I have personally seen him instruct his factory workers to put in extra fibreglass here, or a strengthener there, to ensure the hulls retain their quality look and appearance , long after the purchase price has been forgotten.

These extras don’t show up on the show room floor but, like selecting better quality seat material and carpet, they ensure the boat doesn’t develop cracks or premature worn patches and retains that show room look for years.

The trend towards synthetic bearers has been resisted at Gilflite. Treated timber remains the material of choice after actual on-water testing showed timber bearers act as sound deadeners resulting in a more pleasant ride for all concerned.

David draws on the skill of a graphic artist to ensure the colours and graphics compliment the lines of the boat, ensuring the boats don’t date and still “look good” for years.

I have seen David design new boats and he never does what’s easy. There is never a flat surface on a Gilflite; instead, every surface is shaped to match the overall lines of the boat. Watching David design and then construct a custom made engine cover recently was amazing as he continually refined the mould to ensure it not only looked good but it retained as much interior room in the boat as possible. I remember years ago how, with clever design, he produced a new 19 foot boat which actually had as much interior space as the average 21ft craft.

Designing is a strength of David Gill.

The Gilflite history web pages list many of his innovations, but near the top of this list might be the ski training boom.

I have watched many boat owners (including several owners of exceptionally expensive craft in the USA) struggle with ski booms which are heavy, awkward and often require two people to install.

When a boom is needed in a Gilflite it can be retrieved in seconds from under the nose, installed by one person whilst on the water and with one click, can be temporarily folded to allow for docking on a pontoon or pier.

 Out on the water, using the Gilflite boom, a 10 year old can achieve in seconds what it takes two men 5 minutes to do on the land with some booms.

This attention to detail and ease of use means few ski boats actually work better or hold their value longer than a Gilflite. This might explain why so many owners are reluctant to part with them.

Having skied with a wide variety of ski boats, both in Australia and in the USA, when all factors are considered, I would not swap my Gilflite Shortline for any boat I have seen anywhere.

David Bennett

Gallery: Ski Antics

BELOW: New Engine Cover by GILFLITE to suit latest model 6.2 litre Mercruiser – up to 350 HP (designed and handcrafted by David Gill for my Shortline during our recent engine upgrade)

BELOW: New Shortline Build