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A bow rider is a kind of runabout boat typically between 17' and 30', use stern drive or outboard engines, and hold between six and ten people. To distinguish it from a cuddy boat, it has an open bow area where there are extra seats in front of the helm station. This term can be confused with bow riding, a dangerous and often illegal activity involving sitting or standing on the bow itself while the boat is underway. They are well suited for many recreational water sports such as tubing, water skiing, and swimming, however a Center Console or Walkaround type boat is more practical for fishing. Bow riders are well suited for lakes and inland water. In heavy seas the open bow and lower gunwales may cause the boat to take on more water into the bilge. A bow rider or bowrider is a type of boat which has a seating area in the bow, the forward part of the ship.
Bow riders are generally designed for recreational use such as day cruising or water skiing, and they come in a variety of styles from luxurious to basic. Several manufacturers of boats produce bow riders, in both mass production and custom models for their clients, and such boats are often available for rental at facilities which offer boats for rent to people who do not maintain their own watercraft. On a bow rider, the area in front of the helm can be used for seating or lounging. Protective rails designed to prevent falls are installed, along with seats which may include seat belts, depending on the boat design. A flat deck is designed with a nonslip surface so that people can walk comfortably, and some bow riders have enough space for people to stretch out and lie down, with people using the area as a sun pad. This type of runabout boat is powered by a variety of types of engine, depending on the size of the boat and the style.
Some are designed to go quite fast, while others are intended to be used for more casual cruising. The design is most well suited to inland waterways and calm lakes, not the open ocean. Like other runabouts, a bow rider lacks accommodations such as sleeping spaces, a galley, and a bathroom, since it is intended for short day use only. Sitting in the bow area can be enjoyable because it allows people to catch a breeze and enjoy some of the spray kicked up by the progress of the boat. The view from a bow rider is also excellent, as passengers can look straight ahead without any obstructions. A more luxuriously outfitted boat can include padded seating, small wet bars, and other features which are designed to enhance passenger comfort and enjoyment.