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Water Ski

Waterskiing is one of the oldest and still most fun water sports. It is very easy to do as beginners use two skis to stand up, and more advances users go slalom (on one ski). Waterskiing is also one of the best body exercises available as it works most of your muscles; legs, upper body, abdomen...etc

Below is a terrific introductory article where you can learn the basics and how to get started. You can help grow our learning community by contributing your knowledge to the article. Just click on the edit tab in the wiki article below.

Use the white subtabs above to navigate the other Waterskiing resources. We have a Waterskiing forum where you can get your questions & doubts answered, a page with Waterskiing how-to videos, a page with the best handpicked links to other sites, and a page with the best Waterskiing books and products.

Good Luck and Have Fun!
Duncan Davis



The basic idea of water skiing is simple; it involves a skier being pulled across the surface of the water on skis. To accomplish this you’ll need to understand the physics and safety measures to be successful.

Despite the fact there is some minor disagreement of when water skiing was started; the sport is recognized all across the world. This hobby may be a more suitable option for those who live near a water way that allows skiing. Additionally, some of the cost involved in beginning the sport may give certain individuals a bit of hesitation for starting.

It should be noted that instructors who teach the sport often have most if not all the equipment you need. This makes practicing and getting involved in the hobby a much easier process.

Of couse the is one other style of water skiing that doesn’t involve skis. This form is called barefooting or barefoot water skiing. The principles of this form remain similar to traditional water skiing. A second section will follow after the conclusion to cover this area of the sport.


Trick skiing

Waterski pyramidTrick skiing is a type of water skiing where skiers try to perform tricks somewhat similar to those of gymnasts while being pulled along by the boat.


Slalom skiing

In the context of water skiing, slalom means to use only one ski. A special slalom ski is used which has two plates, a front boot and either a toe plate, open binding, or another binding (similar to the front binding) behind the main one. The bindings are oriented so that both feet point forward, with one behind the other. Slalom skiing dramatically increases the speed and agility of the water skier.


Tournament slalom skiing

In tournament slalom skiing, a course is set up with buoys and water skiers are expected to navigate through and around the obstacles using only one ski. Sanctioned competitions require official drivers and approved boats. A skier`s score is based upon the number of successful buoys cleared and the length of the rope.


Ski jump

The ski jump is performed on two long skis and skiers are towed behind a boat at fixed speed, using a ramp. Professional ski jumpers can travel up to 250 feet (76 m) and hit the ramp at speeds up to 70 mph.


Ski racing

Water ski racing consists of a number of water skiers who race around a set course.

A team consists of a boat driver, an observer and one to two skiers. The driver will tow the skier behind a powerboat, varying the speed as different conditions are encountered, according to the driver`s knowledge of the skier, the observer`s ability to read the skier and the signals which the skier gives to the driver.


Unlike some hobbies, the environment in which you practice can be a danger. This is why a number of safety measures are suggested to all those who ski. There are no exceptions to this advice.

First, make sure that you wear a coast guard approved floatation device. Many life jackets feature adjustable straps. However, this life saving equipment has specific sizes. Make sure the life jacket you wear is made for you and your body type. If you aren’t sure how to make sure, the sales representative where life jackets are purchased can help you.

Second, make sure the captain of the boat is experienced. Nothing will jeopardize your safety more than someone who doesn’t know what they are doing. This is especially true when they are dragging a person behind their vehicle.

Third, make sure you ski in a safe area of the water. This means that you should ski near docks or other boats. You should also make sure the water way isn’t shallow or filled with a lot of other obstacles like floating logs.

Fourth, make sure the only part of your body that is connected to the handle is your hands. Never wrap the rope around any part of your equipment or body.

Fifth, make sure the spotter and you know all the most appropriate hand signals.

Sixth, if you feel like you’re going to fall you can do so in one of two ways. Either you can fall backwards or to the side. Don’t fall forward. Your life jacket can work more effectively if you fall back or to the side because of their design. If you fall forward you could potentially inhale, swallow, and/or impair yourself with the water in your face.


Hand signals

There are five basic hand signals that should be agreed upon before beginning any type of water skiing. These signals should be conveyed with the hands since vocal signals can either get drown out by the motor or misunderstood.

The easiest signals to point out are the start and stop commands. You can’t ski if no one goes anywhere. Because the position water skiers have to hold, fatigue will demand that you eventually stop.

The next basic commands to work out are speed up and slow down. The boat doesn’t need to feel comfortable on the water but you do. Once you’re out on the water it may take a bit of time to adjust yourself where you feel most comfortable. By having these hand signals, you can make this process for everyone involved.

The last basic command is danger. Any number of things can go wrong when you are out on the water. If you feel something wrong you must tell someone as soon as possible.

More advanced and specific signals can be worked out depending on your level of proficiency. These additional signals can help in more advanced maneuvers like jumping and sharp turns.

The Basics

Once all safety issues have been addressed, you can begin learning the basics of water skiing. For starters, it’s good to know everyone involved. This includes you, the skier, a spotter and a driver.

The average length of the tow rope should be 75 feet in length. Make sure that the rope, handle, ski bindings, and life jacket are in good working condition.

Before entering the water you may want to practice on land to get your form right. This is primarily advice for beginners.

Start by keeping a straight posture. This means your head is up, your back is straight, and arms are in front of you in a fairly straight but relaxed position.

Your knees and ankles will be slightly bent. This will not only give you control on how you list from side to side, but also act as a shock absorber when dealing with things like a wake.

Once you have your stance, hold the handle on the tow rope. Then have someone pull on the rope. This should get you used to the motion you’ll experience when you’re in the water. When you feel comfortable with this position you can move to the deep water start.

Deep Water Start

When you’re in the water, return to the position you were when on land. Your head should be up and knees should be bent. When you’re ready you can inform those on the boat to take out the slack.

To take out the slack the boat will slowly move forward to make the rope taught. If they fail to do so, the result would be similar to a whip being cracked. Except in this case, you’re at the end of the whip.

Once this is done, you can let those in the boat that you’re ready to start. At this point, the boat will pick up enough speed enabling you to stand on the water.

When attempting to stand make sure you don’t draw your arms towards your body. This will only serve to unbalance you and make you fall. Also, make sure not to look at the water. This too will throw off your balance making you lean forward.

Once up, your knees and ankles should remain slightly bent. Put most of your weight on the balls of your feet. This will allow you to control how you follow the boat and deal with the rough spots on the water.

If you have trouble getting to the surface of the water, it may be due to the wrong type of skis. For water skiing you can go one of two ways when choosing skis. Wider skis have more surface area making it easier to get on top of the water. They make an excellent choice for beginners. The other style of skis is narrow. These are ideal for making turns quickly. They are more responsive so they make an excellent choice for the more advanced skier.

It is also a good idea to test a wide variety of skis if you are able. Like any product, people will find they prefer one brand over another. It’s also important that there are types of skis for different styles of water skiing. The slalom ski is a single board with two bindings. A training set of skis might be tied. This prevents the skier from doing the splits and helps the novice skier to advance to the standing stage more easily. As always ask the store representative if you can’t figure out which skis you need.

Riding the Wake

For many sports, tricks are taught only to advanced members. In water skiing one trick is more essential and is often taught to novice skiers. This involves crossing the boat’s wake.

The wake of a boat is where there is a visible disturbance in the water from where the boat passed. Since there is a disturbance here crossing over it can be a bit challenging.

The reason why this trick is so important is because you need to turn the boat at some point. In these turns it’s virtually impossible to avoid crossing the boat’s wake. In fact, it is easier to stay upright if you do cross the boat’s wake when turning.

The act of turning will change the force at which the boat pulls the rope. This change is impossible to avoid especially in smaller water ways like a lake or river.

14 to 20 miles per hour speed is needed to maintain you on the water’s surface. In a turn the inside curve will drop the force at which the boat pulls you significantly. Therefore, they suggest you ride the outside wake which only loses a fraction of the pulling force.

To ride a wake is relatively simple. Since your knees act as shock absorbers, you will be doing most of the work there. A wake is nothing more than a rough patch of water and should be treated as such. By compensating for the turbulence you’ll be able to ride the wake. This technique may take a little practice, but it is the most basic and most fundamental trick you’ll need to know. Otherwise, you’ll have to fall into the water every time the boat needs to turn around.

What You Need

Water skiing requires a skier, a spotter and a boat driver. The boat needs to provide enough speed to allow you to get up on the water. Also, make sure your water way allows water skiing. If it doesn’t then it is probably not safe.

A 75 foot tow rope and handle are needed. Water skis for the skier are a must and everyone should have Coast Guard approved life jackets.

Wet suits are only required if the area in which you are skiing is cold. Water skiing gloves may also be required in similar conditions. For beginners a wet suit or swim suit may be the only required equipment asked for by instructors.

The ability to swim is highly recommended but not entirely necessary. Most of your contact with the water will be handled by either your life jacket or the skis.

Additional equipment like goggles can be decided on a person to person basis. If you have other gear you feel you need, it’s best to consult the boat driver who should be one of the most experienced people there.

Waterskiing Conclusion

Water skiing is a fun activity for those of all ages. Both young and old can find the challenge of the sport as an enjoyable hobby. However, there are a few exceptions and things you need to look out for when attempting this sport.

The strength of your body can play a crucial role in the sport. Mostly it will determine your stamina and how long you can do the sport. Your balance is another important area that you can’t ignore. If you have problems standing on land, water skiing might not be the best choice for you.

Aside from these minor things to be aware of, water skiing is open to all people. Even those with disabilities can find ways to effectively accomplish the sport. It also should be noted that this sport can be advanced in either an entertaining manner or competitive level.

Unlike many sports there is no compulsion to advance in the sport. Thousands of people are happy to learn the most basic skills of water skiing and nothing more. For these people it’s all about the recreational value of the hobby. So as a hobby this makes a wonderful no pressure environment to learn which often makes the best activity to pursue.


Barefoot skiing is water skiing behind a motorboat without the use of water skis, commonly referred to as "barefooting". Barefooting requires the skier to travel at higher speeds than conventional water skiing (30-45mph).

For many barefoot water skiing is the next evolution for the professional water skier. Your feet operate as a much smaller ski which is preferred by experts. In addition, the padded wet suit is a must for this sport which means it may not be any cheaper because it doesn’t need skis.

Being a relatively newer form of water skiing there are a lot more possibilities for growth. As seen in the history, much of this form of the sport has been discovered by accident. It may still be a sport enjoyed by people of all ages, but it is still one for the pros.