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Man water skiing behind a boat

How to Water Ski: Tips for Beginners

Water skiing has evolved into a beloved pastime since its first appearance a century ago. This popular water sport is a fun way to challenge yourself physically and enjoy an adrenaline rush. 

As in all sports, you must have the appropriate equipment and understand the right methods to avoid an injury and to get the most out of the experience. Learn how to water ski the right way by following the advice in this guide. 

How to Get Up On Water Skis and Stay Up

No matter if your goal is to learn to water ski to spend more leisure time with family and friends or you want to become an expert, the beginning steps are the same. The most difficult aspect of water skiing is getting started in deep water. Once you learn to let the boat do the work, you’re better off. Another is understanding the types of water skis and when to use them. 

Learning to water ski starts before you even enter the water. It’s a good idea to practice your stance on land so you feel comfortable. The correct stance, the chair position, has you bend your knees with your arms held straight out in front of you and your chin lifted up so you have a clear sightline. 

Now You’re Ready to Get in the Water

  1. Start out by resting in the water with your arms extended in front of you, holding on to the tow rope with your knuckles up. Keep your knees bent and together. Make sure the tips of both skis are out of the water. 
  2. Allow the boat to pull you up until you’re out of the water. Stay in a crouched position. 
  3. Straighten your legs, keeping your knees slightly bent, once you’re up. Lean back slightly and let the boat do the work. 
  4. Communicate with the boat operator using pre-determined hand signals. Stay at a comfortable speed to suit your skill level and progress from them. Usually start between 24mph-28 mph depending on your comfort level.
  5. Turn by taking your weight off the foot closest to the direction you want to go. Turn right by slightly bending your left knee and keeping your weight on the right foot while leaning slightly to the right. 
  6. Bend your knees deeper to absorb the shock of traveling across the boat’s wake. 

Practice on two skis until you’re comfortable, then if you wish you can transition to slalom skiing by dropping one of your skis. 

Gear Needed to Water Ski

The right gear makes a big difference in your success. First, you need access to a power boat that reaches 90 horsepower or more to have enough torque to pull a skier up and out of the water. Smaller boats are ideal, as they can make sharp turns but also have a minimal wake, you do not want a big wake while water skiing. Other essential equipment includes:

Life vest: Choose the type suited for your skill level. CGA life vests are suitable for all skill levels and are more buoyant, helping beginner water skiers get up easier, whereas impact life vests are better suited for experienced water skiers for comfort, ease and maneuverability. You can wear an impact vest to water ski as long as you have a CGA vest on your boat.

Water skis: The best water skis for you depends on your weight, skill level, boat speed, and the kind of water skiing you prefer. The right length of a ski makes it easier to get up and stay up on the water and longer skis provide greater stability. A skier weighing between 60 and 100 pounds normally requires skis 59 to 63 inches long. 66 inches is a good size for a 160-pound skier, while someone over 210 pounds needs skis about 72 inches long. Check the size charts of each ski or give us a call before purchasing if you have a question about sizing or right in between sizes. 

Tow Rope: Choose one that is around 65 feet, durable, and easy to see. A rope with a deep-V handle is best for beginners, it helps stabilize your ski from swaying right and left when you are trying to get up.

Wetsuit: This is optional but great if you’re skiing in cool water.  

Water skiing gloves: Another optional piece of equipment. They help to improve your grip while protecting your hands. Waterski handles are rubber opposed to softer materials as you see if wakeboarding and wakesurfing ropes. 

Remember to stay hydrated and don’t forget the sunscreen! While not specific to water skiing, proper sun protection is essential for all outdoor activities. Find a quality product suited for use in the water, and remember to reapply it periodically throughout the day. 

Water Skiing Tips for Beginners

Just because you’re new to water skiing, doesn’t mean you can’t have a great time. These helpful tips will make the experience more enjoyable while setting you up for success. 

Optional to Start with Combo Skis

It’s tempting to want to jump ahead to the speed, course and advanced practices of water skiing, but first, you need to get comfortable with the basics like controlling two skis, getting out of the water, and staying up. Give yourself time to adjust to the feeling of getting towed and skimming across the water before you start to increase the level of difficulty. 

Connect Your Skis for Better Control

Beginners may want to use a trainer bar. This connects your water skis and keeps them in line, making it easier to control and avoid doing an accidental split. This option is better for younger adults or kids who do not have the strength to keep the skis together, while most adults do not have this issue.

Master the Technique

Let the boat pull you up. One of the main mistakes beginners make is trying to pull themselves out of the water. Don’t struggle unnecessarily. Let the boat do the work for you. 

Stay in a chair position while the boat pulls you up to help keep your balance. Remember to bend your knees and keep your arms extended straight out in front of you while gripping the tow rope.

Pick a Focal Point

Looking around at the objects flashing by while you’re speeding across the water can make you feel off balance. Instead, keep your eyes affixed to a chosen spot on the boat. 

Learn Slalom Skiing by Dropping A Ski

If you want to learn slalom skiing, a great way to get started is by starting out on two skis, with the water ski bindings loosened on one. Once you’re out of the water and comfortably balanced, drop the loose ski and practice balancing on one. If you are going to start Slalom Skiing, start with a wider ski meaning the tip and tail of the ski is wider than the more advanced skis. 

Choose the Right Tow Rope

Long ropes are best for beginners. They help you stay balanced and keep to the correct stance. You can switch to a short rope after you get comfortable with deep water starts and progress to a more intermediate to advanced level. 

Safety Precautions to Follow When Water Skiing

Whether your chosen water sport is water skiing, wakeboarding, or wakesurfing, you must follow safety precautions while out on the boat and in the water. These are for your safety and the safety of the rest of your group. 

Plan Your Route in Advance

Communicate with the boat captain so you both understand where you’ll go once you’re in the water. Keep your distance from other boats, skiers, docks, and swimming areas. Also, discuss how you’ll get picked up and reboard after a fall. Setting expectations beforehand is key to a safe experience. 

Learn Hand Signals

When you’re water skiing, the people on the boat are too far away to hear you. Some basic hand signals ensure you can communicate with the driver and stay safe:

  • Thumbs up: Speed up.
  • Thumbs down: Slow down.
  • Okay sign: All is okay, or you understand a signal.
  • Hands clasped overhead: Signals the skier is okay after a fall. 
  • Flat hand making a slashing motion over the neck: Stop or turn off the motor.
  • Raised hand, point finger in the air and make a circular motion, then point: Turn the boat in indicated direction.
  • Pat your head: Go back to the dock.
  • After a fall: Lift a ski out of the water to stay visible to your boat and others on the water. You can also wave your arms. 

Make sure everyone on your boat understands the meaning of each hand signal. 

Assign an Observer to Watch the Skier

Assign the task of keeping an eye on the water skier to a specific person. The driver and other group members should also stay vigilant, but giving this job to someone ensures there’s always eyes on the skier to watch for hand signals and keep the boat operator informed of falls or the need to make adjustments. 

Water skiing is a fun-filled activity for everyone, but comes with certain risks. The most common water skiing injuries are strains and sprains, particularly to the legs. Practicing good form and following safety recommendations can help you avoid injuries and incidents and keep the adventure going. 

Shop Wakesports Unlimited to Gear Up for an Amazing Water Skiing Experience

Everyone loves water skiing, making it a perfect group event for spending hours on the boat. Whether you plan a bonding day with friends or take the family out to show the next generation the joy of water skiing, you’re sure to make some lasting memories. 

Make your day on the water perfect by shopping our collection of water skis and other essentials, or check out our water ski packages. If you have any questions about equipment or have any concerns, don’t hesitate to contact us to speak with a team member. We can’t wait to get you outfitted and ready to experience the fun and excitement of water skiing!

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