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Woman water skiing behind a boat

What to Look for When Buying Water Skis

Did you recently try water skiing for the first time? If so, you probably fell in love with it.

It's an incredibly exciting sport, yet relaxing at the same time. Water skiing gets you outdoors in some of the most beautiful natural environments and provides many of the health and mental benefits of being in water.

But if you are ready to spend your days on the water, it's time to buy water skis of your own, rather than borrowing or renting some that aren't perfect for you.

Water skis come in many different styles and sizes, and there are a few factors to consider before going out and buying water skis on impulse. If you want to ensure you get the best water skis, then keep reading below to find out what to look for when choosing water skis.

Types of Water Skis

First off, it's important to note that there are different types of water skis. These allow for a wide range of riders to enjoy the water in different ways. Here are the main types of water skis you'll come across.

Combo Skis

Combo skis are the most popular for beginner skiers. They are also the most versatile, as they allow for different types of riding as you progress in your abilities.

They come as a pair, allowing you to use two skis at the beginning. Using two skis makes it easier to get up on the water and stay up longer, thanks to the added stability and balance. 

But the benefit of combo skis is that one will come with a second, rear binding. This lets those who are comfortable on skis ditch the second ski and ride on just one. 

Depending on the skier's abilities, they can begin the ride with just one ski, or they can start with two, and let go of one after getting up on the water. Those looking to progress in their skiing abilities should focus on building key muscles both on and off the water. 

Slalom Water Skis

Slalom skis are sold as a single ski that contains two bindings. The larger binding in front, and a smaller toe binding in the rear.

The front of the ski is the widest section, while the ear, or tail of the ski, is narrow. The narrow tail allows advanced riders to decelerate and turn quickly, which is vital for slalom-style riding.

These are considered the best skis for experienced riders looking for the most thrill and challenge.

Shaped Water Skis

Shaped skis are similar to slalom skis, but are more accommodating. Sold as a single ski with two bindings, these skis are much wider than slalom skis.

The extra width makes it easier to get up on the water and stay balanced. Shaped skis, otherwise known as mid-skis, are perfect for riders who are comfortable on two skis and are wanting to learn how to ride on a single ski. They are generally used at slower speeds as a learning tool.

Kids Water Skis

Kids' skis are obviously smaller, to match the height and weight of youth. But that's not the only difference from adult water skis.

They generally contain a retainer, which attaches the two skis at the front. This is either a rope or a bar. It keeps the skis the perfect distance apart and makes it much easier for kids to learn how to get up and stay up on the water.

The retainer should be removable, allowing the child to continue using the same skis as they progress and no longer need the tether.

Ski Size

Choosing the right ski length is important, though not critical for beginners. The length of the ski is primarily determined by the weight of the rider. So if you weigh between 155 and 180 pounds, for example, you'll want skis between 66 and 72 inches long.

The speed at which you plan to ride also factors in. At faster speeds, you'll generally want shorter skis.

And the type of riding and skis you are using also matter. Shaped skis, because they are wider than slalom skis, are shorter than slalom skis. 

Ski Materials

All skis are made with high-density polyurethane foam at the core of the ski. The outer material is either fiberglass or a combination of carbon and graphite.

Fiberglass skis are generally more affordable and are thus used in many beginner ski models. Those looking for a more durable, longer-lasting ski may opt for carbon and graphite skis, which are more expensive.

Ski Construction

How skis are made will determine the level of performance you are looking for. Here are some key features regarding the shape and performance of your skis.

Ski Shape

Two main types of ski shapes should be considered; a narrow tunnel and edge-to-edge concave. A narrow tunnel has flat edges to make riding wake and rougher water more forgiving and predictable.

A ski with edge-to-edge concave is designed for slalom style riding, giving you more control when making sharp turns. 


Skis are also curved from the nose to the tail. The amount of curve is known as "rocker." More rocker makes it easier to turn, while less rocker lets you go faster.


The flexibility of your skis will also determine performance. The stiffer the ski, the faster you can go and the easier it is to stay up on the water.

A flexible ski is easier to turn, allowing for more control, but is less stable. 

Binding Selection

Ski bindings are the connection point between your feet and your skis. They allow you to control the skis, stay balanced, and maneuver.

Bindings on beginner skis are generally adjustable. This allows the skis to be used by different people with different-sized feet. This works great for multiple children sharing skis, or those using rented gear.

If you're ready to take your ski game to the next level, you'll want custom-fit bindings, perfectly sized for your feet. The tighter the fit, the more control you'll have. But they won't allow others to ride your skis unless they have the exact same foot size. 

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