The Basics of Water Skiing

Alan Erickson
3 min readAug 4, 2022

Water skiing is a sport recognized by the Olympics, where a skier balances on a ski over a water surface while towing behind a fast-moving boat. Common water ski moves include planing, gliding, and jumping. Different age groups enjoy the sport for recreational and competitive purposes.

Water skiing takes place in the deep waters of different water bodies, including lakes, rivers, and oceans, as long as the water is calm. A participant may ski alone or with another skier as they hold hands. Each must have their ski or skis and cable.

The basic equipment for water skiing includes skis, bindings, gloves, a life jacket, tow rope, and a boat. Skis are the most critical equipment pieces, and one can wear a single ski, also called a water slalom ski, or two skis called combo skis. The water slalom ski is narrow at the back and wide at the front, allowing the skier to make swift turns or slow down. It is ideal for experienced skiers or when someone is perfecting their skills.

Combo skis are suited for all experience levels owing to their ease of use. However, skimming on the water slalom is more difficult than combo skis. Therefore, most beginners start with two skis and later progress to one ski. However, beginners may also use a shaped ski, similar to the slalom ski but wide enough to allow for stability.

Bindings are attachments on the skis that fasten to a skier’s feet. They keep a person’s feet secured to the ski and should be comfortable enough to ensure the individual stays upright all the time. Gloves help to give a firm grip on the tow rope in case it becomes slippery because of water.

All skiers should wear a life jacket, whether they are good swimmers. This ensures that one floats in the event they are unable to swim. Importantly, a life jacket should fit securely and allow the hands to move freely.

A tow rope connects the rider to the boat and should be flexible and elastic enough to handle high-speed shifts and turns. A typical tow rope is about 75 feet long and is made from plastics such as polypropylene and polyethylene, which make it float on water.

The boat is what gives the rider the required speed. It must have enough horsepower to reach speeds between 13 mph and over 100 mph. Such boats have no engines at the back to prevent catching the tow rope and injuring the rider. They also have flat bottoms to decrease the waves hitting the skier at the back.

A team of skiers heads to the water, and the skiing starts when it is deep enough. The rider may already have their skis or wear them in the water. They should lie on their back with skis facing upwards and hugging their knees to the chest.

They then receive the tow rope and place it between the legs. After giving a signal that they are ready, the driver starts to accelerate. Once the rope becomes taut, the rider pushes their legs forward while still leaning backward and starts moving upright until they stand up fully. The rider then begins to glide, plane, jump, and do other maneuvers.



Alan Erickson

A custom home builder in Austin, Texas, Alan Erickson has more than 30 years of experience in the construction sector.