How To Water Ski For The First Time

Nothing comes close to the feeling one feels the first time they successfully glide over a flat surface on a pair of skis, especially when it’s in the blue seas of somewhere hot. Water-skiing can be a tricky skill to master, but it is one that does not require a great deal of fitness. Even though you will feel fatigued after your first-time water-skiing, it is worth it for the thrills that you will experience. If you are interested in buying your own set of waters ski check out our article for best water skis for beginners. Here is our guide on how to water ski for the first time.

Safety first

The first, most important thing to address is safety. You will need to wear a Personal Floatation Device (PFD) whilst on the water, not only does it keep you safe, but it will also make putting on your skis in the water much easier. It should fit quite tightly and cover your chest, abdomen and back fully and be the correct buoyancy for you, depending on your weight.

Select the best tools for the job

The size and shape of the skis will vary depending on size and ability. The ski shape is very important, after all, these will be guiding you across the water and so it is imperative that you chose the correct type for a beginner. A type known as the base-concave underside should be an ideal shape for a beginner skier, since it is wider and more stable, resulting in more control over the waves. It may be a good idea to practice on dry land initially to get used to being on the skis and assuming the position. Additionally, a dedicated water-ski rope is essential. These have a little stretch which prevents whiplash on sharp turns and should be no longer than 23m from handle to boat.

Hand signals

With your equipment ready to go, it is very important that the boat driver can communicate with you from up to 23m away and therefore, these hand signals are used:

  • The skier signals a ‘thumbs up’ wishing to go faster.
  • The skier signals a ‘thumbs down’ wishing to go slower.
  • The skier signalling a thumb and forefinger (okay sign) means the rider is satisfied with the speed.
  • The skier waves a finger in the air in the direction they wish the driver to take.
  • The skier pats his/her head meaning they wish to return to the boat.
  • The skier or driver signals a slashing motion across their neck signals an immediate stop.
  • Upon falling off your skis, make a clasped fist above your head to indicate that you are uninjured.

The fun part

With these things covered, you are now ready to make your first attempt at water skiing. It is much easier to put your skis on in the water. Hold the back of the rubber shoe and slide your feet in before adjusting the straps to achieve a tight, comfortable fit. Ensure that despite a tight fit, the feet can be easily released from the skis in the event of a fall.

You should hold the rope handle firmly with two hands centrally, in line with your torso. Position yourself so that your knees are touching your chest with your arms, still holding the rope around them. You should now be in a position where you are holding the handle at arm’s length from your chest and the two skis will be close together, pointing out of the water but in a forward direction. The driver should shift the boat forwards a little to ensure that any slack in the rope is alleviated, preventing it from flying out of your hands as the boat sets off.

Once you are comfortable with your starting position, raise your hand and shout “hit it” to initiate boat acceleration. Try to maintain the starting posture as best you can as the boat begins to accelerate, keep your arms straight and lean back slightly as the boat lifts you out of the water and onto the skis. This is imperative as if your arms are bent or you stand up too quickly, you will lose the center of gravity and fall back in the drink. This may take a few tries but once you successfully get up onto the skis it is important to keep your knees slightly bent to maintain your balance when hitting waves. It can be hard to maintain your balance initially but if you stay persistent you will be gliding across the water in no time.

When you do fall in, it is important to avoid hitting yourself in the face with your skis, so be aware of their positioning. Additionally, remember to raise your fist above your head to inform the driver that you are okay and raring for a restart. Once you have learned how to exit the water from the initial position and ski in a straight line, the next step is to introduce some turns. This can be done by shifting your weight to the opposite side to the direction you want to turn, in other words, if you want to go left, apply pressure on the right ski and vice-versa.

Instructions for the boat driver

The boat driver should ensure that the engine is turned off when the skier climbs back onboard or when going to a skier who has fallen in the water. The driver should start the engine fast when the skier is ready to go in order to utilize the torque and pull the skier up onto the skis, the amount of torque required of course depends on the size and weight of the skier. It is essential that the skier is not pulled out of the water with too much speed because this could be dangerous. Upon lifting the skier onto their skis, a steady speed must be maintained, unless signalled otherwise by the skier of course. The speed guideline depicts the speed the boat should be travelling based on the size, weight and ability of the skier when moving in a straight direction. The boat speed will need to be adjusted when the skier is making turns. If the skier is on the inside of a turn, the boat should move faster, if on the outside of a turn, the boat should slow down.

  • Skier weighs less than 50 lbs: speed ~13mph
  • Skier weighs between 50-100 lbs: speed ~16mph
  • Skier weighs between 100-180 lbs: speed ~21mph
  • Skier weighs more than 180+ lbs: speed ~24mph

Growing with confidence

As you begin to gather confidence you may feel comfortable crossing the wake, this should be done at an acute angle. This should be done with both skis as quickly as possible, if you attempt this with just one you will certainly fall into the water. It is also important to lean back when you reach the other side of the wake since you will accelerate once you cross it.

If you put into practice the steps we have covered here, you will soon develop the skill to water-ski successfully and have a very enjoyable experience. It is very important to consider your safety at all times, therefore, it is essential that you wear a flotation device and adhere to the other safety practices that we have outlined. Get out there and enjoy the thrills that water-skiing has to offer!

As you build confidence on a pair of skis, the next level is using a mono-ski which can be a whole lot of fun but requires additional skill and patience to progress in ability.