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How Waterskiing Works

Types of Water Skis
Water-skier at sunset sending up a spray of water
Water-skier at sunset sending up a spray of water
Stockbyte/Getty Images

There are a couple of different types of skis to choose from.

Combination pairs are the most common and easiest skis to learn with. They have wider tips for better control. Slalom skis, used for skiing with one ski, are good for making sharp turns and going faster. Beginner slalom skis have wider tails and flat bottoms to make it easier to get up and stay straight. But intermediate and advanced skis feature tapered tails, beveled edges and a concave bottom. Although they're more difficult to use, once you get the hang of them, you'll go faster and make sharper turns. Trick skis are used for jumping, spinning and doing tricks (hence the name). They're short and wide with no fins. This makes them more difficult to control but easier to turn and slide. Jump skis are designed for jumping off ramps and are very long but light so that you can jump across large distances. When choosing skis, you should also consider the bindings, which should be made of gummed rubber or neoprene with adjustable hold-down straps and reinforcing pieces across the heel.

Next, you'll need to choose a rope. Look for the following characteristics:

  • Slightly elastic to provide some give as you change speeds
  • Length of 70 to 75 feet (21 to 23 meters)
  • Polypropylene composition, a material that can stretch 2 to 3 percent under a normal skiing load and absorb the shock of a wake
  • One-quarter-inch diamond braid polyethylene or polypropylene with a breaking strength of more than 800 pounds (362 kilograms)
  • Take-offs that allow for lengthening and shortening

Here are some things to keep in mind when choosing a handle:

  • Injection-molded rubber or plastic grip
  • Molded so that it floats
  • Diameter of 1 to 1.25 inches (2.54 to 3.17 centimeters), depending on your hand size
  • Length of 11 to 18 inches (28 to 45.7 centimeters), depending on your size

On the next two pages, we'll look at the many ways to waterski.