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6 Items You Need to Start Waterskiing

Gear up for exciting tow sports action on the water.

6 Items Your Need for Waterskiing

This is it. The water ski bug has bitten hard, and you’re ready to jump into this exciting new world.

So, what’s next? You need to make sure you have all the right equipment, starting with the most important one of all.

1. The Tow Boat

Water ski tow boats are smaller vessels, roughly 18 to 25 feet, with sufficient engine power to pull skiers out of the water and maintain speed. That speed will depend on what you’re doing: less than 20 mph for a beginner or youth skier, 20 to 30 mph for a more experienced recreational slalom (single ski) skier and more than 30 mph for the competition pros.

Dedicated water ski boats typically feature a broad beam, deep-V hull and flat stern design, with a ski tower or tow bar for the tow rope. A fishing boat or pontoon boat certainly can pull a skier as well if it has enough power and you add a ski pole or other means to attach the tow rope.

To get a feel for how much horsepower you need, it’s best to consult a Mercury Authorized Dealer who’s familiar with your boat type. But in general, the more power you have, the more you’ll be able to do, and the more you can grow in your new sport.

2. Life Jacket

Not all life jackets are created equal. As a water skier, you need to wear a U.S. Coast Guard-approved life jacket that is designed specifically for watersports use. Check inside yours to make sure it is approved for this purpose.

If you do have an approved life jacket, make sure it fits correctly. It also should be comfortable, which will encourage you to wear it at all times – even when you’re a passenger on the tow boat. In a small, open boat on a beautiful summer day, it’s easy to get complacent.

3. Water Ski Rope and Handle

Watersports ropes aren’t created equal, either. Water ski ropes are usually 70 to 75 feet in length and stretch more than wakeboard ropes, which tend to be shorter for beginners and have virtually no stretch to ensure a consistent ride.

The stretch allows the ski rope to give a little – 1 to 3 percent of its standard length – when the skier crosses the wake. This serves as a shock absorber for your arms.

You’ll also want to choose a ski handle that:

  • is buoyant, so it is easy to find if dropped
  • is the right length and width, so it’s not too heavy or unwieldly
  • has a comfortable grip and bar diameter, so you don’t struggle to keep hold

Each water skier is different, and your handle should provide the right balance of comfort and control for you.

Water ski gloves are optional, but the right pair of gloves will protect your hands from chafing and scrapes and keep them warm if the water or weather is chilly.

4. Water Skis

Water skis come in a wide variety of shapes and sizes to accommodate every skier, from beginners to the experts. Most beginners start with combination skis, sold as a pair – one ski has a single binding and the other has two.

As you progress, this allows you to start on two skis, drop the one with the single binding, and then slip your free foot into the rear binding of the remaining ski. When you use this single ski to carve back and forth across the wakes, you’re slalom skiing.

Combo skis are wide in front with a large surface area, which makes them easier to control and more stable. Some even come with “trainer bars” that connect the skis, which increases stability. Think of them as training wheels for your skis.

Ski length will depend on your body weight and ability level. A beginner should choose a longer ski that is slower and more stable. It’s worth it to try several pairs, either borrowing or renting, to get a feel for what will work best for you.

Your water ski needs likely will change over time. More experienced skiers who can go faster and perform more maneuvers on the water will select shorter skis.

Leveling up your game might mean purchasing a dedicated slalom ski; shorter, wider trick skis; or long and light jump skis with tail fins designed to support your weight on the jump ramps.

5. Bindings

Standard adjustable bindings work well for most beginners. They’re easy and comfortable, and multiple people can use them. Eventually, however, you might want to pursue custom bindings with precise sizing and just the right amount of support for you.

6. Ski Flag

A final note: Don’t forget to bring a ski flag with you when you head out on the water. These are bright orange and a minimum of 12 by 12 inches. Whenever you have a skier in the water, even if that person is waiting to be towed or waiting for you to pick them up after their ride, display the flag clearly so it is visible from all directions.

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