Water skiing is a sport that consists of planing over a body of water using one or two skis while being pulled by a boat or cable installation.
This sport was invented by Ralph Samuelson in 1922 in Lake Pepin, Lake City, Minnesota. Back then, he utilized a pair of boards as skis and a clothesline as his tow rope. It took him several days to figure out different positions but eventually discovered that leaning backwards with the ski tips poking out of the water and facing upward was the key technique.
Although, water skiing remained rather unknown for several years until Samuelson started performing water ski shows and was acknowledged by the American Water Ski Association as the first recorded water skier in history, in 1966. The sport then gained international attention and has developed over the years. Tournaments and competitions started being organized. It was even included in the 1972 Olympics.
Water skiing provides multiple health benefits and is popular among people of different ages.
It is about maintaining a proper stance to stay above the water. In snowboarding or slalom water skiing, just as in wakeboarding, there are two ways to arrange your feet on the slalom ski or board. Most water skiers find it more comfortable to have their dominant foot in the rear binding and their non-dominant foot forward.
How to water ski?
Before getting in the water
It is a standard practice for beginners to demonstrate the right body postures on land.
- Set in a seated position by keeping your knees together at chest level.
- Once comfortable, your friend or instructor will hold the other end of the rope and you will grab onto the handle with both hands and your knuckles facing upward (this position is called the knuckles up grip). Your arms should be on the outer side of your legs.
- Once ready, ask your friend or instructor to gradually pull as if you were being pulled by a boat. Let this motion raise you to the next position which is:
- Keep your arms firm and straight.
- Your knees should be bent.
- Raise your shoulders.
- Strengthen your arms.
- Focus straight ahead.
Practice several times until you are confident with transitioning from the cannonball to the chair position on land.
Deep Water Start
- While submerged in water, set in a cannonball position.
- Let your skis float in front of you while the rope is dangling between the two boards.
- Once ready, signal the driver to start the boat.
- As you are slowly pulled out of the water, transition into a chair position.
- Let the boat do the work for you.
- Do not tug on the handle with your arm and force yourself up, otherwise, you will lose your balance.
- Stand on a dock or dry ground and get dragged into the water by the boat.
- You should be close to the water surface to get a better stance.
- You do not have to start into a cannonball position. Instead, you can stand with your back straight or sit on the dock as the boat reels you in.
- Pay attention to how far the rope has already stretched out, and then keep your arms partially bent inwards so you can absorb the initial shock of the pull.
While water skiing
- Stay in the chair position.
- Once comfortable, align your hips underneath your shoulders.
- Keep your arms straight with your ankles and knees bent.
- Look straight ahead.
- Put a bit of downward force on the handle.
- Do not pull yourself forward with the rope.
- Do not straighten your knees.
This method consists of water skiing using only one board. You should only engage in slalom skiing if you are confident enough riding on combo skis.
To do so, place your non-dominant foot forward into the binding and your dominant foot at the back or at the rear toe plate to be able to control directionality and balance.
If you are a beginner, use the knuckles up grip to hold the handle, and once you are confident, progress into the basketball grip.
The basketball grip consists of placing your hand on the same side as your dominant foot facing down while the other hand is facing upward.
Which foot should be forward for water skiing?
Most people have their left foot forward and their right foot is in the rear binding.
- Regular Stance
As the name suggests, it is the most common stance. When holding a regular stance, your right foot is at the back, in the rear binding, and your left foot is forward.
- Goofy Stance
Some water skiers, on the other hand, are more comfortable having their left foot in the back and their right foot forward.
How do I know which foot should be forward?
If you are not sure whether your right or left foot should go forward in your slalom water ski binding, there are five tests you can do to find out.
- Falling Test
- Stand with your feet together.
- Close your eyes.
- Ask a friend or your instructor to gently push you forward from behind.
- As you catch your balance, whichever foot naturally reaches forward is the foot you should put in the forward of the slalom water ski binding.
- Pants Test
- When inserting your foot in a pair of pants, the first foot you inset should go forward on the slalom ski.
- Demo Test
- Demo on a slalom ski and try both left and right feet in the rear binding.
- If you turn more comfortably with your right foot, it should be on the rear binding, and the left foot should be forward.
- On the other hand, if you turn more comfortably with your left foot, then your right foot should be forward.
- Stairs Test
- Stand motionless at the bottom of the stairs.
- Tell someone to say “go” unexpectedly.
- The first foot you lift is your dominant foot, which should go in the rear binding on the water ski while the non-dominant should go forward.
- Ski Lift Test
- This test is conducted if the instructor suggests it.
- Start on combo skis.
- Lift one ski about 6-12 inches above the water for about 2-6 seconds, with your ankle flexed up to avoid catching the water.
- Alternate between your left and right ski for 2-6 minutes with the handle at hip level and without pulling.
- Keep your chin up.
- After these steps, you can definitely decide on which foot is easier to balance. That foot should be forward on a slalom ski.
Is it possible to water ski barefoot?
Water skiing barefoot is more extreme, but it is possible depending on the equipment used. It is for instance especially possible with a “barefoot boom.”
A barefoot boom is used for learning barefoot water skiing. It is a long pole that hangs over the edge of the boat and will allow you to ski barefoot directly alongside the boat. A barefoot skier will be able to lean their body weight onto the pole and recover from falls easily because the boom is fixed.
For training, shoe skis can also be used. These are small skis placed on the feet that are only a few inches wider and longer than the skiers’ foot. However, shoe skiing is performed at a slower speed than barefoot skiing because of the increased lift, which is provided by the surface of the ski.
Reminders when water skiing:
- Observe proper safety code.
- Do not ski after sunset.
- Wear proper safety gear.
- Check your equipment before heading out on the water.
- Memorize water skiing hand signals.
- Practice until you are confident before doing tricks.