Water skiing on the Yarra River in
is a sport
an individual (or more than one individual) is pulled behind a
or a cable ski installation
on a body of water. The
skier is either wearing one (slalom) or two (double) skis. The
surface area of the ski (or skis) keeps the person skimming on the
surface of the water allowing the skier to stand upright while
holding onto a tow rope.
A patent for a water ski was given to a constructor in Sweden
already in 1841, but whether it ever came into use is unclear. The
word water ski (Swedish: vattenskida) occurs in the encyclopedia
in 1921.The American Water Ski Association states
that water skiing began in 1922 when Ralph Samuelson used two boards as skis and
a clothesline as a tow rope on Lake Pepin in Lake City, Minnesota, the Guinness
Book of Records of 1974 also stated that a
Mr Storrey won a 'plank-gliding' event at a Regatta in Scarborough, North Yorkshire in
The sport remained a little-known
activity for several years. Samuelson began taking his "stunts" on the
road, performing shows from Michigan to Florida.
Numerous claims began to surface as to who was the first water
skier, but in 1966 the American Water Ski Association
Samuelson as the first on record. Samuelson has also been credited
as the first ski racer, first to go over a jump ramp, first to
ski and the first put on a water ski
show. Katherine Lomerson of Union Lake,
Michigan has been credited as the first woman to water ski,
Early water skis were first made of wood and skiers strapped them
onto their feet with rubber ski bindings. In the 1970s fiberglass
began being used in water ski construction. Modern waterskis are
commonly made of composite materials, including carbon fiber.
A water skier rising out of the
Water skiing usually begins with a "deep water start" or a dock
start. The skier crouches down in the water (knees bent, arms
straight, leaning back, imagine sitting in a chair), with the ski
tip(s) pointing up and the ski rope between the skis or, if using
one ski, on either side of the ski. With one ski (slalom), the rope
should be put on the left side if right foot leads, or the right
side if the left foot leads. When the skier is ready, the driver
accelerates the boat to pull the skier out of the water. The key to
getting up is patiently staying in the crouched position, arms
straight, and keeping balanced. The boat should do all the work,
creating enough force between it and the ski, to pull the skier out
of the water. Common mistakes are trying to stand up too early,
breaking at the waist, and bending the arms.
In addition to the driver and the skier, a third person known as
the spotter/observer must be present. The spotter's job is to watch
the skier, and inform the driver if the skier falls. Communication
between the skier and the occupants of the boat is done with hand
signals. It is the spotter's job to watch the skier's hand signals
and pass on the messages to the driver. Such signals include:
faster (thumb up), slower (thumb down), and stop (crossing the neck
with your hand, in a cutting motion).
Speeds and length of the rope will vary with skill and competition
Trick skiing is performed using one or two very short finless skis
rather than the conventional gear. In it, skiers try to perform
tricks somewhat similar to those of gymnasts while being pulled
along by the boat. On one trick ski, skiers do a variety of tricks.
There are surface tricks and wake tricks, and skiers hold onto the
tow rope in two ways. While the most common way is to use hands,
more advanced skiers can slide their back foot through the handle
and begin attempting tricks from this position. In competitions
skiers have two twenty second passes (only one in collegiate
waterskiing) in which they attempt to perform as many tricks as
they can. Advanced skiers usually perform one pass with their hands
and the other with their foot attached to the handle. They must
outline their expected routine on paper and give this to the judges
before the competition begins. These judges (Usually 3 to 5) watch
the skier from shore and award points for each completed trick.
These points are based on predetermined difficulty levels. The
winner of the competition is the person who accumulates the largest
number of points.
A slalom skier
In the context of water skiing, slalom means to use only one ski. A
special slalom ski is used which has either a toe plate, open
binding, or another binding (similar to the front binding) behind
the main binding. The bindings are oriented so that both feet point
forward, with one behind the other. Slalom skiing is considerably
more difficult, and so one usually learns on two skis before
switching to one. Once one is comfortable on two skis, learning to
slalom ski is accomplished by setting the binding loose on one ski
so that it may be dropped. Once the skier is out of the water, he
or she will step out of the loose ski and slip the foot into the
toe plate binding in the slalom ski.
For adept skiers, a single ski deep water start is preferred.
Balance, strength, and a relatively powerful boat motor are
required as there is significantly more drag. Slalom ski deep water
starts allow more advanced slalom skiers to use double boot wraps
bindings on their skis (if preferred, but not necessary).
Slalom skiing dramatically increases the speed and agility of the
water skier. Once the proper technique for edging across a wake and
into the turn is learned, slalom skiing becomes quite high speed
and thrilling. 
Tournament slalom skiing
In tournament slalom skiing, a course is set up with buoys and
consists of a set of entrance gates, six target buoys, which the
skier must ski around, and a set of exit gates.The six target buoys
are split up, so that there are three on each side of the wake and
are located at a distance of 37.5 feet from the center of the wake.
Sanctioned competitions require official drivers and approved
boats. Approved tournament boats are currently certain models of
, Malibu, and Moomba. The boat is
usually equipped with precision speed control, such as PerfectPass,
in order to minimize speed variations while running the course.
This is important not only to keep the speed constant, but to
ensure that the speed is the same for all competitors.
When skiing the course, the skier must make his/her way through the
entrance gates, zig-zag around the six target buoys (starting at
the right), and finally ski out the exit gates. After successfully
clearing the gates and all target buoys, the boat driver will
increase the speed by 2 mph. With each successful pass, the speed
is increased up to a maximum of 36 mph for men and 34.2 mph for
women. At this point, the rope length is shortened with each
The full length of the rope is 75 ft. In competition slalom skiing,
the rope length is referred to the amount taken "off" the full
length. For example, if the rope has been shortened to 37 feet, the
skier is said to be skiing at "38 off" (75-37=38). Most
professional competition events will start at 28 or 32 off 
. When skiing at 38 off, the rope length
is now shorter than the distance from the center of the boat to the
target buoys. The skier must then use his/her body to stretch out
around the target buoys. The skier continues to run the course
until he/she either misses the entrance gates, exit gates, or any
of the target buoys.
A skier's score is based upon the number of successful buoys
cleared and the length of the rope. For example if a skier is using
a 34 foot rope and successfully makes it around ball 3 but misses
ball 4, their score is 3 at 41 off. It is also possible to earn ¼
of a buoy and ½ of a buoy. If the skier skies all the way around
the third buoy but falls before making it back to the center of the
wake, he/she is awarded 2 and ½ buoys. The skier is only awarded
three full buoys if he/she skies around the third buoy and makes it
back to the center of the wake without falling. Once the skier
falls, their score is complete.
In competition slalom skiing, there are always three individuals in
the boat. They consist of: the driver, the judge, and a safety
coordinator. These three people all need to be sanctioned, having
been trained specifically in the desired area.
Currently, Chris Parrish (USA) holds the Men's World Record with 1
and 1/2 buoys at 43 off. Jamie Beauchesne (USA) holds the pro event
record of 2 at 43 off. Kristi Overton Johnson (USA), Karina Nowlan
(AUS), and Regina Jaquess (USA) co-hold the Women's World Record
with 1 buoy at 41 off.
Go to USA
for current standings.
Man made private ski lakes
Small bodies of water have been built for the purpose of
waterskiing. These lakes provide calm water and safty of the skier
by allowing only one boat/skier on the lake at a time. The typical
size is 2000 ft x 300 ft, with a depth between 4 and 10 feet. Water
provided via well onsite, or rain. Boats used are of the tournament
style. Users of the lake are lot/home owners on the lake, or ski
right leasers. Most competition skiing is now on private
The ski jump is performed on two long skis similar to those a
beginner uses, with a specialized tailfin that is somewhat shorter
and much wider (so it will support the weight of the skier when he
is on the jump ramp.) Skiers towed behind a boat at fixed speed,
then the skier can make either a single, 3/4, or double cut in
order to maximize his/her speed into the ramp thus giving them a
longer jump. Professional ski jumpers can travel up to 250 feet and
hit the ramp at speeds up to 70mph. The skier must successfully
land and retain control of the ski rope to be awarded the distance.
In show skiing most people don't go for distance but for tricks
such as a gainer (backflip). Water ski jump teams can involve
multiple people on the jump ramp and if they are good enough they
can perform difficult tricks, such as a twisted pinwheel (one skier
performs a gainer, another performs a frontflip, and a third
performs a heli).
Water ski racing consists of a number of water skiers who race
around a set course, as done in Formula
One Grand Prix motor
. This is the fastest type of water skiing. 
A Water Ski Racing team consists of a boat driver, an observer and
one or two skiers. The driver will tow the skier behind a
powerboat, varying the speed as different water conditions are
encountered, according to the driver's knowledge of the skier, the
observer's ability to read the skier and the signals which the
skier gives to the driver. A "race ski" is normally between 7'0 and
8'0 in length with 2 full boot bindings.
The length of the ski line will depend on the length & power of
boat you are skiing behind, the water conditions and the kind of
speed you anticipate racing at on that particular day. The aim is
for the skier to be skiing on the "best water" there is behind the
boat, whilst avoiding the line dipping into the water or becoming
slack. Ski racers use the "wrapped" position, which involves the
skier using two handles which go around each side of the body, to
be held together with one hand at the top of the backside. The
skier sits into this harness and reaches forward with the other
hand, to hold a third handle or rope knot, positioned at arms
length away. This technique transfers the strain from the arms and
lower back, to the upper legs. It was first used in competition by
an Australian named Terry Bennett
and it enabled him to endure higher
speeds for greater periods of time.
Water ski races vary in their format. World title style racing is
over a 2.5klm circuit and skiers race for a given period of time
plus a lap. Juniors (U16 boys and girls) race for 1/2 an hour ,
Women (F1 & F2) race for 3/4 of an hour and Men (F1 & F2)
race for an hour.
Actual course racing is how the great races of the world are run.
The Bridge to Bridge on the Hawkesbury River in Australia, The
Southern 80 on the Murray river at Echuca in Australia, Catalina
Island on the ocean between Long Beach and Catalina Island off the
Californian coast in the USA and the Giro del Lario on Lake Como in
Italy are all run this way. The exception is the Diamond race which
is held on the Albert Canal in Viersel, Belgium which is run in a
similar fashion to the World format. There are other fantastic
races in the world but these 5 are without a doubt the premium
The skier has to be physically fit enough to compete successfully
in his or her category. Observers need excellent concentration and
will relay signals from the skier to the driver, "read" the skier
in order to optimise his/her performance and keep the driver
informed of other boats and skiers which may be approaching or
close by. The driver will take the team around the course,
listening to the observer and using his own judgment on speed a
line of direction.
These events take place on rivers, lakes, canals and open sea
water.The IWSF World Water Ski Racing Championships began in 1979
when the inaugural event was held in Great Britain. Held every two
years, the event grew to accommodate Junior Boys and Junior Girls
categories in 1995 and then the Formula 2 category for both Men and
Women in 2003.
Competitive show skiing by amateur ski clubs has been around for
many decades, with its highest popularity in the Midwest,
especially Wisconsin. A water ski show usually involves an
entertaining theme, announcer(s)/characters, music, multiple boats,
and a variety of acts including jumping, swiveling, ballet line,
barefooting, doubles, wakeboarding, and the popular pyramids
(barefoot and conventional).
Individual awards are given to the top male and top female skiers
of the tournament each yeat. The Skip Gilkerson Award is given to
the most valuable male skier in the tournament. Bob Hartmann of The
Wonder Lake Water Ski Show Team, Paul O'Conner of The Mad-City Ski
Team and Dave Rezin of The Rock Aqua Jays are the three 2 time skip
gilkerson award winners. Paul O'Conner is the current 2009 Skip
Gilkerson Award Winner. The Willa Cook award is given to the most
valuable female skier in the tournament. Kristen Heilman of The
Mad-City Ski Team and Cathy Luiting of The Rock Aqua Jays are two 2
In a tournament, teams have one hour to perform their show, as well
as 20 minutes to set up and 10 minutes to tear down. A panel of
judges decide the outcome scoring each act on difficulty, flow,
execution and specator appeal. Also scored are sound/announcing,
boat driving, safety-boat driving, dock and equipment, showmanship,
and the overall show as a whole. See USA Waterski
for more detailed information.
Rock Aqua Jays Water Ski Team of
Wisconsin are one of the most successful amateur water ski
clubs, with 15 national titles to their credit; they originated the
National Show Ski championships, which are frequently held in
Junior teams, like regular teams, focus
on building teamwork and showmanship skills, the only difference is
that they do not compete.
Mad-City Water Ski Team of Madison, Wisconsin have become a modern day show ski dynasty.
Mad-City traces their roots to a 1970s era powerhouse, The Capital
City Ski Team. "Cap City" was established in 1963, also in Madison.
Mad-City has won both the Wisconsin State and National Show Ski
championships in 2004, 2006, 2007, 2008, and 2009 becoming the
first team in history to win 8 straight championships. Lead by show
director Matt Heilman and Skip Gilkerson Award winner Paul
O'Connor, Mad-City has become the team to beat, winning the 2009
National Championships by 277.58 points, the largest margin in
recent history. See a history of Show Skiing results to the present
Water skiers have their own unique terms such as:"Take me for a
rip:"Take me for a pull""Give me a tow""I want to go for a rip 'n
ride"& "Hit It"