Water skiing is a sport where an individual (or more than one individual) is pulled behind a motor boat or a cable ski installation on a body of water wearing one or more 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 the tow rope.
A patent for a water ski was given to a constructor in Sweden already in 1841, but whether it ever came to use is unclear. The word water ski (Swedish: vattenskida) occurs in the dictionary Nordisk Familjebok 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 sport remained a little-known activity for several years. Samuelson began taking his "stunts" on the road, performing shows from Michigan
. Numerous claims began to surface as to who was the first water skier, but in 1966
the American Water Ski Association
formally acknowledged 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 slalom
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, in 1924
Water skiing usually begins with a "deep water start." The skier crouches down in the water (knees bent/arms straight), with the ski tips pointing up and the ski rope between the skis. When the skier is ready, the driver gives the boat the required amount of force to pull the skier out of the water.
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 also the spotter's job to watch the skier's hand signals and pass on the messages to the driver.
For example: Thumbs up means go faster, Thumbs down means slow down.
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.
In the context of water skiing, slalom means to use only one ski instead of two. A special slalom ski is used which has an optional extra binding behind the main binding. Usually one ski in a pair is equipped to be used as a slalom ski. Learning it can be a time consuming process; you must be an experienced and balanced water skier. 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 extra binding in the slalom ski. It is possible to do a deep water slalom start, just like a deep water start on two skis, but it requires a considerable amount of strength and a powerful boat. Nevertheless, an experienced skier with the right technique can successfully start in deep water using a boat with as little as 40hp. Often this is done by initially placing only the forward (usually right) foot in the ski and dragging the other foot for balance, until atop the water, then securing the off foot into the back binding. It is also possible to jump off of a jetty by having the back binding foot placed out of the binding and using it to push off the jetty when the rope is taut.
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 (balls), 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 Correct Craft
, Malibu, and Moomba. The boat is usually equipped with precision speed control 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, 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. At this point, the rope length is shortened with each successful pass. The full length of the rope is 75 ft. In competition 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). 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 referred to as the number of successful balls (target 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 to the outside of the third buoy, for instance, but falls before turning the ski inward around the other side of the buoy, then he/she is awarded 2 and ¼ buoys. 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. Currently, Chris Parrish holds the Men's World Record with 1 and 1/2 buoys at 43 off. Kristi Overton Johnson holds the Women's World Record with 1 buoy at 41 off.
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 racing
. 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. Novices who have not progressed onto a mono ski, can race on a pair, although it is far easier to compete on a single ski, once learned. 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 nowadays 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 can take place over a set distance or a period of time and can range from a few minutes to over one hour in duration. Skiers start at the same time, in waves, or at intervals ranging from 15 to 60 seconds.
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. One such event held at Echuca on the Murray River, Australia is the Southern 80 The 2007 race was won by a boat called Stinga which completed the course in 19:27.43 minutes, reaching speeds of up to 154.241 km/h and beating last year's winner, Hellbent, by 25 seconds. Another Famous ski race in Australia is the Bridge to Bridge on the Hawkesbury River, Skiers and boats typically average 160 km/h over the 112 kilometer course.
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. 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 involves the difficulty, crowd appeal, flow, and execution of each act. 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. The Rock Aqua Jays
Water Ski Team of Janesville, 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 Janesville.
Junior teams, like regular teams, focus on building teamwork and showmanship skills, the only difference is that they don't compete.