What is Professional Waterskiing


Competitive Tournament Water Skiing consists of 3 events: Slalom, Trick and Jump.


In an attempt to become as agile as possible, slalom water skiers use only one ski with feet oriented forward, one in front of the other. Slalom skis are narrow and long, at 57–70 inches (145–178 cm) depending on the height and weight of the skier. The two forward-facing bindings vary: they can be made of rubber or thick plastic, and they can be designed more like a snow ski binding or more like a roller blade boot.

Slalom skiing involves a multi-buoy course that the skier must go around in order to complete the pass. A complete slalom water ski course consists of 26 buoys. There are entrance gates at the beginning and end of the course that the skier must go between, and there are 6 turn buoys that the skier must navigate around in a zigzag pattern. The remainder of the buoys are for the driver to ensure the boat goes straight down the center of the course. For a tournament to be sanctioned as ‘record capable’ by the International Waterski & Wakeboard Federation (IWWF), the entire course must be surveyed prior to competition by a land surveyor to ensure its accuracy. The drivers boat path must be verified as well to ensure that all skiers are getting a fair pull.

Every consecutive pass is harder than the pass before it. When a pass is completed, the boat is sped up by 3 kilometres per hour (2 mph) until the maximum speed has been reached for the division, based on the skier’s gender and age (55 kilometres per hour (34 mph) for women and 58 kilometres per hour (36 mph) for men). After the skier has run their maximum speed pass, the rope is shortened at specific increments to make it more difficult to reach the buoy width. In a tournament, the boat speeds up or the rope shortens until the skier fails to complete the slalom course by falling or missing a buoy.

A skier’s score is based upon the number of successful buoys cleared, the speed of the boat, and the length of the rope. In a tournament, skiers choose the starting boat speed and rope length (with a maximum length of 22.86 metres (75 ft)). Professional water skiers will typically start at the max speed of 58 kilometres per hour (36 mph) with a rope that has already been shortened to 13 metres (43 ft). The skier with the most buoys wins the competition.

The turn buoys are positioned 11.5 metres (38 ft) away from the center of the slalom course so as the rope is shortened beyond that the skiers are required to use the momentum generated through their turns to swing up on the side of the boat and reach out in order to get their ski around the next buoy. At this rope length the skier’s body is experiencing intense isometric contractions and extreme upper body torque with loads of up to 600 kg as they begin accelerating after rounding a turn buoy. Their top speeds will generally be more than double the boat’s speed, which means that the Pro men can reach speeds in excess of 116 kilometres per hour (72 mph) and each turn will generally generate around 4 g of force. Essentially, slalom water skiers are using their body as a lever, which allows them to withstand loads that would otherwise not be possible for the human body.


Water ski jumpers use two long skis to ride over a water ski jump in an attempt to travel the longest distance. In a tournament, skiers are given three attempts to hit the ramp. The winner is the skier who travels the farthest calculated distance and successfully rides away for at least 30 m (100 ft).There are no style points, simply distance.

Water ski jumps have specific dimensions and the ramp height is adjustable. Skiers may choose their boat speed and ramp height, although there are maximums based the skier’s gender and age. Professional ski jumpers have a maximum boat speed of 58 km/h (36 mph; 31 kn). The ramp height must be between 1.5 and 1.8 m (5 and 6 ft). As a professional jumper approaches the ramp they will zigzag behind the boat in a series of cuts to generate speed and angle. When the jumper hits the ramp they will generally be going over 112 kilometres per hour (70 mph) and the load they have generated on the rope can be over 600 kilograms (1,300 lb).


The Trick competition has been described as the most technical of the three classic water skiing events.

Trick skiing uses small, oval-shaped water skis. Beginners generally use two skis while more advanced skiers use one. The shorter, wider Trick ski has a front binding facing forward and a back binding facing at a 45°. It has a smooth bottom that allows it to turn over the surface of the water. According to official 2013 Tournament Rules for 3-event competition in the United States and the Pan-Am Games, skis used in the Tricks event must be a single ski without fins, although molded rails/grooves less than 6.4 mm (1⁄4 in) are allowed, as are a foot pad cemented to the ski as a place for the rear foot; in addition, the ski must float with all bindings, fins, etc., installed. The ski’s configuration allows the skier to perform both surface and air tricks in quick succession.

In a tournament, skiers are given two 20-second runs during which they perform a series of their chosen tricks. One pass is for hand tricks, which includes surface turns, rotations over the wake, and flips. The second pass is for toe tricks, which are done by doing wake turns and rotations with only a foot attaching them to the handle; the foot is either in the toehold part of the handle or, professionally, attached to the rope. A trick cannot be repeated. Each trick has a point value. A panel of five judges assesses which tricks were completed correctly and assigns that predetermined point value to each successfully completed trick. The skier with the most points wins.

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