In 1922 on a Minnesota lake, Ralph Samuelson took a pair of boards and a clothesline to use as a tow rope, and skied for the first time behind a boat driven by his brother Ben. That was the beginning of what has become the exciting sport of waterskiing. Over the years, improvements came and waterskis developed into formed pieces of wood with attachments for your feet that let you glide across the water. Advances continued, and waterski designs were refined. Skiers turned into performers who amazed crowds with their abilities to ride and perform tricks. Instead of wood, foam and fiberglass molds allowed the skis to be formed and fine tuned for better performance. Bindings were upgraded for comfort and better control. The world of waterskiing expanded into worldwide competitions including slalom courses, ski jumps, and trick skiing. Even with its expansion and popularity, waterskiing has never outgrown the simple serenity of being pulled by a boat on a sea of glass. It's still a wonderful way to connect families and friends, a great way to exercise, and a perfect way to leave technology behind and enjoy the water. Overton's is here to help you get started by providing you with a few basics to assist you in finding the right ski and equipment.
Deciding which waterski to buy can be difficult, especially if you're new to the sport or haven’t ridden in a while. There are new materials and designs that match up to many different riding styles, and the abundance of choices can be overwhelming. Ski manufacturing has progressed from simple wood skis with strap bindings to skis made with layers of foam and carbon fiber. Bindings are available that let you fine tune your stance and riding style while maintaining the comfort and support you need to keep you on the water all day. With so many choices, it's easy to get a little lost.
At Overton's we want you to be an informed shopper. We offer a wide selection of waterskis and accessories from top brands such as O'Brien, HO, Connelly, Radar, Gladiator, and more. As you browse our website, you'll find product information and videos to help you with your decision. We're also providing this guide to help you get started. And as always, you can call our expert technicians at 1-800-334-6541 to help with any questions you may have. Now let's begin our look at some of the different factors to consider when selecting your waterski.
When choosing the right waterski, it's important to consider who will be using the ski. Will it be used by a variety of family and friends or by just one skier? Will it be used by beginners or more experienced skiers? Will it be ridden by children or adults? The skier's weight and the boat's speed are other factors in determining not only which ski but what size of ski you need.
Trainer Waterskis: Trainer skis come in a couple of varieties. First for the young skier, there are inflatable trainers that allow a child to sit on an inflated seat until they're ready to stand and ski. This lets the child build some confidence before moving on to combo trainers.
Two-ski combo trainers are extra wide to provide more lift when starting out. These skis have a stabilizer bar attached between the skis to improve balance and distribute weight and tension evenly for a steadier ride. A two-handle rope system used with trainer skis is designed for the skier's rope to be attached to the stabilizer bar to prevent the child from being dragged underwater. The other end of the two-handle rope is held by a responsible adult on the boat. This allows the adult to control the child's ride and release the rope in case of a bad start or fall.
Junior Waterskis: Junior waterskis are designed for "tweeners" who are too big for trainers but too small for adult skis. They are similar in shape and design to adult skis, but are smaller in size and include a removable stabilizer bar that makes learning much easier. Like training wheels, the stabilizer bar can be removed once the rider learns how to deep water start. Most junior waterskis come with plastic fins for better tracking and adjustable bindings for growing feet.
Combo Waterskis: Perfect for family and friends, combo waterskis can be used by both beginners who are still working on their starts and more advanced skiers who are starting to slalom ski with only one ski. Combo waterskis come as a pair with adjustable bindings on each. One of the skis will also have a rear toe binding, so the skier can begin riding on two skis, then "drop" one of the skis and move his foot to the rear toe binding. These adjustable bindings are also useful for fitting a variety of skiers. Combo skis are usually a little wider at the tail with the bottom shaped for more control and stability.
Shaped Waterskis: Both combo skis and slalom skis are offered as "shaped" waterskis. Shaped skis have a much wider tip and tail designed to deliver easier starts and a stable ride. Shaped skis can be ridden by everyone, but they are especially beneficial for less experienced riders to help with deep water starts and to smooth out the ride. The extra width allows skiing at slower more manageable speeds. Since they're easier to ride, they're also a lot less tiring.
Slalom Waterskis: A slalom ski is a single waterski with two bindings. Depending on the construction, shape, and bottom design, slalom skis are designed for intermediate to advanced skiers that are looking for speed, performance, and cutting or turning ability. By adjusting design features like flex patterns, slalom ski performance can be tailored specifically to women. Advanced designs in slalom skis aid in acceleration, deceleration, and edge hold when circling buoys on a competition slalom course.
R.I.M. Construction: With Reaction Injection Molding (R.I.M.), reinforcement rods are placed into a mold, and fiberglass reinforced polyester material is injected into the mold to create the waterski shape. The skis are then finished with top skins made from differing materials. This is a more economical process that results in skis with more flex and durability. Fiberglass combo waterskis are usually manufactured this way as well as some low end slalom skis.
Compression Molded Construction: This more traditional process begins with a foam core that's wrapped with fiberglass and then finished with an epoxy resin surface for added strength. These skis are placed in a mold and a heated press is used to bond the layers together and create the desired shape. Compression molding allows specific flex characteristics to be designed into different areas of the ski, so it delivers better performance while also providing more durability.
High-End Slalom Ski Construction: Lighter, stiffer slalom skis are easier to turn and cut through the wake better. For competition-type slalom waterskis, manufacturers use different materials in the core in an effort to make the ski lighter and carbon fiber or graphite in the wrap to add stiffness. Carbon fiber has an inherent stiffness that causes it to return to its original shape quicker than other materials. So skis that are made with carbon fiber will "spring" into a turn, then "snap back" to acceleration shape at the finish of the turn, providing incredible performance.
Bottom Shape: A ski's riding characteristics are greatly influenced by the design or concave shape of the ski bottom, where the ski meets the water.
Beveled Edges: The shape of the edges on the bottom also contribute to the ski's stability. A ski with squared, sharp edges is stable and more predictable. If the edges or bevels are more round, the ski will sit deeper in the water for better control on turns.
Rocker: While the tunnel or concave is the shape from side-to-side, the rocker is the shape or curvature from the tip to tail of the waterski. The more rocker or curve in a ski, the easier it is to turn. However, this extra rocker also increases the amount of drag on the ski. Less rocker makes the ski faster and the ride more predictable.
Flex: Stiffness or flex makes a big difference in how a ski performs. The stiffer the waterski, the better it will slice through the wake and the quicker it will turn. The more flexible the ski, the easier it is to control and turn. The balance between stiffness and flex is important. A certain amount of flex is necessary to propel the ski when coming out of a turn. If a ski is too stiff, it becomes difficult to make those fast turns needed on a slalom course.
Fins: Fins and foils are attached under the tail of the waterski. Fins help keep the waterski tracking in the direction you want to go and keep it from sliding during turns.
The waterski binding holds your foot on top of the ski. Bindings are usually made of soft neoprene or other material that conforms to your foot. Some of the more advanced bindings are designed like boots for a closer, more supportive fit.
When choosing waterski bindings, whether separate from the ski or already installed on a ski, consider whether the bindings will be used by just one person or by several people. If it's a personal set of bindings, you should select them based on the individual's foot size. More advanced skiers will want an almost custom fit provided by a tight boot-style binding that only fits a narrow range of foot sizes. If the ski and bindings will be used by several people, you'll need the versatility of adjustable bindings. These bindings can be adjusted to fit a wider range of foot sizes; however the fit may not be as snug as with the boot-style.
Tight-fitting bindings help the skier to transfer their weight and pressure directly to the ski. The extra responsiveness in the binding helps control the ski and allows more precise turns. However, the extra tight fit also means the bindings will be more difficult to put on and harder to come off during a fall. Both feet will most likely need to already be in the bindings when making deep water starts.
Consider these three things when determining what length of waterski you need: the weight of the skier, the speed at which the skier skis, and the shape of the waterski. Generally, higher towing speeds are associated with smaller skis, while lower towing speeds require combo skis or longer, wider slalom skis. Also, note that ski length is less important for recreational skiers than it is for slalom skiers.
Shaped skis are wider and typically about 4" shorter than traditional slalom skis. Since only the lower range of boat speeds is recommended for shaped skis, sizing guidelines are less specific. For skiers under 175 lbs. a 61"-65" shaped ski is recommended. For skiers over 175 lbs. a 65"-67" shaped ski is recommended.
|Weight||26-30mph Boat Speed||30-34mph Boat Speed||34-36mph Boat Speed|
|Under 110 lbs.||61"-64"||61"-64"||61"-64"|
|Over 200 lbs.||70"-75"||68"-75"||68"-72"|
Overton's offers everything you need to enjoy the sport of waterskiing. Following are a few recommendations for you to consider when choosing the right gear.
The ski handle is one of the most important tools for waterskiing. The grip needs to be comfortable with enough texture or tackiness to provide a sure hand hold. The easier the handle is to grip, the less tired your hands will get after a few ski passes. Most handles have a strong aluminum core, and some are lightweight with enough buoyancy to float. A handle that floats is a big help in finding your ski rope after a spill. The ski rope or mainline is usually made of polyethylene or polypropylene that will stretch 2% to 3% under normal conditions. This elasticity is important as it helps absorb shock as the skier changes directions and cuts through the wake.
Standard ski ropes are 70' long and attach to the 5' bridle section of the handle for a total of 75'. Many ski ropes also include colored "take-off" sections or loops for shortening the mainline. If you want to shorten the rope and ski closer to the boat, attach the desired take-off loop over the pylon. These take-off loops are also used in slalom competitions to shorten the rope as competitors progress through the slalom course.
A good pair of ski gloves is essential for protecting your hands while skiing. Unwanted blisters can quickly ruin your day on the water. Most ski gloves are made of neoprene to provide the fit and flexibility your hands need to perform. Palms and fingers need to be made of durable material that enhances the grip on the handle. Top straps and wrist straps should provide a sure, long-lasting hold without having to continual adjust the fit.
Most of the dents and dings on your waterski will occur while traveling to and from the water or while it's in storage. Keeping your ski in a protective case could add years to its life. Most of our ski cases come with shoulder straps and handles that make transporting it much easier.
Unless you have a boat designed for towing skiers, you'll need to consider adding a waterski pylon or ski eye to your boat. Overton's offers a variety of towing accessories that are easy to install and can be disconnected and stowed away when you're not towing skiers.
Important for warning boaters that there's a skier in the water, skier down flags are required by law in many states and recommended for safe boating everywhere. Overton's offers a variety of skier down flags and flag holders for effectively displaying skier down warnings.
If you're building a slalom course or just replacing buoys, Overton's offers 9" inflatable slalom buoys as well as boat guide buoys and shock cord tie downs.
To enter the world of waterskiing is to open the door to a lifetime of enjoyable adventures. We want you to get the most from your time on the water and hope this discussion has helped in your search for the proper skis and equipment. If you need more information or help in any way, please contact us. You can call 1-800-334-6541, email us from our contact page, or use the Overton's Web Chat for live online help from our technicians. We'd love to hear about your on-water adventures and want to help in any way. We wish you the best season ever filled with memories that will last a lifetime.