Choosing the Right Set of Waterskis

September 24, 2015
Choosing the Right Set of Waterskis

It can be intimidating buying your first set of waterskis: there are so many different types, it can be hard to know just what set is right for you and your level of ability.

We’ve pulled together some basic info about waterskis to help you make an informed decision when purchasing your brand new set of waterskis online.

Types of Waterskis

Different forms of waterskiing use different types of skis. Most beginners start out on a pair of combination skis as they are the easiest to control and to learn on.

It’s pretty rare to start out skiing on one ski. Most people learn to ski on a combination of two skis. Combination skis are usually longer and wider than their slalom specific cousins. This allows newbies to practice getting up on their skis easier, supported by a wider base and a greater level of buoyancy.

Once you are confident skiing on your combination skis, you can practice dropping a ski, transitioning to skiing on one ski, tucking one foot behind your dominant foot using the small binding positioned further back on the ski.

Slalom skis are designed for advanced waterskiers who are comfortable skiing at higher speeds and performing complex turns and manoeuvres. Slalom requires you to ski on only one ski. Slalom skis tend to be narrower and longer, enabling them to cut through the water and carve into sharp turns.

Some waterskis are designed for specific forms of waterskiing. Trick skis are shorter than other skis and often feature small fins (or none at all), allowing the skier to perform flat spins and tricks more easily. Trick skis are only used by more advanced skiers who have graduated from combination and slalom skis, seeking new ways of riding the wake.

Jump skis are suited to one thing and one thing only. Advanced waterskiers use wide, long, flat-bottomed skis in order to slide up ramps to perform aerial manoeuvres. This type of skiing is usually performed by competitive skiers: experts only.

See also: Waterskiing expert Pete O'Neill runs you through the basics of learning to waterski

What to look for in your first set of waterskis

So you are looking at a pair of combination skis. The good thing is, you can buy a set of skis that will fit the whole family. Ski bindings are designed to fit a number of foot sizes, so everyone can have a go. Keep in mind that the bigger the skier, the longer and wider their skis will need to be. You are better off choosing skis to suit the largest rider, otherwise they might struggle to get up out of the water if the skis won’t support their weight and float efficiently.

Materials and Construction

The price of a set of skis is usually determined by the type of material it is made from. As a general rule, the lighter the construction material, the more expensive the ski. This is because lightness is one of the most desired qualities. A lighter ski is more responsive, it is easier to flick into turns and is easier to control when you are in the air.

Waterskis can be made from a huge range of different materials. They are commonly made from a combination of a buoyant core made from foam or wood which is encased in fibre glass, carbon-fibre or even aluminium.

See also: We take you through the basics of boat safety at sea


Skis undoubtedly flex; how much will affect the ski’s speed and stability. Flexible skis are sometimes easier to turn, but can be slower. The amount of flex a ski experiences will depend on the material it is made from, the weight of the skier, and degree of precision to which it has been constructed.


The shape of your ski from front to back is called the rocker. Most skis feature a slightly curved rocker so that weight is distributed across the middle of the ski and the nose and tail sits on the surface of the water. A more aggressive rocker will enable you to perform quicker turns, but has less contact with the water so can slow the ski down. Make sure you choose a set of skis with a gentle rocker suited to learning when you purchase your fist pair.


The edges of waterskis are bevelled to help them cut into the surface of the water, holding an edge as you turn. In general, the sharper the edges on your skis, the more stable they will be, but they will also be more prone to catching an edge if you distribute your weight incorrectly. Trick skiers often prefer a smoother bevel as this reduces the chance of them catching an edge when they land back on the water at an angle.

See also: Pete O'Neill practically learnt to waterski before walking...


A waterski’s fin is designed to provide stability, and to help it hold a straight line in the middle of a turn. The bigger the fin, the more drag it creates, thus providing greater stability but slowing it down. If conditions are rough, big fins are ideal. If it’s glassy out there on the water, smaller fins are enough to help you toe the line. Most fins are interchangeable, allowing you to switch them out on the day based on the current water conditions.


Your bindings could almost be mentioned before the ski itself. It is of the utmost importance that you make sure your bindings are comfortable before purchasing you skis. Combination ski bindings can be adjusted, allowing a range of shoe sizes, and therefore riders, to use them. Waterski bindings are designed to allow your feet to pop out should you have a particularly bad crash at speed. This guarantees that you don’t get injured when the ski twists with your foot stuck inside. Ouch.

Slalom ski bindings are built to a higher degree of precision than combination ski bindings. They are designed to be stiffer, allowing for a greater degree of control and support to the ankle joints when you are leaned in to a hard turn.

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