If you’ve ever thrilled to the excitement of speed; if you enjoy the exhilarating combination of sun and water; if you have a venturesome nature that’s looking for a new outlet — you have all the ingredients necessary for a water skier. And in this exciting sport, once you get your feet wet — and that’s as wet as you’ll get after you leave the novice class — you’ll find water skiing growing on you; getting a stronger hold on you each time you master a new maneuver.
Few thrills can compare with skimming over smooth water on a pair of skis; few challenges are more exciting than jumping, trick riding or zipping through a slalom course at speeds up to 35 miles per hour. Water skiing gets into your blood and becomes an obsession.
And you don’t have to take a trip to Florida or California to water ski. It can be enjoyed virtually anywhere there is a large body of calm water (especially for your first few attempts), sufficiently deep so you won’t injure yourself; the boat should have plenty of room to turn around. Try Candle-Wood Lake in Connecticut or Lake Mahopac in New York.
Of course, you’ll need a boat, and there is a wide variety on the market, both new and used. An ideal towboat would have twin outboard 115 horsepower engines. However, any boat that has enough power to pull you out of the water within five-seconds will do.
If you don’t own a boat, there are plenty of places you can rent one. The average fee to rent a boat and hire a driver is about $30 an hour or from $45 to $75 a day. There is a deposit of about $75 for renting the boat itself if you drive. This is a fairly reasonable rate considering there should be at least two people participating, better three (a driver, a skier spotter — who makes sure he doesn’t lose you), splitting the cost.
Next you’ll need skis. Places where you hire a boat and driver often supply skis at reasonable rates. If you are serious about the sport, it would be best to buy your own skis. Two factors should be considered when purchasing skis: your weight and at what boat speed you will feel comfortable? Hydro-dynamically, the more one weighs, the more surface area one needs. Therefore, heavier skiers should have longer skis, and, the faster one wishes to go, the longer should be the skis . For example, a person who weighs 190 pounds and skis at approximately 16 mph, would need skis that are about 5 feet 6 inches long . There’s a large variety of skis on the market. Cypress Gardens, Voit, Taperflex, E.P., are brand names costing from $30 to $150 a pair. Skis are made of wood and fiberglass and some have flat skiing planes while others are concave.
Other equipment includes a rope ($5); a tow-bar ($8); a life vest ($20); and maybe a wet suit (approximately $30). An official tow rope is 75 feet in length, but will inevitably become shorter with use because of breakage and knotting. The tow-bar can be either single or double-handled: wood, styrofoam or plastic.
As for flotation devices, belts are being used, but a ski vest is the more useful because it keeps you afloat and acts as a wet suit and cushioning pad when you fall — and you will fall! Once you get the essentials, you’re ready for dry land simulation.
There are three basic principles, in the beginning, to adhere to:
- Rule 1: Keep your arms straight at all times. You may feel that the boat will not be strong enough to pull you out, but a towboat with an engine of at least 65 Hp will pull you up, around, and through the water. Don’t worry, all you need is a little patience and good concentration.
- Rule 2: Keep your knees bent. Doing this acts as a sort of a shock absorber. If you get caught in rough weather, you bend your knees a little more.
- Rule 3: Lean Back. You may tend to lean forward once the boat pulls you up because you think a change in your position will mean a possible fall, right? Wrong! If the boat is going forward, your equilibrium will be centered if you just lean backwards.
If this bit of logic does not give you confidence, it might not be a bad idea to have someone hold an extra tow-bar in front of you and hoist you forward while you’re leaning back. To some beginning skiers, this technique approximates the sensation of being pulled up by the boat.
Once you get the hang of it, you’re ready to put on your skis — but wet them first. The more experienced skiers put on their skis on shore. A novice should try to put them on in the water, but close to the dock.
The main reason is that if you can’t put them on close to shore, you’ll obviously have a problem if you fall any distance from the shore. Another reason is that it gives you the opportunity to practice swimming with your skis on, This also helps you gain the experience of retrieving the towrope should you fall in strong waves or currents.
The importance of ski control cannot be stressed enough. In boat traffic, a sudden storm, or cold water, you’ll be glad you have that control.
Okay, so you’re in the water, your skis are on. You have the handle (towbar). Now what? Get into the starting position. Bend your knees to your chest as if you were inside a cannonball. Keep your arms outstretched. Make sure to keep your weight where you do your sitting. The boat is now in gear and begins to move. Let the towrope tighten up. Trust your driver. If he’s any good, he’ll steer the boat dead-ahead. Your spotter will have an eye on you at all times, so there’s no need to worry. Once the rope is taut and between your skis and you’re heading straight with the ski tips pointing up out of the water and parallel, hold on and “ride” the water.
If for some reason you don’t get up — relax. Not all people do, the first time — not even most, not even many. Now comes the “what am I doing wrong?”
Well, remember Rule 1: Did you pull your arms in, even reflexively? Or were you unbalanced to begin with? Possibly you were leaning too far forward, or too far backward. Any of these common errors will give you a good taste of the water. Don’t panic, just try it again.
Once back, get into position again. Knees bent, arms straight and leaned back. Let the rope tighten up, get your ski tips up and parallel and take off! If you’re tense, the slightest wave will knock you over. Each second you’re up, at this point, will give you well-deserved confidence as well as experience.
By this time you’re feeling much more comfortable. Getting up is no problem now and you’ve become an expert at following the boat. It’s time to start crossing the wake (the trail left in the water by the boat). A lot of skiers really fear this because of the choppy water made by the wake. It’s all in the mind. Just lean 123 degrees or about 4 o’clock if you want to go to the right or 236 degrees, about 8 o’clock, if you want to go left. Make sure your knees are bent and both skis going directly into the wake. By this time, you are officially a novice water skier. You are qualified by crossing both wakes. Congratulation! Just think of the things you can do on a pair of skis — like skiing on one.
This feat, which is called slalom, should be a goal for any novice skier. Actually, there are a lot of advantages to skiing on one ski. There is one less skis to keep control of; turning is easier and it looks better. Keep in mind that although you’ll be using just a single ski, you’ll be using both feet. The best way to start to slalom is to practice lifting up your stronger leg while skiing to get the feel. It won’t be the same as slaloming because you will be skiing on just one foot.
Once you feel comfortable and you can keep your ski in the air with the tip up for about 20 seconds, it’s time to think about “dropping,” This is accomplished by keeping the ski on the surface of the water and gradually lifting your heel out of the binding (the rubber shoe that holds the foot in the ski). Then simply raise your leg and the ski will remain in the water. Don’t try to kick it off! It’s a sure way of taking a fall. Just raise your leg slowly and keep it by your side. Ski like this for about 15 seconds, until you’ve gotten your balance again, then feel for the second (back) binding of the ski. Insert your foot into the pocket and gradually shift your weight back. Now just relax, Lean back and “ride” the water.