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The World Of Water Skiing

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Water skiing is packed with lots of wet thrills and big spills. Find out more about this water sport right here.

Water Skiing - History

Water skiing was invented in the United States in 1922 by 18 year-old Ralph Samuelson, who believed that if you could ski on snow, you should be able to ski on water. After trying to ski on water using snow skis, Ralph made the first pair of water skis out of lumber. He used strips of leather for the bindings and a long piece of chord as the ski rope to tow him behind a boat. Ralph and his brother tried out their new sport for several days before they figured out that leaning back and putting the tips of the skis up was the best way to water ski. After three years of mastering the new sport, Ralph made the first water ski jump using a greased ramp at an exhibiton in Minnesota. Water skiing would later lead to the creation of other water sports including wakeboarding and kneeboarding.

Water Skiing - The Main Events

The three main styles of competitive water skiing are slalom, tricks and jumping.

  • Slalom - Competitors burn their way through a zig zag course of buoys. Each round, the rope from the boat to the skier is shortened, making it more difficult for the skier to get around each buoy.
  • Tricks - Skier is judged on two 20-second routines of tricks which include wake flips and turns performed with the towrope attached to the skier's foot.
  • Jumping - Go big or go home. The skier who jumps the greatest distance wins. Skiers jump off a six-foot high ramp at 60 miles per hour and can sometimes jump more than 220 feet.
  • Variations of these three events are also performed by barefoot water skiers.

Water Skiing - Getting Started

Water skiing is easier to learn than many people think. Most skiers are usually able to get up and ski after their first few attempts. Once a skier is on the water, they can control their direction by balancing their weight on different sides of their skis. While it is easy to learn, most beginner water skiers also have their share of wipeouts while they're learning - so always wear a life jacket and be prepared to get some water up your nose. The best way to learn is to get instruction from a qualified instructor who knows how to safely drive a boat. For a list of water skiing summer camps, 

Water Skiing - Did You Know?

  • In 1994, Dave Phillips and Ralph Hildebrand water skied for 56 hours and 35 minutes around Indian Arm in British Columbia, Canada. The pair used infrared binoculars and spotlights to avoid hitting obstaces while skiing at night.
  • Brenton and Sean McGrath of Australia water skied 1819 miles (3032 km) down the Mississippi River from Minneapolis to the Gulf of Mexico in six days from June 26 to July 1, 2000.
  • The first World Water Skiing Championships were held in France in 1949.
  • In 1947, Dick Pope Jr. was the first person to try barefoot water skiing.
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