Water Ski Course


Brad Dwyer
An article by Brad Dwyer
Published: August 11, 2007

The waterski course is the next logical progression in your skiing career after you have mastered double skiing and slalom skiing. It requires immense skill, discipline, and practice to get good at the course. But the benefits are worth it. Skiing the course is a boatload of fun and a great workout to boot!

The slalom course consists of a series of buoys arranged into a slalom pattern. There are successive "gates" lined up in a straight line in the middle of the course for the boat to drive through, called boat gates. And there are buoys on the alternating sides on the outside of the course for the skiier to go around, called balls.

A competition waterski course has six balls, but some locations only have enough room for a four ball course. The balls are referenced by their number in the course. For example, "one-ball" (or "one") is the first buoy the skier is to go around.

There are also two boat gates that the skier must go through, the start gate and the end gate.

There are a few ways to vary the level of difficulty presented by the course. The first variable is the boat speed. It is easier to go through the course at slower speeds because you have more time to cut across the wake and get out far enough to get to the next ball.

For solid skiers who have never skied the course before, I would recommend trying it at 28 mph to get the feel of going around the balls. In a competition, the speed will be successively raised by two miles per hour until it reaches 36 mph at which point the speed is held constant and the rope length is the only remaining variable.

The second way to change the difficulty level of the course is to shorten the ski-rope. The shorter the rope, the farther you have to cut out in order to get your ski around the buoy. The length taken off is measured by the number of feet subtracted from a standard 75' rope. So, 15 off is a 60' rope. Most good-quality ski ropes will have sections that you can easily take off to adjust the rope length.

Even beginner skiers should start with 15 off. A full length line will actually make the course even harder because you will get more slack on your turns and you will cut out beyond the buoy unnecessarily far. As you get better and better, you will want to make the rope shorter. The next shortest lengths are 22 off, 28 off, 32 off, 35 off, 38 off, and 41 off.

If you are lucky enough to have a slalom course on your lake, it is a great thing to try. It will help you take your skiing to the next level. With some practice and hard work, you'll be zipping around those balls like a pro. In order to help you do that, check our our tips on skiing the course for the first time.

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