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How To Pull A Water Skier


The idea behind water skiing is simple: drag a person on skis behind a boat. The rest is just fun. But if you want to ensure a great outing and minimize risk, it helps to know the ins and outs of how to pull a water skier the right way. Here are some safety tips, hand signals, and directions for doing just that.

Stick to These Safety Tips

  • Keep your life vest on. An adult-sized life vest with Type III buoyancy is usually recommended for water skiers. This is the kind of vest that will keep you buoyant so a boat can swing around and pick you up.
  • Assign someone on “lookout” duty. While it’s possible to ski in pairs—one person driving the boat and one person skiing—the driver really needs to focus on the water. That means you’ll want to ski in groups of three, with the third person watching the skier and serving as the lookout between skier and driver.
  • Learn your hand signals. You don’t want to tell a boat to speed up when you’ve had enough. More on that in a moment.
  • Stay conscious of boat traffic. Skiing away from obstacles like boat traffic is central to ensuring a safe experience. You’ll also want to look out for buoys, markers, and consider the lake’s overall terrain before skiing. Shallow water is bad for water skiing. Also keep in mind that when the boat turns, the skier will take a wider turn than the boat.

How to Proceed

With the boat positioned facing out toward the lake and the skier properly vested up, you can begin. Double-check all connections and keep the boat engine off until the skier is well clear of the stern of the boat. After powering the boat on, accelerate slowly to make sure that the rope is taut first. This will help the skier to get their bearings, and they’ll slowly drift forward along with the force of the rope. When the skier signals that they’re ready, and the way ahead is clear, the boat is ready to accelerate.

Learn the Proper Hand Signals

Proper coordination between the skier and the driver is key, using an intermediary so the driver can focus on the water ahead.

Here are some of the most essential water hand signals to know when you pull a water skier:

  • Skier holds arm up and makes a loop: “Let’s go around again.”
  • Skier slices hand across neck: “Let’s stop.”
  • Pointing left or right: “Go right/left.”
  • Thumbs up/down: Speeding up and slowing down.
  • OK gesture (thumb to index finger, other fingers extended): Current situation is just right.
  • Patting head: “Get me back in the boat.”
  • Arms circling, fingertips touching over the head: “I’m OK.”

The spotter can also use these gestures to ask questions of the skier or to warn them about any changes, such as pointing an upcoming turn and asking for the skier’s permission.

Caring For Your Boat

Stick to these tips and you’ll have a much safer outing than guessing your way through a water ski session. Don’t forget to keep your boat in top shape by browsing our the boat cleaning and maintenance products here at BoatLIFE!

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