All you need to know about: water skiing
What the expert says …
Glenn Campbell is four times British slalom champion and took silver at the 2006 World Championships.
Stretch out Before and after you go on the water, have a good stretch, concentrating on your back, arms and legs. It’s even more vital afterwards, because water skiing uses those parts of your body very intensively.
Get up slowly By far the most common beginner error is trying to stand up too quickly when the rope starts to pull. Start in the water with your knees bent right up to your chest, arms dead straight and outside your knees. As the rope starts to pull, keep your arms straight and slowly start to stand. Keep your shoulders level and the rope between your skis.
Stand upright Once you’re up, your head should be directly over your feet. It’s a bit like rollerskating: if you lean too far back, you’ll immediately fall over backwards; too far forwards, and you’ll go flat on your face.
Eyes up Always look ahead, either at the horizon or at the boat; looking down at your skis will unbalance you. If you feel yourself losing balance and falling, let go of the rope – don’t try to hold on and get dragged along. Don’t worry, you will float – you’ll be wearing a life jacket.
Start to carve Once you’re confident going in a straight line, you can start to carve left and right behind the boat, and really pick up speed. To cross the boat’s wake, absorb the bumps with your knees by keeping them loose and slightly bent.
Use your weight Keep your weight evenly distributed between both feet. To turn, don’t lean, but put more weight on one ski – to turn right, put pressure on your left ski and vice versa to turn left. Point your body and hips in the direction you want to travel.
Lift your foot As you become more proficient, you can start to lift one ski out of the water and practise skiing one-legged. This enables you to progress on to a monoski, which allows for faster carving. On a monoski, your feet will be one behind the other – the front foot is in a binding while the back one is inserted into a loop.
Change your grip If you start using a monoski, change your grip on the rope handle. On two skis, the handle will be horizontal and you’ll grip with both hands. For monoskiing, rotate the handle so that it’s vertical, and place one hand on either side.
Use your skills If you snow ski, you can expect to pick up water skiing faster than most, because you’ll already know how to balance.
Find a facility Water skiing facilities can be found all over the UK, using lakes, reservoirs and the sea. They can vary from small clubs of 20 people who have their own equipment to huge ski centres with boats and instructors. Many clubs operate pay-and-play schemes, where you can pay for individual sessions rather than joining for a year. Some have a cable-tow facility, where you’re pulled around a lake or reservoir by an automatic cable (a bit like a drag lift in snow skiing). This is very cost-effective because it’s cheaper than using a boat: at John Battleday Waterski, at Thorpe Park, say, a beginner’s session behind a boat costs £65 for three 15-minute tows (including instruction and equipment), while on the cable it’s £35 for two hours (including 30 minutes’ instruction and equipment). You can expect to be fairly proficient after about five 15-minute sessions.
Start on the bar The best way to learn is by starting on a bar that sticks out from one side of the boat – it’s stable and means the instructor is right next to you in the boat. Most people progress off the bar to behind the boat in their first session, but don’t worry if you don’t.
Ensure they’re qualified If you want to try water skiing anywhere in the UK, make sure the instructors have a British Water Ski qualification. If you fancy learning in warm water and sunnier climes, several holiday companies, such as Neilson, Mark Warner, Sunsail and Crystal Active – all of which are regulated and approved by British Water Ski – offer water skiing holidays abroad.
Branch out Water skiing has several variants: monoskiing, wakeboarding (with feet side by side), kneeboarding and even barefoot.
Water ski centres usually provide all the necessary equipment (check before you go), so all you’ll need to take is a swimsuit or swimming shorts. You will wear a life jacket and possibly a rash vest (such as those worn in surfing) underneath it. Some people ski in gloves, which gives a better grip. You won’t need a helmet unless you’re learning to jump. Skis can vary, but beginners usually use shaped skis, which have a bigger surface area that makes them easier to get up on. In colder water, you’ll wear a full winter wetsuit (5.3mm thickness), gloves and even a hood if it’s very cold.
It’s a summer sport For all but the most keen, water skiing is a fair-weather activity. But with advances in wetsuits, you can ski all year round and stay warm. You can even ski in a dry suit with your clothes on underneath.
You’ll ache the next day The pulling motion of water skiing uses certain muscles very intensively, so you will have sore muscles the following day. Stretching helps to combat this.
There’s a risk of injury As you become more advanced, the bindings on your skis are set tighter and tighter, putting you at an increased risk of twisting your knees or ankles when you fall. However, beginners’ skis come off very easily, so you’re unlikely to hurt yourself.