Water skiing is a planing over the surface of the water on broad skilike runners while being towed by a motorboat moving at least 24 km/hr (15 mph).
The skier holds onto a handle on a rope attached to the rear of the boat and leans slightly backward.
Water skis are made of wood, aluminum, fibreglass, or other materials. General-purpose skis are usually about 1.7 m (5.5 ft) long and about 15 cm (6 in) wide. Ski sizes increase for heavier skiers. Each ski has a stabilizing fin on the bottom near the heel. Tight-fitting rubber foot bindings stretch in case of a fall, releasing the skier’s feet without injury.
The three events of traditional water skiing are slalom, tricks and jumping.
In slalom, the contestant negotiates a zigzag course of six buoys. The boat speed is increased two mph until a maximum speed for the division of competition is reached. Thereafter the rope is shortened in pre-measured lengths. The winner is the one who rounds the most buoys without a miss or fall. The best skiers do not miss until the rope is shorter than the distance
from the boat to the buoy and the skier must try to round the buoy by leaning over it with his or her body!
In tricks, the contestant performs two, 20-second routines of tricks that each have an assigned point value. Some of the most difficult tricks include wake flips, and multiple turns performed with the towrope attached to the contestant’s foot.
In jumping, the object is distance. Although there is a maximum boat speed for each age division, the skier can increase his or her speed by “cracking the whip” behind the boat – men jumpers approach speeds of more than 60 mph at the base of the jump ramp. Some men skiers in Open Division competition, the highest achievement level, jump more than 230 feet off a six-foot-high ramp. Women competitors are jumping more than 170 feet using a five-foot-high ramp.
Water skiing was invented in the United States in 1922 when Minnesotan Ralph Samuelson built the first pair of skis and was towed on them behind an outboard-powered boat. What Samuelson originated became an exhibition sport on both sides of the Atlantic in the 1920s and early 1930s.
The first patent for water skis was issued to Fred Waller, of Huntington, NY, on 27 October 1925, for skis he grew freely and showcased as “Dolphin Akwa-Skees.” Waller’s skis were developed of furnace dried mahogany, similar to certain vessels around then. Jack Andresen patented the first trick ski which was a shorter, balance less water ski, in 1940.
USA Water Ski, founded in 1939, with headquarters at Winter Haven, Fla., sponsors and promotes both recreational and competitive waterskiing and is the governing body for competitive waterskiing standards in the United States. The association certifies performance records and levels of achievement, grants awards, and keeps records and statistics of competitions. In 1946 the World Water Ski Union (WWSU) was formed as the international governing body of worldwide waterskiing competition.
Claims for world records are ratified by the WWSU.
In 1932, the first two “official” ski shows were hosted at the Atlantic City, New Jersey, Steel Pier and at the Century of Progress Exhibition in Chicago. Although learning to waterski has been likened to swimming upstream, salmon style, the fad started to gain interest with recreational boaters and sports enthusiasts alike, and by 1949, the first World Water Ski Championship was held in France. In 1968, the MasterCraft ski boat company was born and in 1972, waterskiing was included in the summer Olympics as an exhibition sport in Munich, Germany, which helped grow the popularity of the sport.
Participation in skiing had grown to more than 6 million Americans by the 1960s. As interest in waterskiing grew and technology progressed, the sport became more diverse with ski racing (distances from 1.5 miles to 65 miles), kneeboarding, wakeboarding, hydrofoiling, monoskiing, trick skiing, barefoot skiing, and wake skating.
As an exhibition sport, water skiing was included in the 1972 Olympics. The first National Show Ski Tournament was held in 1974, and the first ever National Intercollegiate Water Ski Championships were held in 1979. The Home CARE US National Water Ski Challenge, the first competition for people with disabilities, was organized ten years later.
Cable skiing is a way to water ski, in which the skier’s rope and handle are pulled by an electrically-driven cable. The mechanism consists of two cables running parallel to one another with carriers between them every 80 metres. The carriers are metal tubes that can hook up tow ropes with riders. Tow ropes are detached and attached at the same time without slowing the system down, which is a main reason for its high efficiency. With a main cable of 800 metres long, 10 riders can waterski or wakeboard at the same time. The speed of the main cable can be up to 38 mph (61 km/h), and slalom skiers can reach much higher speeds. The most common speed is 19 mph (31 km/h), which suits wakeboarders best.