Aug. 19, 1957
Aug. 19, 1957

Table of Contents
Aug. 19, 1957

Champ Meets Veep
  • Mastering the speed and subtle whims of the biggest of the inland scows is a job for a sailor who can keep a clear head and a steady helm at 35 mph

Events & Discoveries
Trouble In Detroit
Tip From The Top
19th Hole: The Readers Take Over
Pat On The Back


It's fast fun and it's taken the fancy of three million. Here a champion shows how to do it

Heading my own water ski schools at Dart's Lake, N.Y. and Nassau, Bahamas, I've found that water skiing is the one thing that gets everyone out. In a few short years it has become the favorite of resort-goers, and about 300,000 people are taking it up each year—three million all told by now. A few weekends spent following the instructions on the next few pages will make your vacations more fun. Keep these rules in mind: 1) Don't buy cheap skis; expect to pay at least $40. 2) Twenty-five horsepower or more is best for water skiing, but you can do with less. 3) With 25 hp or more, pick skis 6½ inches wide and 5 feet 6 inches long if you weigh under 130, 5 feet 9 inches for 130 to 175, 6 feet 3 inches for more than 175. With less than 25 hp, use longer, wider skis. 4) Don't ski in shallow water or at night. Now turn page to begin your course of instruction.

This is an article from the Aug. 19, 1957 issue Original Layout

Make sure that bindings fit solidly. Back should be adjustable, narrow enough to hold heel. Toes should stick out. Surface under foot should be rough for better grip.

Skier's hands should be placed at either end of 15-inch tow bar. The bridle should be about 12 inches on each side. Rope itself should be 75 feet long. Use -inch Manila.

Raised hand means "take me in." Palm up: "speed up." Palm down: "slow." Slicing motion with hand at throat: "cut motor." Head tilted left (right): "turn left (right)."


To start, wade into waist-deep water, then curl into ball, knees against chest, arms straight. Hold skis at 45° angle to surface, tips out of water. Boat driver should slowly take strain on rope, pulling skier along slowly to help him get into position. When in position, skier yells "Hit it!" and driver gives boat burst of power to pull skier up. As skier clears water, driver should gradually speed up to 20 mph. Start in deep water floating in same position as at left. In either case, be prepared for spills at first.

As boat pulls you forward, you will rise naturally to the surface (right). Do not try to pull yourself up but keep arms absolutely straight and knees against chest until skis are almost on surface, maintaining crouch which keeps weight evenly distributed on skis fore and aft. As skis start to plane (below) come slowly out of crouch and stay in bent position, letting boat pull you along for a way until you feel securely balanced with your weight slightly back, ski tips up a little. Keep both arms straight.

Assume correct riding position (right) as soon as you feel confident. Skis should be roughly six inches apart. Keep knees slightly bent to throw upper body back at an angle of about 10° and keep tips of skis up. Do not bend at hips or waist but keep back straight, shoulders thrown back and elbows straight. The erect riding position is much less fatiguing than the half crouch that many un-instructed skiers seem to maintain permanently. When the time comes to land, approach parallel to the dock.

Correct starting consists of easy-to-follow steps, and yet at least half of the beginners make one or more of the above incorrect moves. Have someone watch to see that you don't make these errors. Most common is pulling up on rope (upper left); this makes skis shoot out from underneath, throws skier on back. Arms should stay straight, and skier should not try to bring himself to surface of water until speed of boat brings him up naturally. Holding skis at too steep an angle to surface (left) may prevent boat (especially low-power outboards) from bringing skier to surface and either drags him along submerged or pulls him between skis. Standing up from crouch too soon (above) throws skier on his face while his legs do a split. Remember: if you fall, throw tow bar away before you hit the water. The boat will come back.

Simplest trick in water skiing is to leave wake of boat, ride out to side and then re-enter wake. To leave (upper left), push off from ski nearest boat and head out sharply from boat's path (at least 45°), leaning at least 10° away from boat. Turn up ski edges nearer boat about 15°. Relax knees so that you go smoothly over edge of wake instead of banging into the water and perhaps tripping yourself. Re-enter wake at sharp angle to minimize the pull exerted by edge of wake. Do not ride too far out to side of boat or you will overtake it and get slack rope. To re-enter wake by jumping (left), go into crouch, pull up on rope for added speed. As ski tips hit edge of wake (above), skier springs into air, bouncing off the edge.

Here are two easy tricks: For no-hand ride, reach forward and grab tow line with one hand (upper left), lean well forward at waist, tuck tow bar in back of knees with other hand, then lean down slowly to let rope straighten out. Let go of rope when it is straight, then put hands on hips for balance (lower left), keep knees bent to hold tow bar in place. Stand erect, but with no backward lean. Ski salute or one-ski riding (below) is done by putting weight on one ski, raising other ski slightly, being sure to keep tip out of water, then shifting hand on lifted-ski side to middle of tow bar and letting go with other hand. Now lean back and, balancing with free hand, lift unweighted ski to upright position.


Some experts prefer to do slalom on one specially built ski. Single slalom ski (left) is about a foot longer than regular ski, has extra toe binding in back and deep, weighted keel on tail of ski. Also, rear of slalom ski is sometimes narrowed to point for better turning. To ride slalom ski, keep weight mainly on front foot, using back foot for steering. Turns are made with much greater lean than on two skis—up to 45°. After skier has learned to make sharp turns with slalom ski, he should set up slalom course (below) and practice on it. Although slalom course can be run on two skis, the one-ski technique is most efficient.

Slalom course is set with two starting buoys through which both boat and skier pass. From here on, boat stays on 315-yard-long center line while skier veers to right to go around buoy set 12½ yards out at the 45-yard point on the center line. Then he crosses center line to try for second buoy set 12½ yards out to left of the center line at the 90-yard mark. Buoys are set every 45 yards along center line. In competition, skier runs course both ways at speeds up to 35 miles an hour. Skier is out when he misses a buoy. Since skiers often strike buoys, rubber or balloon buoys, not hazardous metal or wood ones, must be used.

Standard slalom rope is 70 feet long, with short tow bars, one for each hand, at the end of five-foot lines tied together at end of tow line. Skier approaches buoy leaning hard against the pull of the rope, sometimes as much as 45° from the vertical. He makes his turn around imaginary buoy (red) which is about a yard nearer skier and a yard farther away from center line than real buoy. Turning on the imaginary buoy allows skier to shave close to backside of real buoy, thus preventing him from overshooting and losing ground needed to make next buoy in sequence. As skier starts turn, he separates his hands until arms are spread-eagled and throws weight onto rear leg to jam tail of ski into water. Pivoting on the tail of ski, he then leans toward buoy (below), and as he passes it he snaps his hands together which has the effect of lengthening tow rope and giving him chance to set his course across center line to next buoy. Sequence for taking opposite buoy is the same, except that arm and leg positions are reversed. As skier heads for center line, he evens weight again on both feet and digs in as hard as possible by leaning away from boat, flexing his knees rapidly as he crosses wake of boat so that he can keep his ski in water. If ski becomes airborne, skier will lose ground and be dragged beyond point where he can reach buoy on far side of wake to swing into his next turn.

To start off, bend over from the waist, putting your head and upper torso under water, with the top of your head pointing almost straight down to the bottom. Backs of the skis should be out of water. Grasp tow bar behind legs just above calf, keeping arms below hips, skis slightly apart and at about a 45°-angle from the vertical. As boat starts to pull, keep weight well forward on toes, leaning away from the boat. Rise naturally, and when skis start to plane, gradually straighten your body and lean forward, away from the boat, about 30° from the vertical.

When you've learned to ski backwards you are ready to try turnarounds. Special trick skis must be worn for this (no fin on bottom), and boat speeds must be kept at 16 to 20 mph, no more. Skier first lets go with one hand (above left), leans away from boat, turns up ski edges nearer boat and thus naturally swings into sideways position (above center), turning tow bar over as he swings. Turnaround should be a clean, even, sweeping movement, with no attempt to hold sideways position at any point. As skier turns, he should keep bar fairly close to waist and complete turn by reaching up for tow bar with free hand (above right), still keeping skis edged until he gets into front position (below left). To do front-to-back turnaround, skier pulls up on rope (below left) and then lets go with one hand, swinging naturally into sideways position (below center), keeping tow bar fairly close to waist. As he reaches sideways position, he should swing hard with free hand toward tow bar, which is now behind his back, at the same time turning tow bar over so empty side meets free hand. Both turnarounds should be practiced in the same direction, so that with experience the two phases can be connected and the skier can make complete 360° circle without pause. Although these tricks appear difficult at first, a competent intermediate should be able to handle them with practice.

The most formidable-looking stunt in water skiing is probably the jump; but, like other tricks, it can be surprisingly easy if you follow instructions. Jumping ramp for water skiers has surface 24 feet long set with upper end 5 feet (beginners) to 6 feet (advanced) off the water. Surface is made of narrow strips of well-waxed wood, should be constructed only from detailed plans. Beginner should approach ramp in crouch. Be sure to keep weight even on both feet since ramp surface is extremely slippery. Skier should maintain crouch on ramp (right) and stay in crouch when he leaves ramp. Thus, when he lands he is in good position to take up shock by flexing knees. Boat speed: about 22 mph.

Advanced jumper also approaches ramp in crouch, but as soon as he hits ramp, he snaps into upright position (left), bringing tow bar down—which has the effect of throwing him a much greater distance through the air. After he gets into air, skier lets go tow bar with one hand for balance, leaning upper body slightly forward and keeping skis at slightly upward angle. For advanced jumpers, boat approaches ramp at 28 mph. Boat towing any jumper should pass about 20 feet to either side of ramp to bring skier into ramp at best angle and still keep most direct pull on tow rope. During all phases of jump, boat should maintain steady speed and straight-line course until jumper lands and has recovered. Diagram below shows path of beginning jumper (red dotted line): he approaches ramp on side away from boat, then veers and sets steady course to cross ramp kitty-corner, heading toward the tow boat. This puts less strain on rope and makes for less jerky landing. Advanced skier, on the other hand, follows path right up middle of ramp (red solid line) and jumps straight out, intentionally putting strain on rope to get more distance. In competition, boats are not allowed to exceed 35 mph approaching ramp, but expert skiers use snap-the-whip technique to increase speed as they approach ramp. They come in at ramp from far side of tow boat, swinging in wide arc which brings them to nearest corner of ramp at up to 60 mph. As they shoot up out of the water, they put maximum strain on the tow rope by jumping off the farthest corner of ramp, traveling away from boat Expert jumps sometimes exceed 100 feet.