Tips for Teaching Kids to Waterski

You Need to Take it Slow

Young boy waterskiing
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Some of my best days on the water have been witnessing a child getting up on skis for the first time. The expression of excitement on his face is priceless. I taught waterskiing at a camp a few summers ago and was fortunate to see a lot of happy faces.

On the flip side, I also saw a lot of unhappy faces. To a child, the thought of being pulled behind a boat on skis for the first time can be frightening.

The most important piece of advice I can give is to not force a child into skiing before he is ready. He has to be confident he wants to learn. If he is not ready, and you make him ski before he is, it can leave him with a scary feeling. This, in turn, can cause him to shy away from the sport indefinitely.

Start On Dry Land

If you have a young one who thinks he is ready to indulge in the sport of waterskiing, the first thing I suggest is to practice on dry land. Put him in a small pair of combo skis (I've compiled a list of starter combo skis at the end of this feature). Give him a ski handle and drag him around for a while. Talk him through what is happening, and explain to him about balance.

Keep Him On His Toes

Tell him to balance or keep his weight on his toes (the balls of his feet). This has the effect of keeping him off his heels and, consequently, off of his butt. It is virtually impossible for someone to keep his arms straight when the sensation of falling backward occurs.

Having the weight on the balls of the feet makes it much more difficult to fall backward. As long as the knees are bent, the child is not only more stable but has better control of the skis for turning and future water stunts. 

Get Him Wet With A Boom

Probably the easiest way to get a youngster acquainted with waterskiing is with a boom if you have access to one.

Boom extensions for smaller hands are made that are simpler for little ones to hold on to. First, have an adult get out on the boom with combo skis on, and let the child see how it works. Once the child is comfortable, have him try the boom. If he is still a little hesitant, have an adult hang on to the boom with the child, with the adult spreading his legs wide enough for the child to ski between them.

After a few pulls on the boom, add a ski handle to the boom. This will give him the feeling of hanging onto a rope. Gradually lengthen the rope off the boom, but be sure not to allow the length to go beyond the length of the boat. You do not want the child skiing anywhere close to the propeller. Once the rope gets near the back of the boat, it's time to move the rope off the boom and to the rear of the boat, or to the center pole, depending on where your ski hookup is located.

Moving To The Back Of The Boat

Make sure to drill on the following important things: Keep the knees bent and together, head up, weight back, and arms straight. If the child doesn't get it right the first couple of times, don't get upset with him. You have to remember this can be scary stuff for him. Patience is a virtue.

To ease the child's apprehension, have an adult get in the water and hang out with the child to help build his confidence. Help him get his skis pointed forward, and hold the tails of the skis down as the driver begins the pull. If your novice skier is unsuccessful, you're right there to help him get started again. If he gets up, great! Just hang out in the water until the boat returns. Remember, though, to make sure you are visible to other boaters.

An added suggestion is to not attach the rope to the hook right away. Have someone in the boat hold it. Often when a child falls he does not want to let go of the rope. This way, you can release it and reduce the risk of injury. Another option is to get a quick release.

You also may want to consider using a Swif Lift, which is a teaching aid for beginner waterskiers.

Insert the ski tips through the slots at the bottom of the Swif Lift to keep the skis steady during takeoff. It's part of the handle and slips right off after the child is up on the skis. You may also find this device by the names of Ski Sled or Ski Skimmer.

Make Your Child a Star

Try recording the child skiing. He will get a kick out of seeing himself on the tube, and this is a great way to show him what he is doing wrong—and right.

For the Little Ones:

These are good for kids less than 60-80 pounds.

Connelly Cadet Trainers
The Cadets feature a detachable stabilizing bar that holds the skis the proper distance apart to ensure control and confidence while learning. As the child progresses the bar can by removed for more freedom. A detachable rope/handle system and quality child binding round out this starter pair. (Once in the Connelly Web site click on Skis and then Pairs.)

HO Hot Shot Trainers
Connected with a plastic stabilizing bar that holds the skis the proper distance. Includes "How To" video and special tow rope. For up to 60 pounds. Adjustable bindings.

Nash Blu Bayou Trainers - Trainers for children up to 100 pounds.

For the Bigger Little Ones

For the older junior, but less than 135 pounds. Most come with one ski that doubles as a slalom ski.

Connelly Super Sport
The Connelly Tracking System lets kids control the skis in starts, even with very little effort. This is the next step for young skiers after training skis. Available with stabilizer bar. (Once in the Connelly Web site click on Skis and then Pairs.)

HO Judge
Connected with a detachable plastic stabilizing bar that holds the skis the proper distance. Fits shoe sizes 4-9. For up to 120 pounds. Adjustable bindings.

Most of the combo skis listed for kids come with one ski that is already fitted with a rear toe plate. No need to purchase a separate slalom ski. Just use the one in the combo set.