Water Ski Buying Guide – Beginners, Intermediates and Advanced Skiers

Odds are, if you’re reading this, you’re thinking of starting water skiing; however, choosing the best water ski for you can be challenging. There’s no denying that water skiing is one of the most addicting water sports; to get the most out of it, you will make sure to have the right ski. Your performance and enjoyment while skiing will depend on the quality of your equipment. If you’ve already done some research, you’ve probably noticed there are numerous models to choose from on the market.

Whether you’re a beginner looking to get your feet wet or a professional looking for an upgrade, continue reading to learn everything you need about water skiing.

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Is Water Skiing a Thing?

Water skiing was one of the first water sports, dating back to the early 1920s. The sport has grown since then, and other practices have been adopted. Similar hobbies like wakeboarding, kneeboarding, tubing, and many others came from the same concept; however, these use different equipment and, thus, provide a different experience.

Water Ski Buying Guide - Beginners, Intermediates and Advanced SkierS

How Do You Water Ski?

The process of water skiing involves starting in deep water while holding a rope that’s attached to a boat. With the water skis on your feet, the boat begins moving, taking you along — you’re now water skiing! Although you can ski in lakes, oceans, and rivers, we suggest beginners stick to locations with calmer water.

How Big of a Lake Do You Need to Water Ski?

A lake’s size must be at least 2,150 feet wide to water ski safely; the larger, the better. It might take you longer to get a footing if you’re a beginner; in this case, try to limit yourself to lakes that are 2600 feet or more. Its size depends on what speed you’re aiming to ski. 

The water’s depth should be at least 5 to 6 feet deep. For safety, you’ll also want to ensure the path is free of obstacles.

What Are the Different Types of Water Skis?

Here is a list of the different types of water skis:

  • Combo Water Skis: pair of skis, one for each foot.
  • Slalom Water Skis: single ski for both feet.
  • Trainer Water Skis: used for learning and practicing the sport.
  • Wide Water Skis: made for stability (beginner-friendly).
  • Professional-Grade Water Skis: thin and long (advanced only)

Combo Water Skis vs. Slalom Water Skis

Water skis are divided into two types (combo and slalom), each best suited for a specific subset of skiers. Combo skis are recommended for beginners, while slalom skis are recommended for more skilled skiers. Other factors like weight, age, skill level, and desired speed will also affect which type you should choose. 

Combo Water Skis vs. Slalom Water Skis Types


Beginners or children usually use combo skis (or double skis); they are made up of two skis. They offer a large surface area, providing more stability and making the sport easier for beginners. You’ll want to choose a set with adjustable bindings (also known as boots) that offer a better fit and can be shared with family members.

Combo water skis designed for beginners typically come with trainer bars that lock both skis together. For adults, combos are also used by riders over 100-pounds, as they support a larger weight range than slalom skis. After you’ve mastered getting up on the water, balance, and landing tricks, it’s time to graduate to the next type of ski.

Read our picks for the best combo water skis…


Slalom water skis are a bit more user-specific when compared to combo skis. Choosing the right slalom ski for you is more challenging, as you will need a better understanding of what you’re looking for. It would be best if you considered weight, style, the frequency you will use it, length, and the boat’s speed. This type of ski offers a competitive advantage because it’s tailor-made to improve the rider.

Read our picks for the best slalom water skis…

What’s the Difference Between Beginner, Intermediate, and Advanced Water Skis?

The difference between beginner, intermediate, and advanced skis is their stability compared to their speed; advanced skis focus on speed, while beginner skis focus on stability. To determine your skill level, ask yourself whether you’re an aggressive or relaxed skier? How often do you plan on water skiing? If you ski more than two times per month, consider buying an intermediate or advanced slalom ski; otherwise, stick with beginner-friendly options.


Beginners are just that; they’re just starting. This skill level is predominately made up of kids and adults new to the sport and that lack experience. For this tier, we suggest using combo water skis exclusively.


The intermediate skill level is for those with experience; however, they only plan on skiing for fun. Competitive skiing and courses are typically not an option, as they haven’t yet perfected their form. Many skiers concentrate on comfort, enjoyment, and relaxation. In addition, longer line lengths of at least 15 feet are more popular, with boats traveling at slower speeds (30 mph). For this tier, either combo or slalom skis work well.


The advanced skill level consists of skiers that have invested heavily in their experience by skiing frequently. They usually seek out competitions or performance courses. These skiers use shorter ropes (30 feet) with great form and technique. For this tier, slalom water skis are the way to go.

What Length Water Ski Should I Buy?

Use the following chart to determine what water ski length you should buy:

WeightUnder 30 mph30 to 35 mphOver 35 mph
Under 100 lbs.45″ – 60″60″63″
100 – 120 lbs.55″ – 60″63″63″
120 – 140 lbs.60″63″ – 66″63″ – 66″
140 – 160 lbs.65″ – 67″65″ – 67″66″ – 67″
160 – 180 lbs.68″ – 70″68″ – 70″68″ – 70″
Over 200 lbs.72″+72″+72″+

Do You Wear Boots with Water Skis?

The bindings, also referred to as boots are what you put your feet into and are attached to the ski itself. Some bindings are exclusive sizes while others are adjustable allowing them to fit different size feet. While owning a quality ski makes all the difference, it’s only as good as the bindings attached to it.

Keep it simple; the primary purpose of bindings is to hold your feet to the ski. In addition, they keep your feet and ankles from moving around too freely, providing lateral support. Buying a quality pair of bindings will help minimize any potential injuries, similar to how Basketball players need good shoes.

When looking at bindings, you’ll want a pair that offers excellent support while allowing you to get in and out quickly. Those planning to share their bindings will need adjustable bindings with a single high strap on the front and a rear toe plate. If the ski is used by you exclusively, consider double wrap bindings; these are frequently found on advanced-level slalom skis. While these bindings are harder to get on compared to the adjustable bindings, they offer more ankle support as they rest higher up and go completely around the foot.

Design and Size Matters

Understanding different ski sizes are crucial; making or breaking your performance and, by extension, your engagement — especially the case for slalom than water skis. For beginner or intermediate skiers, a flatter bottom and wider tail provide more stability and tracking.

For more experienced and advanced skiers, a narrow tail, beveled edges, and a concave bottom is the way to go. These will significantly improve carving and edge-to-edge transitions and make faster speeds more stable. If you’re looking to perform tricks and stunts, go for a shorter ski.

Do Water Skis Have Fins?

Do Water Skis Have Fins?

Fins provide maneuverability and tracking; water skiing is much more difficult without one. For the most part, all skis come with at least one fin. Besides slalom skis, the type and placement of the fins don’t affect performance. If you’re buying combo skis, expect them to come with a plastic fin; usually, they will wear out over time but are inexpensive to replace (less than $20).

Experienced, especially advanced skiers will want to tinker with the placement and type of fin. A slight difference in placement can make all the difference:

  • Forward Placement: faster turning and makes the ski feel smaller
  • Rear Placement: better stability and makes the ski feel bigger


It’s a good idea to take the time and do your homework when buying a water ski; doing this will ensure an enjoyable experience. Using this water ski buying guide, you should have gotten some advice before making your purchase.

If you plan on spending a great deal of time on the water, then choose a higher-end water ski; although, these will be more expensive but save you money over the long term. On the other hand, for beginners that intend on skiing once in a blue moon, then spending a fortune on a high-end model doesn’t make sense.


  • George Dermanakis

    Hey! I'm George. Over the past few years, my passion for water skiing has grown and grown! Nowadays, I share my experiences by writing reviews and guides addressing anything relating to water skis. Besides writing, I enjoy many other water sports in my spare time, like kayaking, kitesurfing, wakeboarding, windsurfing, and more.

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