2017 Water Sports Gear Guide: Water Skis

Find the perfect fit for how, where and why you water-ski.

It is an exciting time to be a slalom-ski buyer. With so many options, how’s a skier to decide? We’ll show you how to make sense of today’s stunning skis and find the perfect fit for how, where and why you water-ski.

On the one hand, state-of-the-art materials and construction processes are making skis faster, lighter, stronger and more consistent than ever before. On the other hand, which of those wonderful materials and space-age constructions are right for your skiing goals? Let’s dig deeper.

Ask Yourself
Do you spend most of your time on the course? If so, which boat speed, line length and passes are you consistently skiing?

Or are you more of a free-skier who mostly gets out on weekends? Or a crossover type who splits time between the course and open water?

Why do you want a new ski? Do you want a new weapon in the never-ending battle for more buoys, or a ski that will make things easier on your body?

Carbon Fiber vs Fiberglass
One thing that all ski builders can agree on is that the advent of carbon fiber ushered in a new era of ski design. Carbon fiber is lighter, stronger and faster than traditional fiberglass layups, and its incredibly high strength-to-weight ratio has allowed builders to slash ski weight by more than half. Its inherent stiffness allows it to rebound to its original shape more quickly than any other material, allowing your ski to snap back to its acceleration shape more quickly. Some manufacturers deal only in carbon, while others offer both full-carbon skis as well as carbon and fiberglass blends to better suit a wider range of skiing ability levels and budgets.

Again, there is a ton of variety out there, and some manufacturers are using other materials entirely, but the cores in the vast majority of skis today are made from either PVC or polyurethane (PU) foam. PVC is lighter, livelier and more reactive than PU, and when it's combined with carbon fiber, it creates the effortless acceleration that you need in shortline skiing. PU, on the other hand, offers a damper ride that is more forgiving, feels more connected to the water, and can be more consistent in less than ideal conditions.

Your Size Matters
Your height, weight and boat speed are the most important factors in choosing the correct ski size. Fundamentally, you need a certain amount of surface area to support your physical size at a certain speed. As a result, you might need a longer size in a narrower ski or a shorter size in a wider design. Your height, weight and speed can also factor into your choice of shapes. For example, a taller, heavier skier who is skiing 34 mph needs more support on top of the water than a lighter skier going 36 mph and thus can benefit from a wider design.