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Teaching Youth How to Water-Ski

Take it Slow

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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 their face is priceless. I taught waterskiing at a camp a few summers ago and was fortunate to see a lot of happy faces.

One 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 they are ready. They have to be confident they want to learn. If they are not ready, and you make them ski before they are, it can leave them with a scary feeling. This in turn can shy them away from the sport indefinitely.

Start On Dry Land

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

Keep Them On Their Toes

Tell them to balance or keep their weight on there toes (balls of their feet). This has the affect of keeping them off their heels and consequently off their butts. It is virtually impossible for someone to keep their arms straight when the sensation of falling backwards occurs. Having the weight on the balls of the feet makes it much more difficult to fall backward. Now, as long as the knees are bent the child is not only more stable but gives them better control of the ski for turning and future water stunts. (this paragraph was contributed by Rich Burger)

Get Them 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. They make boom extensions for smaller hands 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 them try the boom. If they are still a little hesitant, have an adult hang on to the boom with the child, with the adult spreading their 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 them 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 prop. Once the rope gets near the back of the boat it is 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 hook-up is located.

Moving To The Back Of The Boat

Drill into the child's head these important things. Keep your knees bent and together, head up, weight back, and arms straight. If they do not get it right the first couple of times, do not get upset with them. You have got to remember this is scary stuff for them. Patience is the virtue.

To ease the child's apprehension, have an adult get in the water and hang out with the child to help build their confidence. Help them get their skis pointed forward, and hold the tails of the skis down as the drivers begins the pull. If they are unsuccessful, you are right there to help them get started again. If they get up, great! Just hang out in the water until the boat returns. Though, remember 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 they do 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 water-skiers. 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 Them A Star

Try video taping the child skiing. They will get a kick out of seeing themselves on the tube, and this is a great way to show them what they are doing wrong.

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