How to Teach a Child to Water Ski

Updated on July 23, 2016
My daughter skiing at age seven on Lake Gaston
My daughter skiing at age seven on Lake Gaston | Source


Water skiing is a fun and healthy sport for kids of all ages. There is a huge sense of accomplishment when a child can get up on skis and actually stay up for the first time. There are a few things you can do to make this learning process as easy as possible for your child. Before you get started, make sure the child wants to learn how to ski. If they feel forced into learning it may turn out to be a frustrating experience for all. Water skiing uses muscles not used in other sports and it can be a tiring learning experience. If your child is already weary from a day of tubing and swimming, it may be best to wait for another opportunity.

A couple of important points to consider: One, do not try to put adult skis on a child. It can be dangerous for the child, but more likely, just a negative experience for all. Two, do not be afraid to get in the water with a small child. Above all, keep it fun! Give kudos for trying something new.

A Three-year old Water Skis

A Child's First Time on Water Skis

When a child is first learning to ski, make it fun--not stressful! Help them put the skis on and adjust for the proper foot size. Next, give these instructions:

  1. If and when you fall, let go of the rope. Your life jacket will keep you afloat. The boat will come back to get you.
  2. Sit in the water in a crouched position with knees bent and slightly lean back.
  3. Keep the skis parallel with the ski tips out of the water.
  4. Hold the rope with both hands and place the rope in between your skis.
  5. Extend your arms.
  6. Let the boat gradually pull you out of the water. Do not try to stand up too fast. Let the boat do the work. When the boat has pulled you up, then stand up.
  7. Stay behind the wake for your first couple times for an easier experience.
  8. Steering skis is like riding a bike--if you look in a particular direction, that is where your skis will go.

You can even get in the water with a young child to help make it even easier. Just stay beside them in the water and hold the bottom of their skis steady until the boat starts to move. Then if the skier doesn't get up, you are right there to encourage them to try it again.

Waterski Equipment for Kids

Life Jacket
Most importantly, have a US Coast Guard approved Personal Floatation Device 2 (otherwise known as a life jacket) that is the correct size for your child. They typically come in sizes by weight. This should fit snug when it is dry. Life jackets are designed to keep you afloat in the water. If the jacket is too big, it will rise up on your body when you are in the water, making it uncomfortable. Make sure to tighten all the straps.

Junior Water Skis
Preschoolers can start out on ski trainers, which are large boards with a rope attached. These are great for learning balance at a very young age, but once a child has gotten up on this device once or twice, it is way too easy. Borrowing a ski trainer or buying it used is a better choice as it is just not worth the $100 to buy this one new. The Gladiator Ski Trainer says it is for kids up to 85 pounds, but by the time a kid is that size he will be too tall for this device. Overton's and Dicks Sporting Goods both sell a wide range of junior skis. These skis have a removable crossbar at the tip, which is invaluable when learning to ski because it keeps the skiers legs together eliminating the "Bambi" legs on skis. For many young children, they have not yet developed the strength in their legs to keep their legs parallel on skis. As your child gains confidence and improves her balance, then you can easily remove the cross-bar for the next step. Most of these junior skis are for up to 125 lbs. Junior water skis include brands such as Gladiator, HO, O Brien and Connelly. These skis are a good investment and will endure many years of use as your child grows.

Ski Rope
Use a recreational water ski rope with comfortable handles that float. The standard length is 75ft. Many people think that using a shorter rope is better for beginners, but actually the water directly behind the boat is rougher. It is best for beginners to be in the smoothest water.

Learn Water Ski Hand Signals

Directions for the Driver: How to Pull a Skier

The boat driver can have a huge impact on the success of the beginning skier. It is helpful to find flat, smooth water that does not have too much boat traffic. A quiet cove is a perfect choice. Make sure to have a spotter in the boat with you. In some states, a is legal to use a mirror instead of an actual spotter, but it is a wiser choice to have another person in the boat to watch the child when he is first learning. When the skier has indicated she is ready, gradually tighten the rope. Then slowly push the throttle down for a smooth start and gradually increase speed. For beginners, keep the boat at a steady speed of 12-15 mph. The lighter the child, the easier they will be to pop up. If the skier does not get up, make sure your spotter tells you if the child is getting dragged. Sometimes new skiers forget to let go of the rope and end up getting a face wash. After the skier falls, put the boat in neutral for brief moment, then without too much speed, bring the rope back to the skier by circling around him.

Remember to be patient. Most new skiers are capable of three or four attempts before their arms are too tired to try any more. You can tell if a skier is close to getting up or if they just aren't getting the hang of it that day. If that is the case, don't despair, go for a fun tube ride instead and try the skis again another day.


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    • LauraGSpeaks profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago from Raleigh, NC

      Give it a try Cyclingfitness! You will feel different muscles than you do on your bike. Strong quads from the bike will help. Thanks for stopping by.

    • CyclingFitness profile image

      Liam Hallam 

      8 years ago from Nottingham UK

      Something i've never done but always wanted to try. Great hub thanks for sharing

    • LauraGSpeaks profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago from Raleigh, NC

      Thanks for stoppin by Good Ladfy. Judi Bee, you should try it again! It is so much fun. It is exhilerating and makes me feel young. Jimmy--yes, give it a try soon--you'll love it!

    • jimmythejock profile image

      Jimmy the jock 

      8 years ago from Scotland

      It is not a sport I have tried yet but I hope to in the near future, when that happens I will be back here for some tips first.....jimmy

    • Judi Bee profile image

      Judi Brown 

      8 years ago from UK

      I tried water skiing once, without the benefit of any good advice such as this. As I say, I tried it once!

      Voted up and useful

    • GoodLady profile image

      Penelope Hart 

      8 years ago from Rome, Italy

      Kids make better skiers too. They're just so 'up' for it! Helpful Hub LauraG.

    • LauraGSpeaks profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago from Raleigh, NC

      I find it is easier to teach a child. Adults try to stand up too fast and usually do a faceplant. Also, adults typically have more body weight than strength and fitness. I am talking 40s here not young twenty somethings!

    • angela_michelle profile image

      Angela Michelle Schultz 

      8 years ago from United States

      So how do you teach an adult.... Probably the same way. I've always wanted to , but never had the opportunity.


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