Updated May 2022
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Buying guide for Best water skis

For anyone who enjoys spending time out on a boat, the idea of trying your hand at water-skiing is probably pretty tempting. But whether you’re skiing just for fun, to prepare for competition, or to impress your friends and family with cool tricks, finding the right pair of water skis is the key to safe, enjoyable water-skiing.

At its most basic, water-skiing involves being pulled behind a boat while wearing skis so you can skim the surface of the water. It’s most common to wear two skis, but some people use a single ski with their dominant foot positioned in front of their other foot. While it’s an activity that many people can enjoy with the right equipment, you do need some upper and lower body strength, as well as balance, to water ski successfully.

But it really all starts with the proper equipment, which makes choosing the right water skis crucial. That means figuring out what type of skis you need, what size to choose, what material and shape work best, and what other features can make water-skiing even more fun. Considering how many water skis there are on the market, making sense of all these options can be a challenge. That’s where our handy shopping guide comes in – it has all the information you need to choose the ideal water skis for your next boating trip.

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The speed of the boat that’s pulling you should also influence the size of your water skis. In general, the faster the boat, the shorter your skis should be.

Key considerations

Types of water skis

The first decision to make when you’re shopping for water skis is to determine which type is best for your skill level and the activities you plan to use them for. There are four main types of water skis.

Combination water skis are the most common style of water skis and are sold in pairs. They are ideal for beginners and are the easiest to use when you’re just learning the sport. Combination skis have a wider design, which allows for more control and better balance. Because they’re so versatile, multiple skiers in your family may be able to share one pair.

Slalom water skis are designed for skiing with a single ski. They work well when you want to make a sharp turn or ski at a higher speed. Slalom skis are thinner than combination skis, so you should have extremely good balance and experience with water-skiing in order to use them.

Trick water skis are suited for doing stunts like spins and jumps. They have a shorter, wider design that allows for greater range of motion when you’re on the water. Unlike combination and slalom skis, which feature fins for better control, trick skis don’t have fins so they can slide across the water and make sharp turns. They should only be used by intermediate and advanced skiers.

Jump water skis are made specifically for jumping off ramps into the water. They have a long, wide shape but are lightweight to allow you to jump a significant distance. Jump skis also have completely smooth bottoms to make it easy to move along the ramp. They should only be used by advanced water-skiers.


When choosing water skis, length is an extremely important feature. The right length depends on the weight of the skier because heavier individuals typically require longer skis for stability and control.

  • For children and teens who are 80 pounds or less, opt for water skis that are 63 inches in length or shorter.

  • For skiers who weigh between 80 and 135 pounds, opt for water skis that are 63 to 65 inches in length.

  • For skiers who weigh between 120 and 185 pounds, opt for water skis that are 65 to 67 inches in length.

  • For skiers who weigh between 160 and 210 pounds, opt for water skis that are 67 to 69 inches in length.

  • For skiers who weigh between 190 and 225-plus pounds, opt for water skis that are 69 to 71 inches in length.

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Expert Tip
It’s always a good idea to stretch before going out on water skis.



Water skis can be made of a few different materials. While all materials work relatively well, one option may be better depending on the style of water-skiing you prefer.

Fiberglass is a classic material for water skis. It’s an extremely durable option that offers flexibility for some maneuvers, too. It can also be fashioned into a variety of shapes that help increase the skis’ speed and maneuverability.

Fiberglass and graphite combination skis have a more durable, lightweight design than fiberglass models. They can also be made into a variety of shapes to help boost the skis’ speed and maneuverability.

Carbon fiber is the most flexible, lightweight option for skis. It’s an extremely expensive material, though, which may not fit every budget. However, carbon fiber skis are extremely strong and durable, so they may be worth the investment for avid, experienced water-skiers.

Bottom shape

While all water skis have roughly the same shape, there are some subtle differences in the bottom of the skis that may affect performance. A narrow tunnel bottom helps provide directional stability. This shape works especially well if you water ski in rough waters. An edge-to-edge concave bottom is usually used for slalom skis and works well for hard, fast turns.


The bindings on water skis are the boot-like compartments where you place your feet. Adjustable bindings offer the most versatility and are ideal if multiple people will be using the skis because they can accommodate a variety of foot sizes.

More experienced water-skiers may prefer custom-fit bindings. They have a tighter fit, which helps you transfer your weight directly to the skis to provide greater control.


Some water skis are equipped with fins to keep them from sliding in a sideways direction when you make turns. Fins also allow you to stay straight as you move over the water. For the most versatility, opt for water skis with removable fins.

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Never water ski after dark. It’s too easy for collisions to occur when there isn’t much light out on the water.


Water skis vary in price based on type, material, and size. Most models range from $80 to $750.

Combination water skis typically cost between $80 and $600. They’re the best option if you’re new to water-skiing or want a basic pair of skis that the entire family can use.

Slalom water skis usually range from $140 to $650. They work best for intermediate or advanced skiers.

Trick water skis generally cost between $180 and $700. Because they’re used for doing stunts, only advanced water-skiers or those who water ski competitively should use them.

Jump water skis are usually the most expensive type, ranging from $185 to $750. They should only be used by advanced or competitive water-skiers.

"If you have any chronic health conditions, ask your doctor before going water-skiing."


  • Always clean your water skis with fresh water after each use. Allow them to dry thoroughly before storing them.

  • Don’t leave your water skis out in direct sunlight, which can cause them to fade and weaken over time.

  • Adjust the bindings on your water skis before putting them on. You can injure yourself if you try to tighten the binding when the boot is already on your foot.

  • Always wear a life jacket when you go water skiing.

  • Use water skis at least 70 to 80 feet from the shoreline or nearby docks to avoid running into obstacles and injuring yourself.

  • If you fall while on your water skis, let go of the rope that’s attached to the boat. That will keep you from being dragged or the rope from injuring you.
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Always check the condition of your water skis and other equipment before you take them out on the water. You can easily get injured on damaged skis.


Q. What binding material is best for beginner water-skiers?

A. Water ski bindings are usually made of either rubber or EVA foam. Rubber bindings are typically the best choice if you’re new to water-skiing because they have a soft, comfortable feel on the skin and a more flexible fit as well.

Q. How does bottom beveling affect a pair of water skis?

A. If you’re new to water-skiing, it’s usually best to opt for a pair of skis with a rounded bevel on the bottom. The rounded shape helps slow down the skis and provides greater control when you’re on the water. Advanced and intermediate skiers, on the other hand, may prefer skis with sharper edges because they can boost speed out on the water.

Q. Can I use a slalom water ski if I’m a beginner?

A. In general, slalom skis are designed for advanced or intermediate water-skiers because you must balance yourself on a single ski. However, some manufacturers do make slalom skis geared toward new water-skiers. They’re typically wider than more advanced types of slalom skis, so they’re not quite as fast and are easier to control.

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