What Is The Best Speed For Water Skiing? (Explained!)

Water skiing can be a tremendous amount of fun, but going at the right speed is essential in order to create a smooth, engaging ride.

What Is The Best Speed For Water Skiing? (Explained!) 1

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What’s the best water skiing speed?

What is the best speed for water skiing? The best speed for water skiing depends entirely on who is skiing and what they’re doing. Speeds can vary from as slow as 11 miles an hour to as fast as 130 miles per hour. Experienced skiers, children, and tricks skiers need the slowest speeds while racing skiers need the fastest speeds.

Here’s what you need to know about how to achieve the best speed of the boat for water skiing depending on who is riding and what they’re doing on the skis.

How To Decide How Quickly A Boat Should Go For Water Skiing

How fast you should tow a water skier depends on a number of factors. You will need to weigh all of these factors in as you decide exactly how quickly to pilot the boat.

Also, keep in mind that conditions may affect the ideal speed for a given skier. Here are some of the factors to keep in mind:

  • Skier’s weight
  • What size ski is being used
  • How skilled the skier is
  • What kind of skiing you are doing

When skiers are just getting started, a slower speed is preferable. A slower speed offers a more stable ride and less intense falls.

They also tend to use larger skis, which can be accommodated by a slower speed. When skiers increase in skill and want to be able to cut across the water, you will want to choose faster speeds.

In general, you can tow an average skier at anywhere between 26 and 36 miles per hour.

For very inexperienced skiers or novice skiers who are quite lightweight, especially children, a max speed as low as 12 to 24 miles per hour may be appropriate. 

What Is The Best Speed For Water Skiing?

On the other hand, if you are involved in competitive high speed water skiing, a maximum speed as high as 130 miles per hour may be suitable.

Keep in mind that skiing at these kinds of speeds comes with serious risks and should only be undertaken by a very skilled and experienced skier. They have special equipment, from the handle to the grip, the tow rope, gloves, and life jacket.

For trick skiers who want the most wake, much slower speeds, as slow as 11 to 21 miles per hour, may be appropriate.

Kids who are just learning how to ski should be towed at very low speeds as well, typically between 12 and 15 miles per hour.

As a beginner’s skill level increases, waterskiing speed should also increase, but because children weigh so much less than an adult, they should never be towed at adult speeds. 

As a rule, the slower the speed, the larger the skis. Larger skis provide additional stability and maintain buoyancy, which is important at lower speeds. 

Boat Speeds By Type Of Skiing

Slalom skiing20 to 35 mph
Combo skiing23 to 25 mph
Shaped skiiing20 to 30 mph
Jump skiiing25 to 35 mph
Ski racing60 to 130 mph
Trick skiing11 to 21 mph
Children skiing12 to 15 mph

What Kind Of Boat Is Best To Achieve Ideal Water Skiing Speeds?

Naturally, you’ll need a boat with enough horsepower that can maintain the speed that you want for skiing. If you would like to achieve some jumps off of a wake, you will also want a boat that can put up a good wave. 

Ski boats with V drives are specifically designed to make a large wake that is ideal for getting some air while skiing.

However, if you want a flat surface on which to ski at a fast pace or pull off tricks and acrobatics on the water, you will want a tow boat with a flat bottom and a small hull to minimize wake. 

If you would like to save money on gas while towing a skier, a towboat that can get on a plane at lower speeds is a good idea.

A towboat on a plane will not use up nearly as much gas as a towboat that needs to plow through the water to maintain towing speeds. 

Keep in mind that you won’t be able to have it both ways. If you want a boat that can create a great wake to do jumps off of, it will not also be able to maintain a plane while creating this wake.

The best boats for skiing which also do a good job of doubling as leisure boats include a Bow Rider, Jet Boat, Deck Boat, or Cuddy Cabin. If you enjoy casual skiing, one of these boats will serve your purposes just fine.

However, as you enter into competitive levels, you will likely want a dedicated ski boat that meets your particular skiing needs.

How To Ski Safely At Any Speed

Regardless of what speed is appropriate for the type of skiing you want to do, there are some safety tips that are universal.

Here are a few things to keep in mind to be sure that you are skiing safely no matter what speed you ski at:

  • Always use a spotter. You may think that you can pilot a boat and keep an eye on the skier at the same time, but in practice, this is not at all safe. You may run into an obstacle while looking back at the skier or not notice the skier fall while looking ahead.
  • Use a rope of at least 200 ft. Skiers that ski too close to the back of the boat can easily hit the back, resulting in serious injury, especially if you’re using a boat with an exposed propeller. There’s also a risk of inhaling carbon monoxide when skiing too close to the back of the boat.
  • Always wear a life vest. It doesn’t matter how good you are at skiing or swimming, things can happen such as being knocked unconscious which makes wearing a life vest absolutely essential.
  • Know hand signals ahead of time. You and your spotter should be agreed upon about the hand signals that you should use to ensure that the boat can accelerate, decelerate, stop, etc as you need.
  • Ski in calm water at least five feet deep. Water shallower than 5 feet poses the risk that you will hit the bottom, which can result in serious injury. Rough water makes skiing much more difficult and can also make it more difficult to collect the skier if they should fall. 

At What Age Can Children Start Water Skiing?

Depending on their maturity level and skill in swimming, children can start water skiing as young as seven or eight years of age.

Keep in mind that you will need to go at very slow speeds when towing children, typically between 12 and 15 miles per hour.

As children get older and heavier and their skill level increases, you can gradually increase the speed. 

How Fast Should The Boat Be Going During Turns?

Turns introduce new challenges for both the water skier and the pilot of the boat. In general, you’ll want to slow down during turns.

The water skier can make a wide arc to eat up the water that is covered during the turn without losing speed.

However, you don’t want to slow down too much or you will sink the skier.

At What Speed Should The Skier Water Start?

Water starting is the safest way to begin your ride, and it also is convenient for when skiers fall off in the water.

Water starts should start with the boat completely stopped. Once the skier has the line taught, the boat can be started. 

The water skier should start by floating on their back, with the tips of the water skis out of the water and their feet facing the boat. Gradually accelerate to pull the skier up onto the surface of the water. 

This takes some practice and skill. If you accelerate too quickly, you will pull the line out of the skier’s hands or pull them off balance.

On the other hand, if you accelerate too slowly, the skier will become waterlogged and not actually get up. 

At What Speed Should A Skier Dock Start?

Dock starting looks very cool, but it is much less safe than water starting.

It is entirely possible that instead of being pulled off the dock and into the water, the skier will fall backward and hit their head on the dock, which can result in serious injury. 

If you feel confident in your skills and want to try dock starting, it is done quite differently than water starting.

Acceleration is much quicker when dock starting since the boat must already be going fast enough to keep you on a plane when you hit the water.

Acceleration should be gradual to pull the line taut and then quite quick to land the skier firmly on the water.

What Is The Best Speed For Water Skiing?

Have Fun Going The Right Speed While Water Skiing

The right speed is essential to provide a fun and safe experience while water skiing.

Do your research to determine exactly what is the right speed for the type of skiing being done and for the individual on the skis.