How To Tow Like A Pro!

By Jacqueline Stocks
Published: Summer 2013

Here are a few tips for pulling a slalom skier on a public lake. The goal is to be safe, have fun, and maximize the smooth water.

Illustration of how to "drop a skier"

Click to enlarge

  • The boat path should resemble a figure 8 with a long straight line in the middle. When it is time to turn around, steer to the left, then make a right-hand turn. You will cross over your own boat wake and then return to your exact boat path ... just follow the bubbles. This boat path will allow your boat wake to wash away from the skier and provide smooth water on the pass back.
  • If the skier falls during the run, slowly pull back on the throttle but continue going straight until you've come to idle speed. It is dangerous for the passengers in the boat if you pull back and make a quick turn. Make a slow turn to the right, to avoid sending a big wave down the lake, taking the boat in and out of gear. Remember, one of the goals is to keep the water smooth for the skier. Show an orange flag to notify other boaters that you have a skier down in the water. Idle back to the skier and come up beside him on the driver's side. Make a slow turn around the skier so that the rope is guided into their hands. Align the boat back into your original boat path and then wait for the skier to say, "Hit it!"
Illustration of how to tow for a slalom skier

Click to enlarge

  • When the skier signals "Cut it" or "Head back to the dock," you know they are done with their set. Always direct the skier to pull out to the driver's side of the boat when stopping to rest or shortening the line. This is a tricky skill to learn, but once you figure it out, you'll feel like a pro! Point the skier out to the starboard side of the boat; once they have pulled to the right side of the wake, make a gentle turn to the left, sending the skier further to the right, and then pull back on the throttle to a stop. Once the skier starts to sink into the water, you can make a right turn coming around the skier. This way the skier can hold on to the handle and just take a break. Or you can pull up to the skier on the driver side to pick him up. Be sure to turn off the engine before the skier climbs onboard.
  • Good boating etiquette is always appreciated by your fellow skiers. You can be helpful by staying away from other boats or the slalom course while your peers are skiing. Smooth water is as precious as gold to slalom skiers and a good boat driver can maximize quality water conditions.

We hope this information was helpful, but there is no substitute for real life experience. If you know a knowledgeable skier or boat driver, we recommend that you go skiing with that person and have them teach you how to drive safely and effectively. Also, each lake is different; please be aware of any special boating rules or dangerous obstacles. Many states require a boating license. See www.BoatUS.com/Foundation for more information on their free boating safety course.


Jacqueline Stocks is on the INT League Amateur Tour which promotes family-oriented amateur waterskiing, wakeboarding, wake surf, wake skating, and kneeboarding events in 27 states.

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