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.

Photo of a boat towing a waterskier

Water skiing hand signals

You need at least three people to go waterskiing — the driver, the spotter, and the skier. Make sure your spotter and your skier know all of the signals (see sidebar). In most states, you also need an orange flag to hold up to signify to other boaters that you have a fallen skier in the water.

  • Set the desired rope length always making sure to use a tow rope that is designed for skiing. Most people start at 15 feet off (the red section), but you can also start at Long Line (75-foot rope.) As the skier progresses, you can shorten the line to make running the slalom course more difficult.
  • Have the skier put on his ski on the swim platform; let the fin hang off the side to prevent damage to the boat and the fin. Keep the engine off until the skier has jumped in the water and pushed away from the boat to avoid carbon monoxide poisoning. Ask, "Clear?" to make sure the skier is away from the propeller before you start the engine.
  • Idle away from the skier until the rope is tight. Take it in and out of gear to avoid jerking the handle out of the skier's hands. When the skier yells, "Hit it!" put the boat in idle and then throttle up.
  • When you pull a skier out of the water, gently push the throttle forward. You do not need to slam it into gear. Keep an eye on the skier in the rearview mirror; as soon as the skier is on plane, gently pull back on the throttle to the desired speed.
  • The speed should be determined by weight and ability level of the skier; beginners and children should be towed at slower speeds. The maximum speed (in competition) for men under 35 years old is 36 mph; the maximum speed for men over 35 years old and women is 34 mph.Photo of a waterskier getting ready for a run
  • If possible, choose a straight line for your boat path. Keep your right hand on or near the throttle. Rest your left elbow on your left knee and hold the bottom of the steering wheel with your left hand. This body position will prevent you from oversteering the skier. Use a point on the shoreline as a reference to help you steer the boat in a straight line.
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