best water skis

In a Bind: The Best Water Skis From Beginner to Advanced

Want more excitement out on the boat?

Are your kids tired of tubes and floating water mats? Or maybe you want to up your waterski game with a pair of trick skis?

Whatever the reason, a new pair of water skis might be the answer to your water-based blues.

Whether you take off from shore, deep waters or an inflatable dock, let’s look at some water ski features to get you up on the water.

Features of Water Skis

In the olden days, water skis were about as basic as you can get. Two curved planks of wood (mahogany, maybe) with leather straps for the feet were about the extent of water ski construction back in the early 20s.

Today’s water skis are made of modern materials such as fiberglass, graphite and carbon fiber. They also sport colorful graphics, high-tech construction and super sturdy bindings. They can also offer extra hydrodynamics and better performance. Let’s take a further look at some of their modern advantages.

Water Ski Bottom Shape

Moving past the flat bottom of those early skis, today’s water skis are available with a V-Bottom, Full Concave or Tunnel Concave bottom.

  • V-Bottom — Like it suggests, a V-bottom water ski has a center rib that runs along the bottom from front to back. This allows the ski to glide straight and smooth, similar to a rudder on a sailboat. V-Bottoms can be found on wide-body and beginner skis.
  • Full Concave — Full concave water skis have a concave base from edge to edge. This gives a solid edge hold and lets them hold turns stronger. Competition and advanced skis have a full concave bottom.
  • Tunnel Concave — Tunnel concave water skis have a center concave and two flat spots on each side. The flat spots work similar to the way pontoons on a pontoon boat work. Tunnel concave skis ride straight and smooth at lots of speeds and sit up higher in the water. Larger flat spots mean more stability while the concave base lets it hold an edge.

Water Ski Edge

The edge of the ski is what allows you to carve a turn and a beveled edge helps control turns. A beginning skier needs a large beveled edge while a professional skier needs a small edge angle to get those precise turns.

Water Ski Fins

Fins are found on the bottom and near the back of the ski. They help to maintain control and balance so you stay upright and straight. They can also be found on surfboards and paddleboards. Some water skis have removable fins.

Water Ski Boot Bindings

The binding is the “boot” your foot slips into (like snow ski bindings, but without the clunkiness). They’re either adjustable, allowing a customized fit for multiple people, or they’re custom-designed for one person.

Construction Material

Water skis are typically made out of either fiberglass, carbon fiber or a combination of fiberglass and graphite. Fiberglass, which is very durable, is the most common material used in the making of water skis.

  • Fiberglass/graphite — Strong and lightweight
  • Carbon fiber — Lightweight, strong and durable, but it’s also more expensive
  • Polyurethane — The core of the water ski is usually polyurethane
  • Wood — Yes, some skis today are still made out of the traditional wood

Types of Water Skis

Whether you’re a beginner or an expert jumper, there are water ski options for every experience level, as well as specific uses such as jumping, tricks and slalom skiing.

  • Combination Skis — A great choice for beginners. They have a wider tip and fins for control and balance while underway. As the name suggests, they can be used for a combination of skiing types.
  • Slalom Skis — With both feet on one ski, a slalom ski is designed to go faster and make sharp turns. It’s thinner than combo skis and has fins for control.
  • Trick Skis —Remember those water ski shows you’ve seen on TV or out on the lake? This is the ski for that. Trick skis are short and wide with no fins. The absence of the fin allows you to slide across the water (or up a ramp) to do flips, turns and other aquatic tricks.
  • Jump Skis — Long, wide and very lightweight. This design allows them to jump a platform or ramp and sail through the air with the greatest of ease.
  • Youth Skis — Specially designed for young beginners, youth skis have a cord/bar across the front (and sometimes the back) to keep the skis together while learning.

The Best Water Skis From Beginner to Advanced

Best Water Skis for Beginners

Preview
AIRHEAD AHST-150 Trainer Water Skis
O'Brien Jr Vortex Widebody 54" Combo Water Skis
Rave Sports Rhyme Combo Water Skis - Adult
Item
AIRHEAD AHST-150 Trainer Water Skis
O’Brien Jr Vortex Widebody Combo Water Skis
Rave Sports Rhyme Adult Water Ski
Bottom Shape
V-bottom
V-bottom
Tunnel concave
Construction Material
Wood
Fiberglass
Formica top with fiberglass rods
Removable Fins
Preview
AIRHEAD AHST-150 Trainer Water Skis
Item
AIRHEAD AHST-150 Trainer Water Skis
Bottom Shape
V-bottom
Construction Material
Wood
Removable Fins
Check Price
Preview
O'Brien Jr Vortex Widebody 54" Combo Water Skis
Item
O’Brien Jr Vortex Widebody Combo Water Skis
Bottom Shape
V-bottom
Construction Material
Fiberglass
Removable Fins
Check Price
Preview
Rave Sports Rhyme Combo Water Skis - Adult
Item
Rave Sports Rhyme Adult Water Ski
Bottom Shape
Tunnel concave
Construction Material
Formica top with fiberglass rods
Removable Fins
Check Price

AIRHEAD AHST-150 Trainer Water Skis

Check price on Amazon

These wooden trainer skis have a crossbar at the tips, and tail ties at the back, to provide stability and keep the skis straight.

An attached rope on the crossbar gives the beginner skier something to hold onto.

They have fiberglass-reinforced nylon rudders for added stability.

The adjustable slide bindings fit children size 12 and adults size 5.

They’re 48 inches long with a wide tail design to add lift when starting.

  • Bottom Shape: V-bottom
  • Construction Material: Wood
  • Removable Fins: No

O’Brien Jr Vortex Widebody Combo Water Skis

Check price on Amazon

The O’Brien Jr Vortex is a great all-around ski for beginners to grow into more advanced skiing techniques.

They’re 54 inches long with a plastic fin and adjustable bindings.

An extra-wide forebody gives stability and the parabolic shape makes getting started in deep water easier.

One of the skis has a rear toe plate that allows you to use your rear foot as a rudder of sorts when slalom skiing (using one ski).

You can trail your foot behind you in deep water.

It also comes with a stabilizer bar for beginners.

  • Bottom Shape: V-bottom
  • Construction Material: Fiberglass
  • Removable Fins: No

Rave Sports Rhyme Adult Water Ski

Check price on Amazon

The Rave Sports Rhyme Water Ski has a wide body design for stability and easier starts in deep water. It also means there’s less of a power toll on the boat to pull skiers up and on top of the water.

The soft adjustable bindings have a rear toe plate for beginner slalom skiers.

At 65 inches in length, this is a great choice for adults.

  • Bottom Shape: Tunnel concave
  • Construction Material: Formica top with fiberglass rods
  • Removable Fin: No

Best Water Skis for Intermediate and Advanced Skiers

Preview
CWB Connelly Aspect Slalom 2017 Swerve Water Ski for Age (5-13), 69"/One Size
Hydroslide Junior Wide Track Intermediate Water Skis Combo Pair, Black, 54-Inch
Nash Hydroslide Legend Adult Deluxe Waterskies, Red/Black/Gray/White
O'Brien Pro Trac Trick Skis
Item
CWB Connelly Aspect Slalom
Hydro Slide Junior Wide Track Intermediate Water Skis
Nash Hydroslide Legend Adult Deluxe Water Skis
O’Brien Pro Trac Trick Skis
Bottom Shape
Tunnel concave
Tunnel concave
Concave
Tunnel concave
Construction Materials
Fiberglass with PMU top and polyurethane resin core
RIM molded polyurethane
Fiberglass
Fiberglass
Removable Fins
Preview
CWB Connelly Aspect Slalom 2017 Swerve Water Ski for Age (5-13), 69"/One Size
Item
CWB Connelly Aspect Slalom
Bottom Shape
Tunnel concave
Construction Materials
Fiberglass with PMU top and polyurethane resin core
Removable Fins
Check Price
Preview
Hydroslide Junior Wide Track Intermediate Water Skis Combo Pair, Black, 54-Inch
Item
Hydro Slide Junior Wide Track Intermediate Water Skis
Bottom Shape
Tunnel concave
Construction Materials
RIM molded polyurethane
Removable Fins
Check Price
Preview
Nash Hydroslide Legend Adult Deluxe Waterskies, Red/Black/Gray/White
Item
Nash Hydroslide Legend Adult Deluxe Water Skis
Bottom Shape
Concave
Construction Materials
Fiberglass
Removable Fins
Check Price
Preview
O'Brien Pro Trac Trick Skis
Item
O’Brien Pro Trac Trick Skis
Bottom Shape
Tunnel concave
Construction Materials
Fiberglass
Removable Fins
Check Price

CWB Connelly Aspect Slalom

Check price on Amazon

The CWB Connelly Aspect Slalom skis are designed with Connelly Advanced Profile Technology (C.A.P.T), which decreases the weight of the ski while increasing its strength and response.

The fiberglass wrap has a high gloss PMU top for years of good looks. They’re made with a closed-cell polyurethane resin core to prevent waterlogging.

Sharp bevels and V-step technology along the base provide precise turns and smooth response. A wide forebody provides increased surface area under the foot for stability at low speeds.

  • Bottom Shape: Tunnel concave
  • Construction Material: Fiberglass with PMU top and polyurethane resin core
  • Removable Fin: No

Hydro Slide Junior Wide Track Intermediate Water Skis

Check price on Amazon

This junior intermediate level set has sliding adjustable bindings with a rear toe plate on one ski.

They have tunnel concave bottoms, a drop-through plastic fin and a wide surface area for stability and control.

A training crossbar is included, which makes this a sound option for a beginner wanting to extend the use of the skis past the newbie timeframe.

  • Bottom Shape: Tunnel concave
  • Construction Material: RIM molded polyurethane
  • Removable Fin: Yes

Nash Hydroslide Legend Adult Deluxe Water Skis

Check price on Amazon

A great intermediate level choice, the Nash Hydroslide Water Skis have adjustable sliding bindings.

They have a rear toe plate on one ski and provide quick turning in a stylish design.

  • Bottom Shape: Concave
  • Construction Material: Fiberglass
  • Removable Fin: No

O’Brien Pro Trac Trick Skis

Check price on Amazon

Short and wide, O’Brien Pro Trac Trick Skis have tapered bevels for easy starting and extra lift.

The symmetrical rocker gives increased stability.

The adjustable bindings are comfortable on your feet and have rear toe plates.

These trick skis are 42 inches long and fit sizes 7-13.

  • Bottom Shape: Tunnel concave
  • Construction Material: Fiberglass
  • Removable Fin: No

Best Water Ski Accessories and Gear

Preview
AIRHEAD Ski Rope, 3 Section, Radius Handle
best water skis
best water skis
Item
AIRHEAD Ski Rope, 3 Section, Radius Handle
Fly High Stainless X-Pole Pylon
Monster Water Ski Rack - Quick Release - with Universal Inserts - Brushed and Anodized
Preview
AIRHEAD Ski Rope, 3 Section, Radius Handle
Item
AIRHEAD Ski Rope, 3 Section, Radius Handle
Check Price
Preview
best water skis
Item
Fly High Stainless X-Pole Pylon
Check Price
Preview
best water skis
Item
Monster Water Ski Rack - Quick Release - with Universal Inserts - Brushed and Anodized
Check Price

Now that you’ve picked out the perfect pair of water skis, you need all the accessories to go along with them.

Airhead 3-Section Water Ski Rope

Check price on Amazon

Every water-skier or wakeboarder needs a comfortable and sturdy tow rope. This EVA-wrapped handle has three sections for customized wakeboarding, waterskiing or kneeboarding (75, 60 or 45 feet). Simply choose your preferred length.

It has a 17-degree, 13-inch radius aluminum core handle and a 3/8-inch 16-strand UV-treated mainline. Full-length finger guards give a comfortable grip.

An encased crossover yoke protects the rope from high abrasion wear and a Rope Keeper is included for tangle-free storage.

Fly High Stainless X-Pole Pylon

Check price on Amazon

The Fly High X-Pole Pylon stands seven feet tall off the boat’s deck, allowing wakeboarders and trick skiers to get more airtime.

It has a Delron swivel top and fixed height swivel ski tow.

It’s rated at 5,200 pounds and slides over the top of an existing pylon in your boat.

Nylon inserts provide pylon protection. How’s that for easy installation?

Monster Tower Water Ski Rack

Check price on Amazon

A water ski rack helps keep everything off the deck and out of the way when you’re done skiing for the day.

With universal tower inserts, the Monster Tower Rack fits any tower 1 5/8 to 2 1/2-inch in diameter.

It holds two slalom skis or one pair of combo skis and with a quick-release mechanism makes it easy to remove for end-of-season storage. Rubber bumpers keep the skis and boards secure.

It’s 25 inches between forks and made with 6063 aluminum and 303 stainless steel components and fasteners.

It can also be rotated to any angle to fit your boat tower, including on curved towers.

 

Ready to suit up and get out on the lake yet?

Hopefully this has helped you choose the perfect pair of water skis for yourself or teaching your kids.

Happy skiing!


Sandy Allen is a freelance writer based in Richmond, Virginia. Her specialties range from hotels, islands and yacht charters to theme parks and family fun. She enjoys boating, snorkeling and jet-skiing along the waterways of Virginia, Florida and North Carolina’s Outer Banks. Follow her adventures at Somewhere in the Sand.