This article was written by Connor, one of our founding editors. Connor is a full-time travel and lifestyle photographer with extensive experience in the outdoors industry.
It is far more established now than it ever has been, but water skiing is still widely considered as a new and growing sport. For beginners, the sport offers a fun new challenge. For seasoned pros, water skiing can become exhilarating, dangerous, and competitive.
Due to the growth of the sport, at both an amateur and competitive level, there has been a vast improvement in the design and manufacturing of high-quality water skis. This can only be a good thing to happen to the sport, as it will aid performance and bring it to a new level.
However, with the advancements in technology, the water ski buying process has become super challenging. Whether this is your first purchase or 100th, you’ll want to know that you’re buying the best water skis for you.
More technology = more decisions to make.
We recognize the need for an easy-to-understand review guide which is why we’ve built this page. Feel free to click through the Amazon pages to check prices. At the bottom, we have produced a guide on understanding water ski construction and how it affects you.
Let’s get to the reviews.
When you’re choosing the best slalom water ski to get for yourself, you need to consider a few aspects. If you’ve read our Ultimate Guide to Wakeboards, you’ll know that each individual has different requirements based on several variables.
When it comes to ski choice, typically it will be based on skier weight, boat speed, and your ability. The chances are, if you are slalom skiing, you’re probably not a beginner and will have a good understanding of your ability.
If you’re not entirely sure of your boat speed, just ask your ski instructor/boat driver, and they will be able to tell you your normal speeds and give a recommendation.
Combo (or combination) water skis are highly recommended if you’re new to the sport or are towing beginners. Generally, they’re wider at the front with a larger surface area to provide you with more stability. The other benefit to combo skis is that they’ll often come in at a slightly lower price than the higher quality slalom skis.
Like we mentioned in the introduction, buying the best water ski is becoming ever more challenging because of advancements in technology. Whether you’re just starting out, looking to progress onto a new ski or replacing an old one, it’s worth spending a bit of time to research.
If you’re a first-timer, you will begin by learning on a pair of combo, or combination, skis. They are much wider than slalom ski, meaning they will be far more stable on the water and will allow you a few more mistakes. The increased surface area of these ski makes it easier to learn how to stand up, which is one of the more worrying things for beginners!
Often, the bindings on combo skis will be very adjustable, which means that it’ll suit most of the family. That said, depending on the size of your child, you may need to buy child-specific skis. Kids can also benefit from using EZ ski trainers, holding the two skis together and providing more stability.
With combo water skis, your weight isn’t as important as it is when you’re choosing a slalom ski. If you think you will really get into this sport, then pick a pair of combo skis that have a foothold at the back for dropping a ski and going slalom. We bet you anything you’ll fall in love with the sport.
The next step after this is hunting for a really good slalom ski to continue your journey!
If you’re at the level of choosing to buy your own slalom ski, then you’re likely getting on well in the sport. Slalom skis are constantly evolving and are generally built more specifically for a certain type of skier in mind.
Your skiing speed should be a major factor in deciding which ski you opt for. For those new to slalom, this is something that is far too often overlooked. The speed at which you ski affects how deep you sit in the water.
Therefore, as a general rule, if you ski at a slower speed, you will need a ski with a wider surface area to sit on top of the water more easily. That’s why more advanced and competition skiers will have much narrower skis. As well as the fact they don’t need as much help to sit on top of the water, they will cut through easier.
Those skiing at 34mph or over will be competition/advanced level skiers and should opt for a stiffer slalom ski. A stiffer slalom ski will be able to deal with the load of the turn much better, allowing you to exit with more speed.
Recreation/advanced level skiers will usually be towed at speeds between 31 and 33mph. The ski doesn’t need to be as stiff and narrow, yet having said that, they will probably only be about .4” wider than a competition ski. Since there won’t be as much speed, the slight increase in surface area will make skiing less tiring because there will be less drag through the water.
Intermediate skiers should be pulled around 28-31mph and the ski width will be up to .7” wider than the average competition ski. This will provide a lot more stability, which is necessary at this ability level because you will generally make more mistakes. Turn speed on this ski will be reduced, allowing this type of skier to feel more confident and in their depth.
Like wakeboarding, your height doesn’t really contribute all that much to the size of your ski. Primarily, you need to consider your weight when picking one. It may sound obvious, but the heavier you weigh, the more surface area there will need to be in order to support your weight on the water.
Here comes the ‘but’. There are instances in which you may want to ignore the standard sizing guides for ski length based on weight. For example, if you’re heavier, a longer ski will support you more and will allow you to go faster. However, choosing a shorter ski will allow you to turn faster, but will cause you to get tired easier because it will sit lower in the water.
Once you’ve selected the correct size of the ski, you should also consider its design. That’s to say, you need to think about bevel, stiffness, and base concave.
Essentially, the edge bevel relates to the degree from the base of the ski to the side rail. The degree of the bevel affects how easily the ski will roll onto its edge, affecting your carving. At the most advanced level (competition standard) the bevel will be smallest so that the skier can turn faster. Beginners will ski with more bevel for a smoother and slower turn.
The shape of the bottom of the ski is called the ‘base concave’ and there are three main shapes.
The V bottom is most often found on beginner/novice skis because it allows the ski to run in a straight line more easily. This is important because beginners will not be carving constantly throughout the run. Additionally, the V bottom allows a wider ski to roll onto the other edge more easily.
Tunnel-concave designs allow the ski to sit higher on the water due to the flat spots on the edge of the ski. If the ski has a bigger flat spot, it will be more stable on the water, with the reverse being true.
Full concave bases allow you to go from edge to edge the most smoothly and quickly. If the concave is deeper, it will hold an edge better but will also be more tiring to transition. This type of design is usually found more advanced and competition level skis.
It is really important to consider the stiffness of the ski because this can have a direct impact on how you ski. Throughout the turn, all skis bend and flex to a certain extent. Essentially, this is what allows you to perform a turn properly.
Most of the flex occurs in the middle of the turn and then on the exit, your ski releases the energy (or flex) which helps you to come out of the turn at speed. A stiffer ski will create more energy on the turn but will be harder to control if it’s too stiff.
The more force you put into a turn, the stiffer your ski needs to be in order to get the most out of the turn. Likewise, the less force or speed going into a turn, you’ll be better off having a softer ski. This is because, rather than doing an almost u-turn, a beginner at slower speeds is more just leaning from side to side which puts little force on the ski, getting away with a much bigger flex.