How to Water Ski for Beginners (Step by Step)

Water skiing is one of the best watersports out there. If you’re going to try it for the first time, it’s important that you know the right technique to help you get up. In today’s guide, we’ll review everything you need to know for waterskiing as a beginner.

How to water ski for beginners

The key to water skiing is keeping your knees bent and slowly extending as you rise above the water. You also need the right equipment and speed.

Below I will go through the whole process.


If you want to successfully water ski as a beginner, its important to have the right equipment. While single skis are an option, I strongly recommend you start with two skis, as it will be much easier to get up and balance. I also suggest you choose skis that are wide, as the larger surface easier will make it easier to balance. Make sure to get skis that are rated for your weight. If you are an adult, you should check out my guide on the best water skis for adults

You want to make sure that the skis fit nice and snug on your feet. If they are loose, they might come off in the water.  

You’ll also want to make sure your life jacket fits you snug. Ideally, you should have a life jacket that is coast guard approved.

Lastly, it’s important that your water ski rope is firm and doesn’t have any frays. You also want to make sure that there is a good grip on the handle.

Practice on land

I know it sounds excessive, but it can be really helpful to practice on land before you get in the water. A good exercise it to have someone stand a couple feet away from you with the rope.

You can see how to do this in the video below:

Stand very low to the ground with your knees bent, and hold the rope handle as the other person pulls firmly on the rope. As the tension increases, slowly rise to a standing position (still keep your knees slightly bent).

While you pop up, it’s important to keep your shoulders back, knees forward, and your hips over your feet. Keep your arms straight, and make sure your knees are over your toes. There should be a straight line from your knees to your armpit.

Once you practice this a couple times, you’re ready to hit the water.

How to get up on a water ski

Once you are in the water, sit slightly back with the tips of the skis above the water. It’s important that you have your knees tucked in closely to your chest.

Wait for the jet ski rope to get firm, and then give the signal to hit the gas. For beginners, it’s important that the boat doesn’t accelerate too quickly. You want to get to a speed of about 18 miles per hour. It’s also worth mentioning that you can use a jet ski for water skiing

When the boat starts to pull you, don’t try to immediately stand up. Instead, slowly extend your knees as you rise above the water. It’s important that you keep your arms straight. You should put the majority of your weight on the back of your heels as you lean back.

One of the biggest mistakes I see is that people dip their head. This will cause your center of gravity to be off, so it’s very important that you keep your head up looking directly at the boat.

It will probably take you a couple times to get the hang of it if you are doing it the first time. The main thing is to slowly come out of the balled up position, instead of just trying to immediately stand up. It’s totally fine if it takes you a couple seconds to extend your legs into a standing up position.

Tips for standing up

Once you are standing up, the hard part is over. That being said, there are still a couple other tips you should keep in mind.

Try to stay in a straight line for the first couple of minutes. After you get a hang of your weight distribution and balance, then you can start experimenting moving side to side.

You should use a thumbs up to tell the boat driver to increase the speed, and then a thumbs down if you want them to slow down.

When you start to fall, make sure to completely let go of the rope so that it doesn’t drag you through the water.

Is it hard to water ski for the first time?

Simply put, yes, it can be pretty difficult to stand up for the first time on water skis. It’s a pretty unique motion that can be hard to learn for the first time.

The key is to not stand up too quickly, and to keep the majority of your weight on your back feet while you lean back. Also make sure that your head is facing forward and not down.

While it can be frustrating, it’s important not to get discouraged. It may take a couple hours to get the hang of it. Just stay determined, and I promise you all the falls will be worth it once you get up for the first time. The good thing is that most people get the hang of it after they stand up the first time.