Waterskiing is a sport where an individual (or more than one individual) is pulled behind a motor boat or a cable ski installation on a body of water. The skier is either wearing one (slalom) or two (double) skis. The surface area of the ski (or skis) keeps the person skimming on the surface of the water allowing the skier to stand upright while holding onto a tow rope.
A patent for a water ski was given to a constructor in Sweden already in 1841, but whether it ever came into use is unclear. The word water ski (Swedish: vattenskida) occurs in the encyclopedia Nordisk Familjebok in 1921. The American Water Ski Association states that water skiing began in 1922 when Ralph Samuelson used two boards as skis and a clothesline as a tow rope on Lake Pelpin in Lake City, Minnesota, the Guiness Book of Records of 1974 also stated that a Mr Storrey won a 'plank-gliding' event at a Regatta in Scarborough, North Yorkshire in 1914. The sport remained a little-known activity for several years. Samuelson began taking his "stunts" on the road, performing shows from Michigan to Florida. Numerous claims began to surface as to who was the first water skier, but in 1966 the American Water Ski Association formally acknowledged Samuelson as the first on record. Samuelson has also been credited as the first ski racer, first to go over a jump ramp, first to slalom ski and the first put on a water ski show. Katherine Lomerson of Union Lake, Michigan has been credited as the first woman to water ski, in 1924.
Early water skis were first made of wood and skiers strapped them onto their feet with rubber ski bindings. In the 1970s fiberglass began being used in water ski construction. Modern waterskis are commonly made of composite materials, including carbon fiber. The first patented design of a water ski that included carbon fiber was that of Hani Audah at SPORT labs in 2001, and its first inclusion in the tournament slalom skiing was in 2003.
Water skiing usually begins with a "deep water start" or a dock start. The skier crouches down in the water (knees bent, arms straight, leaning back, imagine sitting in a chair), with the ski tip(s) pointing up and the ski rope between the skis or, if using one ski, on either side of the ski. With one ski (slalom), the rope should be put on the left side if right foot leads, or the right side if the left foot leads. When the skier is ready, the driver accelerates the boat to pull the skier out of the water. The key to getting up is patiently staying in the crouched position, arms straight, and keeping balanced. The boat should do all the work, creating enough force between it and the ski, to pull the skier out of the water. Common mistakes are trying to stand up too early, breaking at the waist, and bending the arms.
In addition to the driver and the skier, a third person known as the spotter/observer must be present. The spotter's job is to watch the skier, and inform the driver if the skier falls. Communication between the skier and the occupants of the boat is done with hand signals. It is the spotter's job to watch the skier's hand signals and pass on the messages to the driver. Such signals include: faster (thumb up), slower (thumb down), and stop (crossing the neck with your hand, in a cutting motion).
Speeds and length of the rope will vary with skill and competition events.