I first tried to water ski at the age of 8 but I couldn’t hold on tight enough or maybe I just didn’t understand what my body needed to do. The next summer I figured it out. I also learned that water skiing is a team sport.
Even before I started skiing, my dad had me assisting our official observer, an adult, who got to carry the coveted bright orange safety flag. I learned that you had to keep your eye on the skier at all times as well as learn the hands signals for things such as “faster”, “slower”, “cut engine” and so on. These messages were then delivered to the driver.
Like any sport, you have to have certain equipment to play. Aside from the obvious, the boat, skis and the tow rope, the observer had the bright orange or red safety flag. It clearly held special meaning to the boats around us. It had to be held up high to indicate that there was a skier in the water (either getting ready to ski or fallen down). The skier absolutely must wear a life jacket. Skiers can be knocked on conscious when falling by debris, skis or the fall itself. Without a life jacket, the skier can be put into life-threatening danger.
The driver has, perhaps, the toughest job of all. Even though tempted to look back at the skier, they really need to rely on the information from the observer and concentrate 100%driving safely. The driver should be on the alert for all kinds of dangers such as getting to close to the shore, other boats or skiers, swimmers and debris. They can’t make any sudden turns with a skier in tow. Sometimes the driver may need to slowly cut the engine to avoid a sudden turn or danger ahead. Or slow significantly going into a turn. In either case, signals should be made to the skier.
When a skier falls, the driver with the aid of the observer should quickly return to the fallen skier. The observer should keep the bright safety flag held up high during this time. The skier should prop one ski up high so others can see her. When the driver comes by to pick up the skier, placing her on the driver’s side will help give a clear view. The engine should be cut completely when approaching the skier to avoid any possible accidental injury. Never back up toward a skier. Many water skiing accidents are the result of a driver mistake when picking up a skier according to California Department of Boating and Waterways: Safety Hints for Waterskiing (http://www.dbw.ca.gov/Pubs/Watski/index.htm).
Water skiing can be a dangerous sport but if you and your team follow these water skiing safety tips, it doesn’t have to be. Stay ahead of the game and be safe on the water.
California Department of Boating and Waterways: Safety Hints for Waterskiing. http://www.dbw.ca.gov/Pubs/Watski/index.htm>Accessed August 7, 2009.