Water skiing is more than just fitness and skills.
The technique is definitely critical; always ensure you’re pointing the ski toes at the boat and not the sky, and keep your shoulders back.
But the choice of ski is also critical.
I learnt the hard way.
See, I had been out of water skiing for quite some time. Getting back, I really struggled getting on a water ski. In fact, I failed miserably.
And yes, I’m still in shape, but I dragged forever and couldn’t even get up on the plane.
So, this got me thinking, what could I be doing wrong? The technique was okay; not in form but decent, the pull was right, the conditions were right, and my boat’s speed hadn’t changed.
Then it dawned on me that my ski must be part of the problem.
How did I miss that?
A little research told me I should have used a 69″ ski, with a slightly wider tip. It should have given me a wide surface area for planing and better balance before I could get my feet under me.
Now, I’m sure I’m alone on this; many skiers still don’t know exactly what type or length of water ski is right for their needs. A wrong pair of water skis will hamper your progress.
The good news is that you don’t have to struggle with selecting a suitable water ski because I’ve prepared a guide outlining everything you need to know about water skis.
I’ve even included the top 5 of my favorite water skis.
Table of Contents
The Best Water Skis For The Money
#1 O'Brien Vortex Widebody Combo Water Skis -- Best Water Skis for Beginner Adults
I got the O’Brien Vortex Wide Body Combo Water Skis for my wife after convincing her to try water skiing.
The water ski seems like a great pick, especially for her size and weight. There’re not many beginner options for adults.
O’Brien Vortex Widebody Combo Water Skis, however, checks on all the boxes adults would need to get their feet wet into water skiing.
Right off the bat, you’ll notice it’s super long and comes at 65.5 inches. It’s a great size, rated for users between 115 to 160 pounds, so it perfectly meets the needs of my better half.
The other distinctive feature of this ski is its shape. The ski fans out a bit, especially on the front section.
It’s a handy feature that provides my wife with more surface area to work with. The extra width is handy, especially when making turns.
You get more control of the board, and you won’t feel like you will drink water. So far, my wife hasn’t face-planted or anything, and she’s getting better.
Comfort is also guaranteed with these water skis. The slide-type adjustable bindings are a nice feature to have, ensuring my wife’s feet are secured on the skis.
The bindings are comfortable, and I’ve not heard her complain about fit, pain, heel popping off or anything. Simply amazing.
My only markdown with this water ski is the construction, especially the fin.
The plastic fin is a letdown, especially in terms of durability. I wish they came in other solid materials such as composite.
Another markdown is the lack of a padded rear toe plate. I understand the water ski is tailored for beginning riders, but the absence of a footbed/rear toe plate means the bottom of your feet is on a slippery surface. Not cool.
But overall, this water ski is the perfect pair, especially for beginners looking to get into skiing water sport.
It’s solid, beginner-friendly and awesome to use.
#2 O'Brien Reactor Combo Water Skis – Best Water Skis for Advanced Riders
Professionals looking to challenge themselves in the water can’t go wrong with the O’Brien Reactor Water Skis.
Out of the box, this water ski comes with a slender and traditional style shape, resembling a slalom water ski. It’s not the perfect option for beginners still working on their wobbly feet or mustering their wakeboarding skills.
However, the narrower shape makes for a nice design for the advanced skier because of the incredible maneuverability and responsiveness on water.
The thin profile is more reactive and will make your experience much more enjoyable.
Another exciting element with the O’Brien Reactor Combo is the bindings.
It features pinch-slid 700 adjustable bindings, which offer a nice and snug fit. They’re pretty big for my size 13 shoe size, but once I bring them tight, they fit just right, and my feet stay in.
Plus, the bindings are flexible, so they pretty much offer a comfortable experience for most users.
Meanwhile, the O’Brien Reactor Combo Water Skis construction is solid and keeps my heel in. Users are surprised by the quality of the board, especially considering the price it comes for.
The composite construction feels solid and will stand up to wakeboarding abuses without fail.
Performance is also at par or even better than some of the premium water skis in the market.
A deep double tunnel base design helps smooth the skin on the water and delivers a glassy experience.
The pronounced V, especially at the entry section, helps with effortless slicing of water, which again helps with a more stable and smoother ride.
And that’s not all; there’re nylon fins for added traction.
I’m impressed with their rounded shape because it eliminates a sharp water ski edge that would otherwise hurry my boat and upholster. Even better, the rounded shape has a better hold of the water surface.
Overall, the O’Brien Reactor Water Skis is a nice water ski and especially a wonderful option for professional riders looking to challenge themselves. It’s also a great slalom ski alternative, suitable for those looking forward to a slalom skiing experience in a much more forging ski.
I would recommend it.
#3 O'Brien Pro Trac Trick Skis – Best Water Skis for Intermediate Riders
The O’Brien Pro Trac Trick Skis are a great choice for the intermediate skier.
Straight out of the gate, I could tell this was not my ordinary combo ski.
Not the ideal pick for a beginner skier, but if you’ve been water skiing for a while and are comfortable on combos, then this is a great choice.
It’ll allow for more skiing possibilities without the complexity of the best slalom skis.
O’Brien Pro Trac Trick intermediate skis still have the DNA of a beginner ski, which is evident in the shape.
You’ll notice it has a generally larger surface area, and this is important if you’re worried about getting up.
The water starts should be easy. I love how they slowly and gradually drag me out of the water and come into a level position. It’s unlike the hit and pops up with the best slalom water skis.
Another thing I noticed with the O’Brien Pro Trac Trick Skis is how well they float. They’re much better than my previous pair of heavy, beginner combos.
At only 10 pounds, they don’t feel hefty at all or challenging to control. Combined with a wide surface, all I’ve to do is just stay tuck and watch as I come right up to level with the rest of the ski.
Performance isn’t bad either because they’re ultra-light and just wide enough. But majorly, the performance is influenced by the absence of fins.
I noticed they feel a bit slippery, but that’s how they should be, and actually a plus for the beginners and intermediate riders.
When riding the ski, you get their feel and respect for their responsiveness.
The first time out, they feel a bit challenging to control. But with time, you’ll realize they just need a subtle pressure for response.
Meanwhile, I also enjoyed the overall comfort of these water skis.
I only tightened the bindings once, and everything was nice and organized. I didn’t feel like my heel was going to slip off or pop off, even at speeds.
The adjustable bindings are super comfortable on my feet, and I’m finding myself wanting to get into the water more than before.
Overall, I’m pleased with the O’Brien Pro Trac Trick Skis.
They provide lots of room to explore, and I feel they’re the best combo skis for those looking forward to learning something new.
#4 O'Brien Jr Vortex Kids Combo Water Skis – Best Combo Skis for Young Riders
I got these for my two kids to learn to ski. One is nine and dropping the ski already, while the other is still building the courage to try.
The O’Brien Jr Vortex Combo Water Skis seems like a great choice to build their water-skiing skills.
It feels stable, and I also bought it because it’s relatively inexpensive. It comes at an affordable price while still offering value for my money.
But I primarily got these because they simplify the learning process, particularly the deep-water starts.
Starts have always been a challenge for my young ones, and they never seem to rise or get afloat once they start riding.
But the O’Brien Jr Vortex Kids Combo Water Skis seems like the perfect choice.
They’ve a wider body, and the increased surface area provides easier starts.
I’m pleased with how they effortlessly rise from their starts to the ski level without sinking or anything.
Simply put, these combo skis are the perfect option for kids who need a little help rising from the water.
The wider surface is also helpful in other ways. It’s critical for their balance.
Learning just got easier with this ski because my kids won’t have to fear slamming face-first in the water. The wider surface gives them greater control, and it’s quite helpful, especially when cruising at lower speeds.
Another signature feature of this ski is the stabilizer bar.
The bar connects the individual bars, offering a nice way for my kids to learn the basics of water skiing.
How helpful is the stabilizer bar?
My kids no longer have to struggle to maintain proper feet position or anything. They simply relax and roll back, and the ski will stay together, giving them a nice water ski experience.
Consider the stabilizer as training wheels for a bike. They add more comfort, more control and eliminate the chances of a wipeout or fall.
And from the look of things, my young ones seem to get better at the sport, and I’m pretty sure it won’t be long before they start ripping around the lake.
Meanwhile, the construction is also amazing. It’s super lightweight yet strong enough to withstand the abuses of water skiing.
Using the ski is a pleasant experience because the skis aren’t bulky and have a nice material that adds to the buoyancy.
It’s comfortable, too, with the Jr. X-7 slide bindings helping to secure their feet on the ski.
Overall, I don’t think you can get anything better for your kids than the O’Brien Jr Vortex Kids Combo Water Skis.
It checks on all the boxes for the best water skis for kids and will help them get into the water sports much easier.
#5 CWB Connelly Big Daddy Waterski – Best Water Ski for Big Guys
Big guys have a problem finding water skis rated for their weight.
HOWEVER, the CWB Connelly Big Daddy Waterski is tailored for their needs.
This water ski has a generous weight rating of 220 pounds, so it’s pretty versatile and will cater to a wide range of users and skill levels, especially the big guys.
I don’t find the CWB Connelly Big Daddy Waterski a great pick for the professional water skiers, but still, I’m impressed with its performance.
However, it would be best suited to beginners and intermediate skiers.
CWB Connelly Big Daddy Waterski has a wide surface area, a trademark feature found in most skis.
Using this ski is pleasant and will make the ski easy to get up. Simply put, beginners and intermediate water skiers won’t get frustrated using these water skis.
Performance-wise, the wide-area promotes greater stability and control, while the edges will make the cuts effortless. I find it easier to turn on this water ski without face plating or losing control.
Overall, the CWB Connelly Big Daddy Water Ski seems perfect for my family. It’s a must-have pair of skis, especially for heavy users.
Best Water Skis Buying Guide
Choosing the best water skis can be nerve-wracking; there’re so many options and designs to pick from.
But the good news is I’ve prepared a guide with some handy tips to help select the right water ski for your needs and skill set.
First, we’ll look at the different types of water skis.
4 Types of Water Skis
There’re different types of water skis, but the three popular types are the combo/combination skis, trainers and Slalom skis.
Other niched water ski designs are the trick skis/ shaped skis and the jump skis. These require a higher skill level.
The shaped skis and jumps skis closely resemble the best slalom skis and require more expertise and skills.
The combo/combination skis or trainer skis are ideal for beginners.
Trainer skis, in particular, are suitable for newbies because they’re more buoyant. More importantly, trainer beginner skis come with a rope that keeps the tips of the skis together.
On the other hand, the combo skis are suitable for transitioning from two water skis to one ski.
The best slalom water skis are sold as a single ski but with two bindings.
Usually, a slalom water ski has a wide front and narrow rear. They require a higher skill level, and I wouldn’t recommend them for beginners.
The slalom skis are also a bit expensive. Typical slalom ski is usually designed from premium materials such as carbon fiber.
The fourth water ski type is the youth skis or junior skis.
They tend to be shorter, small, and lightweight. And as their name suggests, they’re perfect for kids.
Like the trainer skis, the youth skis/ wooden trainer skis also have a bar or rope on the tip of both skis to help riders get up much faster.
Factor to Consider when Selecting the Best Water Skis
Now that you know the different categories of water skis let’s look at the critical factors to consider when selecting the right water ski.
Water Ski Size
The right pair of skis size is critical for two main reasons; speed and ease of use.
Generally, the smaller skiers are comfortable with shorter skis, while the big users prefer bigger and longer skis because of the increased buoyancy.
The next important element is speed.
Shorter water skis tend to gather more speed than the longer option. Plus, advanced skiers prefer the shorter water ski versions because they’re easier to maneuver and don’t need much buoyancy.
Generally, the length of water skis ranges from 59 inches to 72 inches.
Water skis are usually made out of polyurethane foam. It’s a high-density material that helps with buoyancy and floatation.
Surrounding the foam core, you find a few different materials. The most common is fiberglass wrapping. It’s resilient and will take on all the wakeboarding abuses without breaking down.
High-quality water skis have alternative materials such as carbon fiber or graphite. Carbon fiber is ultra-light, and it remains sturdy.
Finally, the outer coat is layered with an epoxy coating or ABS for a gloss finish and aesthetics.
Essential Features of a Water Ski
There’re several critical features you should always check to see in your choice of water skis.
The edge is the outermost section of your ski and determines how you “cut” and carve through the deep water.
Water skis have different edge angles, or rather how the edge is beveled against the water.
Skis with a smaller bevel angle have a small turn radius but greater control. It’s a popular ski design with professional riders.
On the other hand, beginners will appreciate the larger and longer bevel angle because it allows a more gradual turn and has slower speeds.
The next important element is the base shape or the bottom shape.
Today’s water skis have different orientations of base shapes.
The most common ones are:
A V-bottom water ski has a ridge that runs from both edges to form a V-shape at the hull.
It resembles the hull of a boat and helps cut through the deep water.
The benefit of this shape is that it’s easier to control and easier to maintain the skis straight.
These skis are opposed to the flat bottom of early skis.
2) Full concave
Full concave skis have the edges forming an inward arch.
This base shape is ideal for longer and easier carving.
Unlike the V-concave, the full concave works best for professionals who need the most control.
3) Tunnel concave
A tunnel resembles a full concave, but it’s differentiated on the edges.
Rather than following the same angle, the base flattens as it nears the edges.
The tunnel concave skis have better floatation and are more stable.
Bindings are necessary for water skiing.
They help secure your feet on the ski. Simply put, they provide more connection to the ski, so you feel like you’re an extension of the ski.
Fins positioned on the rear underside of your ski help with control.
They ensure you glide straight line and eliminate sideways sliding. It’s especially important when making turns.
Plastic fins are common in the budget option, but some come with wood removable fins.
Best Water Ski Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Q: How fast should my boat go with a water ski trailing?
A: The speed of your water boat will depend on your skill level and the rider’s weight.
However, it should be just enough to keep you afloat, but not so much that you slam your head into the deep water.
Q: How do I maintain my skis?
A: I would recommend you clean them after every visit in the water.
Rinse them with water and leave them to dry before storage.
Avoid drying them in direct sunlight.
Wrap Up: Our Choice
Our winner for the best water skis is the O’Brien Vortex Widebody Combo Water Skis.
It’s the perfect option for users interested in deep water skiing, especially adults.
The water ski has a nice wide platform, which is quite handy for more stability and better floatation and control.
It doesn’t fail in the performance department either, and I’m impressed at how it glides over the water and handles the carves.
I would recommend it.