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Water skiing as a competitive sport is divided into three main categories, jumping, slalom, and trick riding. The winner of an event is the best overall competitor in all three sections.

Separate courses are marked out for each of the three events.

For jumping, the ramp is 1.65 metres to 1.80 metres (5.4 feet to 5.9 feet) high for men, and 1.50 metres (4.9 feet) for all other classes (women, junior). The boat will take a parallel course to the ramp on its right hand side.

For slalom, the boat will pass through the centre of the slalom course, and the skier will swing across the course to pass six buoys on the outside, then follows the boat through the central gate at the end.

Trick riding is performed on a straight course with buoys either side.



A referee will ride in the boat to check speeds and make sure that the boat takes the correct path. Judges will watch the jump to make sure it is correct. The boat may travel up to 57 kilometres (35 miles) an hour for men, 51 kilometres (31 miles) an hour for women. These speeds apply for all events.

Each competitor has two jumps in the first round, and three jumps in the final round. For a jump to score, the skier must pass over the ramp, land on the water, and then ski to the end buoy (ride-out buoy) that marks the end of the course. A competitors longest jump is used for their score.


One judge rides in the boat while the others judge how many buoys are scored. Each competitor passes through the course at an increasing speed, then with the line from skier to boat being shortened bit by bit until they miss a buoy or fall.

To successfully go through the course, the skier must follow the boat out through the finishing gate. Each buoy passed counts as one point. The skier must pass outside the buoy and then back into the central line before the next buoy for the point to be scored. Buoys that are sunk count, buoys that are brushed against do not count.

Trick riding

The judges assess whether tricks have been performed in accordance with the rules. The judges can award re-rides if the boats speed or path is irregular. Each trick successfully completed inside the course has a tariff value according to difficulty. These scores are totalled for both passes to give the score for the round.

Results and officials

In major championships, the scores for the two rounds decide the placing of the competitors. The winners of the jumping, slalom, and trick riding are given 1000 points for each event won. The other competitors are given a score out of 1000, in proportion of their own score to the winner's score. Each competitors three scores for the three events are combined to give the overall total.

Major championships are controlled by a chief judge, with a usual number of five individual judges per event.


Boats must have enough power and conform to official dimensions. The towing line must be fixed at the centre of the boat. Inboard or outboard power may be used, and the boats should have speedometers and two-way radios. The drivers will be the event officials.

Various types of skis can be used, but no ski must be wider than 30% of its length. Any type of foot binding or fixed fin may be used. In jumping events, competitors use two skis, in slalom they use one ski, and in trick riding, one or two.

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