10 Skills That Separate The Basic Waterskier From The Intermediate Waterskier | Volcano Watersports

10 Skills That Separate The Basic Waterskier From The Intermediate Waterskier

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24 October

If you've been an avid waterskier for a year or more, you need to know about the “question”. This is a question that every skier eventually asks themselves, and it’s quite a dangerous one, as it could signal the start of another long, arduous process on the skis:

“Can I call myself an intermediate waterskier now?”

We shudder at the thought because every skier has been there. Suddenly, all of those skills that you’ve mastered don’t feel like enough. At one point in time, you were buzzing about maintaining balance or mastering that trick. Now, you only want more. You want to learn more tricks, more skills – you want to be an intermediate waterskier rather than just a basic one.

Well, if this sounds like you, we’ve got a few things to tell you before you – quite literally – make the leap! Waterskiing is unlike any other sport. It can be quite easy to feel disheartened when you get things wrong, and the last thing we want while you’re using our boat rentals is for you to waste time feeling demoralised.

So before you start trying new things and learning new skills, we recommend you look at our list of basic waterskiing skills, tick them off, and then move on to mastering our list of intermediate skills to reach that next level. Ready to go? Hold on tight.

Basic Waterskiing Skills

Continuous Balance

This might sound like an obvious point, but some waterskiers have to wait a long time to get this right. You need to know how to pull yourself up on the waterskis, dig your heels in, and keep a solid line. You also need to know how to make turns and ski on a calm to moderate wake. If you find yourself falling into the water more than once during a session, that’s a signal that you’re still in “beginner mode”. That’s nothing to be ashamed of. The difficulty of waterskiing means that everyone takes their own time to get the hang of it. Just because you’re in beginner mode now, doesn’t mean you will be forever. Who knows, if you keep going without getting discouraged, you might be able to call yourself an expert skier one day!

Basic Hand Signals

It’s also important to know all of your basic hand signals if you’re going to start trying new things. These include the thumbs up (speed up), thumbs down (slow down), horizontal slash (kill the motor), patting your head (return to dock) and the flat left and flat right signals (turn left or turn right). If you haven’t memorised these – and you’re not able to remember or perform them when you’re on the wake – then you’ve still got some work to do before you can move up to the intermediary level.

Cutting The Wake

Of course, waterskiing isn’t just about holding onto the rope and hoping you don’t fall in. Once you’re out on the water, it’s about learning some moves and finding movement in the wake. The first thing to learn is crossing. This can be quite easy to master when you’re facing the boat and you’ve got your skis pointed straight. However, you also need to learn how to cut into the wake yourself. This includes bending your knees, arching your back, and leading your body with one ski. If you keep low, this should also prevent you from launching yourself off the wake. If you haven’t quite got there yet, then you’re still at the basic stage and need to work on mastering those moves.

One Ski Steering

Speaking of crossing, you need to know how to lead with one ski. This doesn’t mean taking off a ski and travelling around with one leg in the air. It simply means taking the weight off one foot and pointing your other in the direction you want to go. So if you want to turn right, you bend your left knee and push your weight down onto that side of your body – while also leaning in the opposite direction. This will keep the weight off your right foot and allow you to turn without any miscommunication.

Jumping The Wake

There are also a few basic tricks that you need to master. First and foremost, you need to know how to jump the wake. Like cutting into the wake, this can take a lot of time to get right – you might be launching yourself while crossing, but we’re willing to bet you’re not keeping your balance afterwards. Jumping a wake can only be done by skiers who can control their acceleration and are completely relaxed. Start by leaning back and pulling over the wake to cut hard. You need to then hold your edge and bend your knees down – while also keeping your back straight. Often, this can happen by mistake, but once you get the hang of it, you can start to anticipate your jumps and recognise a strong wake. In other words, you’re at one with the water!

Intermediate Waterskiing Skills

The One Hander

If you have read all of those basic skills and thought: Yeah, I’m pretty good at all of those. Then congratulations, you’re well on your way to being an intermediate skier. It means you’re ready to start bending the waves to your own will. A great way to start doing this is with a skill known as the waterskiing one-hander. This involves holding the rope in both hands, pulling it in until your elbows are tucked at your side, and then letting go with your outside hand – the hand that is parallel to either the left or right-hand side of the boat. This is a skill that not only looks cool but will give you more control over your skis after mastering it.

The Butt Slide

When people think of a “butt slide”, it's easy to imagine a waterskier riding along the wake using only their butt. But no, that’s not what we’re talking about. It is possible, but we’ll leave that one for our blog on expert skills! What we’re talking about is learning to arch your back, bend your knees, and use the rope to lower yourself down until your buttocks are skimming the water. This can be a great way to pick up speed, especially if you’re in calm water and have a straight flat line for a few hundred metres.

The 180

You’ve probably seen pictures of waterskiers leaping into the air and doing flips as if they were nothing. While we don’t think this qualifies as an “intermediate” skill, there are plenty of cool tricks you can perform to wow everyone on the boat. One of these is known as the “180”, where you essentially swivel on the skis.

To do this, you need to hold the rope tightly to your body, position your skis within a single foot’s distance from each other, and then turn towards the left. Keep your head in the up position and then release your left hand. After you do this, pull the rope to your right hip and start turning. With your body down low, pull the rope behind your back and hold onto it with your free hand. When you find the rope, press down and pull yourself around, making sure to keep your knees bent. If you want to turn to the right, then just reverse everything we just said!

The 360

Like the 180, this is a combination of both turning types – one from the front to the back, and one from the back to the front. To do this, you need to maintain that low position and continue passing the handle from hand to hand. This is obviously a little more difficult, so don’t be put off if you don’t master it immediately – and likewise, if you’re having difficulty in the middle, make sure to pause for a while before giving it another go. If you keep at it, you’ll soon be able to make that 360 turn without any stopping and starting!


You might be thinking: Huh? Confidence isn’t a skill! But actually, confidence is one of the best skills you can have while waterskiing. It’s very easy, even for intermediate skiers, to have low confidence on the waves. This can prevent you from stepping up to the next level and really getting a hang of all these tricks and tips.

You need to learn how to feel confident with this sport and be completely relaxed. If you make any mistakes, simply smile and go again. If you’re not enjoying learning a new skill or trick, put it down for a while and try something else, or simply stand back and take it easy. There’s no right or wrong way to waterski, so having that confidence to do things your way is a key trait of any intermediate skier!