Wakeboarding vs Water Skiing: How Do They Differ? (2023)

Whether you are a water skier thinking about taking up wakeboarding or a wakeboarder thinking about taking up water skiing, you may be wondering what the difference is between the two sports.

Here are some of the key differences between wakeboarding and waterskiing:

Wide-Board-Snowboard-StilTwin-Ski / Single-Slalom-Ski
pulled by a boatpulled by a boat
Side stand, surf styleforward posture
Easier learning if you have
board sport skills
Easier (twin skis) for
People who do not play board sports
Low speed 19-22 mphTop speed 26-34 km/h
Wakejumping, Flips, Aerials,
360 Tricks
stele cut. high spray twists,
Slalom race
Hard soles of the face. soft but
asymmetrical body training.
Heavy pulling on arms and shoulders.
hartes Training
Retract V. Ballast bags. wakeboarding
Tower. 65 feet of static rope
Direct Management. 75 feet of rope with
stretch a little

Wakeboarding and waterskiing have a lot in common as they are both towed by a boat, cutting through the boat's wake from side to side. However, the skills and learning curves required, the type of training provided and the equipment are very different for the two.

See also:Can you ski or tube from a wakeboard tower?

*This post may contain affiliate links, which means I may earn commissions if you purchase through the links I provide (at no additional cost to you). As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases.

Wakeboarding vs Water Skiing: What's the Difference?

Wakeboarding vs Water Skiing: How Do They Differ? (1)

Both wakeboarding and water skiing involve aquaplaning behind a board pulled on a rope you hold in your hands.

Wakeboarding consists of a large snowboard-style board attached to your feet with fixed tethers. Normally, even if you fall, your feet will stick to the wakeboard.

Water skiing, on the other hand, is about a pair of skis or slalom water skiing is about a single ski. With twin skis, you connect each of your feet to a ski. On a slalom ski, the front foot is strapped on and the back foot is tucked into a strap behind the front one.

On a wakeboard you ride with your feet perpendicular to the board, just like on a skateboard or snowboard. When water skiing (twin skis), the feet point parallel to each other, just like on snow skis.

So the difference between wakeboarding and (twin) water skiing is very similar to that between snowboarding and skiing.

When skiing with one ski (slalom), on the other hand, you ski with one foot behind the other. However, unlike wakeboarding, a slalom ski is much narrower than a wakeboard and both feet point forward.

Wakeboards typically range from $200 to $500, while twin skis typically range from $150 to $300 and slalom skis can range from $300 to $1500. However, used slalom skis can often be found online for under $100, and new wakeboard and binding packages for around $200.

Wakeboarding vs. water skiing pulls speed and water conditions

Wakeboarding typically pulls you off the boat at much slower speeds than waterskiing, typically around 19-22mph versus 26-34mph for waterskiing.

Water skiers take turns trying to tighten the rope as much as possible to raise a wall of water. Wakeboarders, on the other hand, ride at lower speeds and don't pull against the board as hard, instead focusing on jumps and tricks.

The train speed and the experience of the boater have a significant impact on how easy or difficult your wakeboarding or water skiing session will be.

While calm, clear water is best for both wakeboarding and waterskiing, it's even more important for waterskiing, especially slalom (single-skiing) skiing. It's generally easier to wakeboard than ski in slightly rough (though not as nice) water.

Standing up when wakeboarding vs. waterskiing

Wakeboarding vs Water Skiing: How Do They Differ? (2)

When comparing the ease of learning to wakeboard and waterski, opinions differ depending on the rider's boardsport experience and the type of waterskiing.

For most people, learning to ride a wakeboard is easier than a slalom ski because of the board's greater contact area with the water surface.

Also, a deep water launch on a wakeboard gives the rider more time to get out of the water than on a slalom ski (a faster launch).

However, if you compare wakeboarding and double waterskiing, the jury is still out on which is easier. Some find skiing easier to get up than wakeboarding because you don't have to walk sideways after reaching the water's surface.

On a wakeboard, after you stand up, you have to turn your hips to the side. For some people, it doesn't feel natural to tilt your body when the boat starts to pull you to one side (skateboard style).

If, on the other hand, you climb onto two skis, you have to expect the skis to wobble apart. Children often find it easier to get on a wakeboard than on two skis.

In general, riders who have a background in board sports such as skateboarding, snowboarding, and surfing learn to wakeboard much more easily.

Using freeride skis can make getting up and tracking easier, although turning on them isn't as easy.

Is it easier to wakeboard or waterski behind a boat?

During "normal" rides back and forth behind the boat, wakeboarding tends to be gentler on the body than slalom skiing. Even wake jumps on a wakeboard require less effort than pulling a side-to-side slalom.

The comparison also depends on the level of skiing. Running in open water at nearly 35 mph and 15 feet (i.e. using a rope 15 feet shorter than a full-length 75-foot rope) gives you a tough workout the next day with soreness from the significant pull on the turns.

Carving perfect turns in a slalom and hurtling through the wakes at high speed is a great feeling, but it requires solid skill and is generally more difficult to learn than regular wakeboarding (no advanced tricks).

However, wakeboarding comes with its own set of challenges. One is the roughness of a faceplant when grabbing an edge during a turn on a wakeboard compared to side dropping in a slalom or a wedgie on twin skis.

Even though you normally go slower on a wakeboard, you'll stumble forward and hit the water so hard that catching an edge is likely to give you a serious headache. Wakeboard falls hurt a lot more compared to waterskiing, so always try to keep your edge!

Which of wakeboarding or waterskiing is harder on the body?

Wakeboarding vs Water Skiing: How Do They Differ? (3)

As mentioned, wakeboarding puts much less stress on the body due to the lower speed and larger contact area, resulting in a softer pull on the arms and shoulders. For many people, the wakeboarding position is also more natural than the slalom position, which also reduces stress.

However, wakeboarding causes your body to ride in your natural stance (either front foot forward or left foot forward) most of the time, asymmetrically with equal rotation at the hips and back.

Learning to change rides, i. H. occasionally flipping the board 180º and switching front and rear feet can help reduce the sustained load on one side of the body and better distribute the effort on both sides.

Injury Risks Wakeboarding vs. Water Skiing

CorrespondingA studypublished in the Journal of Sports Science Medicine, wakeboarding injuries are more likely to involve the head and neck, most commonly dislocations, while waterskiing injuries primarily involve the hip and lower extremities, most commonly sprains or strains. Bruises and abrasions are also common in both sports.

Both waterskiing and wakeboarding can result in serious accidents resulting in broken bones and lacerations. Serious waterskiing accidents can cause spinal cord damage, while wakeboarding can result in ACL and PCL tears, heart problems, and intracranial hemorrhage.

However, the risk of injury from wakeboarding is estimated to be half that from water skiing.

Slalom waterskiers often land at arm's length on their rib cage during a turn, resulting in bruised or dislocated thoracic cartilages.

On the other hand, an average wakeboarder can do wake-to-wake jumps, grabs, slides, 180º, etc. all day long. with little risk of falling. However, wakeboarders who perform big turns and more advanced inversions are often at a higher risk of injury.

Wakeboarding vs Water Skiing Tricks and Skills

Wakeboarding vs Water Skiing: How Do They Differ? (4)

Wakeboarding is about jumping the wave and doing tricks, while "regular" waterskiing is about traversing as hard as you can at 33mph and splashing as much water as you can.

Slalom water ski races, where the aim is to be the fastest in a slalom race, are also becoming increasingly popular. Other water skiers like acrobatic performances on skis.

Wakeboarding involves dozens of tricks such as jumps, front and rear spins, tantrums, wake-to-wake grabs, front and rear 360º, tricks with one or both hands on the pole, etc.

last words

Comparing wakeboarding and water skiing is a no-brainer because although both sports involve driving and sliding behind a motorboat, they are very different disciplines.

Wakeboarding is performed at higher speeds on a wide board with a surf-style side stance. These are mainly jumps and tricks comparable to snowboarding or freestyle skateboarding.

Water skiing consists of making quick turns from one side of the water to the other. While water skiing involves stunts, slalom skiing is all about speed, fast turns and optional slalom racing.

The high speeds and extreme turns of water skiing and the radical jumps and rollovers of wakeboarding can lead to minor or serious injuries.

Photo credit:
(1) Featured Photo: "15. October 201619149”(CC POR 2.0)throughGreen River
(2) „guts”(CC POR 2.0)througharturodonato
(3) "Zillow_Water_Skiing_011”(CC BY-SA 2.0)throughstimulating
(4) „20150814-_74P2676.jpg”(CC POR 2.0)throughGreen River
(5) „boost_2008_Wakeboard Railey_13”(CC POR 2.0)throughBoost-Kiteboarding


Is wakeboarding more difficult than water skiing? ›

Both sports require leg and chest strength, but since you have to balance both your legs on the wakeboard (vs one ski on each leg), wakeboarding takes more core strength. It also feels similar to skateboarding and surfing, so anyone who is familiar with one-board sports may find comfort starting here.

What is water skiing on a board called? ›

Wakeboarding is a water sport in which the rider, standing on a wakeboard (a board with foot bindings), is towed behind a motorboat across its wake and especially up off the crest in order to perform aerial maneuvers. A hallmark of wakeboarding is the attempted performance of midair tricks.

What is the difference between wakeboarding and wakesurfing? ›

While wakeboarding, the user holds a boat-towed rope throughout the duration of the ride. In wakesurfing, the user releases the rope to ride out a wake. Approaching a large wake, a wake surfer will drop the line to ride the peak in a similar fashion as surfing.

What is one difference between water skiing and snow skiing? ›

Water Skiers are Pulled and have to manipulate that Pull though their hands, handle, and body. Snow Skiers are falling/pushed down the hill, they have to manipulate Gravity through their body and skis to move and turn. Snow skiing and Water skiing look relatively similar but are drastically different in function.

Is it easier to learn to water ski or wakeboard? ›

If you enjoy waterskiing then you should most definitely try wakeboarding. Wakeboarding is much harder and more complicated than waterskiing, but incredibly fulfilling once you get the hang of it! Plus, after you know how to waterski, then wakeboarding will be easier to learn.

Can I wakeboard if I cant swim? ›

You do not have to be a swimmer to wakeboard. Full floated life vests are readily available. All you need to do is a little paddling, and you'll be fine.

What is water skiing without skis called? ›

Barefoot skiing is water skiing behind a motorboat without the use of water skis, commonly referred to as "barefooting".

Why is wakeboarding an extreme sport? ›

Wakeboarding is an extreme sport performed on water. The rider is fastened to a board and towed behind a motorboat at speeds of around 50 km per hour. It's almost like riding an endless wave and it is suitable for a wide range of people in terms of age.

What is the purpose of water skiing? ›

It's an exciting form of balance training that benefits your joints, muscles, and overall health. In the long run, it helps prevent falls and improves functional fitness.

What is it called when you wakeboard without a rope? ›

Wakesurfing: Following the Boat Without a Rope.

What are the risks of wakeboarding? ›

Contusions, abrasions, strains, sprains, low back pain and rib fractures are common injuries experienced in wakeboarding. Ankle and hamstring sprains or strains, anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) tears, contusions, abrasions, and leg fractures, including fractured femurs, are common injuries experienced by wakeboarders.

Is water skiing hard on body? ›

Lacerations to the head and neck, and concussions, are common among water skiers due to making contact with the water, tow handle, jumps, buoys, or the water skis. Shoulder dislocations, and sprains, strains, contusions, abrasions, and fractures in the upper extremities are common injuries in water skiing.

What are the 3 main types of skiing? ›

From alpine to cross-country and backcountry to freestyle, here are all the major forms of skiing you'll need to know about.

Why is water skiing hard? ›

Water skiing is an advanced sport that requires strength, coordination, and balance. It is challenging because it requires performing two seemingly contradictory skills at the same time: physical exertion while also relaxing. To be a good skier, you not only have to be physically fit, but you also need good technique.

Do you have to be strong to water ski? ›

Water skiing requires a certain level of physical fitness and strength. You should have good balance and coordination, as well as good upper body strength to be able to control the ski rope, turn in the water, remain upright and maneuver yourself in the water.

Is water skiing hard on knees? ›

Not only can falling at 40+mph hurt, but it can also wreak havoc on joints, especially knees. Athletes who wish to continue water skiing, wakeboarding or surfing throughout their lives need to take some precautions to protect these vulnerable joints.

How many mph do you need to water ski? ›

In general, for someone to waterski or wakeboard, the boat needs to be moving at least 20 miles per hour, usually closer to 26 or 27. Tubing doesn't require quite as much speed, and you can start to have fun at around 15 miles per hour.

Is wakeboarding bad for your knees? ›

High impact sports such as wakeboarding can be bad for your knees, but technique has a lot to do with it. You can also opt to wear a wakeboarding knee brace to offer additional stability and protect against ligament damage in the event of a fall.

Do you have to be strong to wakeboard? ›

While wakeboarding doesn't seem like a sport that requires great strength, it is important to be strong and in good shape.

Do you need to be fit to wakeboard? ›

Wakeboarding does require a fairly good level of fitness and particularly strong arms, but the one thing you will definitely need is good sense of humour. You are going to perform all sorts of gymnastic moves trying to stop yourself crashing into the water.

What are the 4 types of ski? ›

Choose the type of ski based on your preferred terrain: Your choices are all-mountain skis, all-mountain wide skis, powder skis and backcountry skis.

Can you water ski barefoot? ›

Barefoot water skiing speeds are higher than those for regular water skiing because it takes a bit more speed to keep a barefoot water skier on plane. Typically, the best boats for barefoot skiing are tournament inboards and outboard-powered boats designed for barefoot skiing.

What is skinny skiing? ›

Skinny skis can take a person uphill or downhill, along a prepared track or through backcountry powder. Skiers can go out on a bright day or overcast day, in shirtsleeve weather or in frigid cold, or out on a short excursion or a daylong adventure that includes a backcountry lunch.

Is there a weight limit for wakeboarding? ›

Getting the proper sized wakeboard and bindings is very important when you are on the water.
Wakeboard Sizing Chart.
Rider Weight (lb)Rider Weight (kg)Wakeboard Length
Up to 170lbsUp to 77kgs134 – 140cm
Up to 190lbsUp to 86kgs135 – 142cm
Up to 200lbsUp to 91kgs138 – 144cm
6 more rows

What does goofy mean in wakeboarding? ›

If you stand with your right foot in the front and left foot in the back, your stance is referred to as goofy. The goofy stance is called this since significantly less people stand this way on a wakeboard.

Can you lose weight wakeboarding? ›

Waterskiing/wakeboarding – up to 500 calories per hour

Your legs and core will be engaged throughout the ride. A 130-lbs person will burn 324 calories in an hour or waterskiing or wakeboarding. A 175-lbs person will burn up to 500 calories per hour.

What are the problems with water skiing? ›

The most common water skiing injuries are sprains and strains. Legs are injured the most often while water skiing. Cuts are the most common wakeboarding injury. Head and face injuries are the most common for wakeboarders.

What should a water skier do if they fall in the water? ›

After falling, the skier should hold a ski up out of the water while waiting to be retrieved, and if necessary waves his or her arms. The boat should circle the skier slowly to either return the tow line or pick up the skier. In some states, the boat must fly a skier down flag while retrieving a skier.

How do you fall when water skiing? ›

If a fall is inevitable, one should attempt to fall backwards or sideways, as falling face first might cause the water skier to hit the skis with his head or body, causing injuries.

What is a wakeboard Tantrum? ›

The tantrum is more like a backflip and is initiated by “tripping” off the wake with your heel edge. You spot your landing earlier and are holding on with one hand for the duration of the trick. The backroll is more like a sideflip and is initiaties with proper pop off the wake as you dip your tailing shoulder.

What is the purpose of wakeboarding? ›

The prime objective with Wakeboarding is to cross the wake at speed, jumping from one side to the other clearing the wake, the rider is 60-70 ft behind the boat using a long rope to pull him along and generate enough speed for the jump.

Can you break your leg wakeboarding? ›

The fracture incidence is reported to be 15%, with the most frequently injured body parts being the head and knee [13, 15]. There is only one paper that reported a clinical case of selective femur fractures among wakeboarders [16].

What age should you start wakeboarding? ›

Ages 6-11. Older children should be able to start wakeboarding, albeit with caution.

Why do my arms hurt after wakeboarding? ›

This is caused by the strong forces that are on the cable during the start. Strangulation injuries of the arm can cause a compartment syndrome of the arm. Possibly a wet-suit or dry-suit offers some protection.

Do you need a helmet for wakeboarding? ›

Wakeboarding is known as an extreme watersport, which means that some tricks may also be dangerous, especially if you come crashing into the water In addition to wearing a life vest, you also want to wear a watersport, or wakeboard, helmet to keep your head protected from injury.

How do you make yourself not hurt after wakeboarding? ›

Stay hydrated before, during and after wakeboarding. This helps muscles to not cramp and reduce soreness after.

Is it harder to wakeboard without a tower? ›

No, you don't need a wakeboard tower to wakeboard—but it's much more fun with one! It's very simple. Towers allow you to achieve more hang time when you are doing tricks while you are wakeboarding. You can jump higher on your wakeboard and enjoy more time in the air for awesome tricks when you have a wakeboard tower.

Why am I so sore after water skiing? ›

You'll ache the next day The pulling motion of water skiing uses certain muscles very intensively, so you will have sore muscles the following day. Stretching helps to combat this.

Can you water ski if you can't swim? ›

Absolutely! You won't need to swim. The vests hold you up if you fall off the jet ski, but it's not hard to stay on.

Can you break your leg water skiing? ›

Many waterskiing crashes lead to severe bodily harm, including fractured wrists, cranial injuries (traumatic brain injuries), broken legs, shoulder dislocation, spinal cord injuries, and foot and ankle sprains.

What type of skiing is hardest? ›

Nordic skis are bound at the toe only, allowing for liftoff at the heel and for the skier to move uphill. While this may make it sound simple, the Outside website has called Nordic skiing the world's toughest outdoor sport, burning 952 calories an hour.

Which type of skiing is easier? ›

Alpine skiing

The skis are around head height, heavy and carry metal edges and curved shapes to make balancing easier. One will come across alpine skiing equipment based on the skill levels; beginners, all-around, advanced. This is skiing in it's simplest and easiest form and certainly a good place to start.

What type of skiing is best for beginners? ›

Beginner skiers spend all of their time on-piste where they can learn the basics, so Piste skis are an ideal choice. Even once you have mastered the easy slopes, Piste skis can take you to the next level. The skis are generally narrow in width which increases their ability to grip the snow.

Is water skiing healthy? ›

Overall Health: As with all forms of physical exercise, water skiing can reduce or eliminate your risk for many health problems, such as high blood pressure, diabetes, and obesity. It can also reduce your risk for coronary heart disease by reducing your triglyceride levels and increasing your good cholesterol.

What muscles does water skiing work? ›

Important areas to work for water skiing are the core, grip strength, thighs, and back. However, it is important to train all the major muscle groups for wakeboarding as the body works together as a unit, not as individual muscles in isolation. To train the core use exercises like prone iso-abs.

Is skiing or boarding harder? ›

Skiing is usually easier to learn but in order to perfect the sport, you are required to become extremely technical. On the split hand, snowboarding techniques are harder to master but can help quickly achieve impressive levels once nailed.

Is boarding harder than skiing? ›

Skiing is generally easy to learn initially but is harder to master. Snowboarding is harder to learn but reaching an advanced level is easier. Although there are exceptions to this rule, it generally holds true and you can use it to inform your snow sports choice.

Why is wakeboarding so hard? ›

Once planing, however, wakeboards don't have a direction fin skis do. For most riders, turning and balancing on a wakeboard is more challenging. Also, the jumps and tricks are harder on a wakeboard, and the falls are harder than on water ski(s) even though you're going slower.

Is it hard to learn wakeboarding? ›

Wakeboarding will certainly give you your fix and is relatively quick to learn. Unlike most other watersports, wakeboarding has a satisfyingly steep learning curve and depending on your confidence and previous board experience, you can be popping ollies and carving up a watery storm even on your first go.

Is it easier to ski if you're short? ›

While there are benefits to shorter skis—generally they turn more easily, you have more control and they are generally easier to handle—they do not give you the best ski experience possible. If you are a beginner skier, a shorter ski might make a little more sense.

Can you learn to ski in a day? ›

Although our expert ski instructors would recommend learning to ski over a longer period of time, the answer is, in theory, yes you can learn to ski to a decent level in one day.

Can you ski with bad knees? ›

You CAN ski or board even if you have knee osteoarthritis or chronic back pain. Maybe exercise and new equipment can get you through the snow.

What is the easiest type of skiing? ›

Alpine skiing

The skis are around head height, heavy and carry metal edges and curved shapes to make balancing easier. One will come across alpine skiing equipment based on the skill levels; beginners, all-around, advanced. This is skiing in it's simplest and easiest form and certainly a good place to start.

Is skiing harder for heavy people? ›

There is nothing to stop an overweight person from going skiing. But you will find it more difficult than a slimmer person. An obese person may find it too difficult, but it depends on what the heaviest parts of your body are and if your obesity affects how you move.

What is more painful skiing or snowboarding? ›

snowboarders are 50% to 70% more likely to get injured but they're also a third less likely to be killed on a mountain than skiers.” Potential reasons for these statistics include more safety measures for skiers since the 1970s.

Does it hurt to fall on a wakeboard? ›

Ankle and hamstring sprains or strains, anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) tears, contusions, abrasions, and leg fractures, including fractured femurs, are common injuries experienced by wakeboarders. As the wakeboarder's ankles are bound to the board, the impact of a fall can place pressure on the ankle ligaments.

Do you need to be strong to wakeboard? ›

Wakeboarding does require a fairly good level of fitness and particularly strong arms, but the one thing you will definitely need is good sense of humour. You are going to perform all sorts of gymnastic moves trying to stop yourself crashing into the water.

How do you not fall on a wakeboard? ›

Staying Up on the Wakeboard

Most of the tips we have for preventing you from falling involve proper body positioning. You should evenly distribute your weight on your board while you put a little more pressure on your rear foot. Once you're up, you should keep your knees slightly bent instead of making them straight.

Do you lean back when wakeboarding? ›

As you're coming out of the water, stay slightly leaned back with your knees bent. Be sure to put more weight on your heels to ensure the wakeboard is at a positive angle, and you will rise out of the water and get up on your wakeboard successfully.

Do you wear shoes wakeboarding? ›

Don't forget to get yourself a pair of wakeboarding boots, properly known as bindings. You can't just wear any old pair of boots, they have to be locked into place during your ride on your wakeboard. Try and look for a stiffer, less flexible pair of boots to help you balance easier and steer the board better.

What muscles do you need for wakeboarding? ›

While wakeboarding doesn't seem like a sport that requires great strength, it is important to be strong and in good shape. The muscles most commonly used are the hands, forearms, biceps, back, abs, shoulders, quads, and hamstrings.


Top Articles
Latest Posts
Article information

Author: Velia Krajcik

Last Updated: 10/13/2023

Views: 5889

Rating: 4.3 / 5 (74 voted)

Reviews: 89% of readers found this page helpful

Author information

Name: Velia Krajcik

Birthday: 1996-07-27

Address: 520 Balistreri Mount, South Armand, OR 60528

Phone: +466880739437

Job: Future Retail Associate

Hobby: Polo, Scouting, Worldbuilding, Cosplaying, Photography, Rowing, Nordic skating

Introduction: My name is Velia Krajcik, I am a handsome, clean, lucky, gleaming, magnificent, proud, glorious person who loves writing and wants to share my knowledge and understanding with you.