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Water skiing events: Slalom

Waterski 3

Image credit: SportSG

Slalom water ski requires participants to be on one ski, known as the slalom, compared to the two skis that are traditionally used. The most common of the three water ski competition categories, slalom water skiing is also one of the most popular.

Depending on the height and weight of the skier, slalom skis used are usually around 145 centimeters to 178 centimeters, and have bindings made of rubber or plastic. Participants face their feet forward, with one foot ahead of the other.

Slalom water skiing involves the use of multiple buoys in the skiing course, which skiers have to pass in order to complete the competition. Typically, a slalom ski course will be made up of 25 buoys, with two entrance gates at the beginning and end of the course. Additionally, six out of the 25 buoys are designated as turn buoys, meaning that skiers have to pass by these buoys in a zigzag pattern. These turn buoys are placed 11.5 meters away from course, so the skiers will have to exert extra effort to pass these turns. The remaining buoys serve to act as markers to ensure the towboat goes in a straight line during the competition.

For every pass completed, the towboat will increase in speed. Typically, this speed increase is set at three kilometers per hour, and will continue to increase until the speed is at the maximum for the skier’s division. The maximum speed for female skiers is 55 kilometers per hour, while male skiers must contend with  a maximum speed of 58 kilometers per hour.

Once the maximum speed has been reached, the length of the rope will be shortened from its maximum length of 18.25 meters. The rope will continue to be shortened until the competition ends, or until the skier has fallen into the water or missed a buoy. Increasing the speed as well as decreasing the rope length are done in order to make the course more challenging for the contender. Experienced slalom skiers often choose to start immediately with their maximum speed and a rope length that has already been shortened to 13 meters.

Slalom ski results  are based on the speed of the boat, the length of the rope as well as the number of buoys that the water skier has managed to pass. However, if a tie occurs and two competitors have the same score, the winner will be decided based on the International Water Ski Federation (IWSF) Elite Ranking List, which ranks skiers according to their performances.

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