Wakeboarding Vs Waterskiing: Difference Between Wakeboarding and Waterskiing

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If you’re new to wakeboarding vs waterskiing, you might not be able to tell the difference between the two. Given that both sports involve being towed by a boat, it is easy to mistake them for the same sport. With that said, there are some key differences that are worth noting. We’ll be going over them in this article.

The Main Differences

One of the main reasons people tend to confuse the two sports is the fact that they both involve being towed by a rope which you hold. However, it’s pretty much where the similarities start to fade away.

On the one hand, wakeboarding involves a snowboard-style board where you strap your feet with fixed bindings. This makes it, so your feet are always strapped to the wakeboard even if you fall.

On the other hand, waterskiing involves a pair of skis, or sometimes even one which is called “slaloming.” For twin skis, each foot goes to a ski. For a slalom ski, your front foot is attached while your back foot is tucked into a strap behind the front.

When you’re wakeboarding, your feet should be perpendicular to the board as if you’re snowboarding. When water skiing, your feet should be parallel and facing forward just like they would if you were snow skiing.

In a sense, you can think of wakeboarding and waterskiing as snowboarding and snow skiing, respectively.

In terms of equipment, a wakeboard can run you anywhere between $200 and $500. As for water skiing, if you’re looking for twin skis, you can get a pair for $150 or $300 depending on the brand and overall quality. On the other hand, slalom skis can vary wildly in price. You can get one for $300 or even as high as $1500. With that said, you can find a used slalom ski for as low as $100. You can also get a used wakeboard for $200 if you know where to look.

Wakeboarding vs Waterskiing – Pull Speed and Water Conditions

If you’re looking for the fastest sport, then you might be more tempted by water skiing. When you’re wakeboarding, you’ll be going at 19-22 mph whereas, in water skiing, you’ll typically reach speeds of 26 to 34 mph.

When you’re water skiing, it’s best to put as much tension as you can on the rope. That way, you can put up a wall of water. As for wakeboarding, the main focus is on tricks and jumps rather than speed. This is why wakeboarding doesn’t have as much pull speed as water skiing.

Additionally, it’s worth noting that wakeboarding is less dependent on flat water than waterskiing is. While it might not be hard to go wakeboarding on a somewhat windy day, it is much harder to go water skiing on that same day, especially if you’re using single ski (or slaloming).

Wakeboarding vs Waterskiing – Accessibility

When it comes to picking up either sport, neither option is easier to learn than the other. There are numerous factors that need to be taken into account before coming to a sound conclusion.

For the majority of people, it is easier to learn wakeboarding than to learn slalom skiing. This is mainly because a wakeboard’s contact area with the water is larger than that of a slalom ski.

Where it becomes trickier is when you’re comparing a wakeboard to twin skis. There is no clear winner when it comes to ease of use. With that said, some people have an easier time learning skiing because it involves less going sideways than wakeboarding. When you’re wakeboarding, even after you get up on the water, you’ll still need to maintain balance by rotating your hips into a sideways position. This is where some people might have issues.

With that said, it’s not like twin skis are particularly easy to use. You will find yourself needing to deal with the wobbling of the skis and making sure that they don’t move too far away from each other.

The bottom line is, if you feel that snow skiing is easier to learn than snowboarding, then you might find yourself gravitating towards water skiing rather than wakeboarding and vice versa.

Difference Between Wakeboarding and Waterskiing – Riding Behind a Boat

While both sports might put a lot of pull force on your body, wakeboarding seems to be less tiring than slalom skiing. This makes performing wake jumps on a wakeboard easier than pulling a slalom from side to side.

It’s also worth noting that the shorter the rope and higher the speed, the more pull you’ll be feeling on your body and arms.

Additionally, slaloming requires a lot of skill and patience. This makes it an exhilarating sport, especially when you’re a competent skier. This is not to say that wakeboarding is easy by any means. However, it’s easier to learn basic wakeboarding tricks than it is to learn slalom skiing.

One of the most prominent challenges of wakeboarding is keeping your edge up during a turn. The main problem is that wakeboarding falls hurt a lot more than skiing falls, so you need to be extra careful and always keep your edge up

Physical Requirements

As we mentioned above, wakeboarding puts less strain on your body than water skiing. This is mainly due to the fact that wakeboarding is a slower sport which means that the pull force is lower than that of water skiing. There’s also the stance of wakeboarding, which is more natural and comfortable than that of slaloming.

With that said, you might find yourself doing awkward movements while wakeboarding. You need to move your body in the same direction as your back and hips. This might be a bit awkward to someone who’s not a wakeboarder.

Additionally, wakeboarding makes your body work asymmetrically. In order to avoid tiring one side of your body, it is recommended to learn how to ride switch. This means that you should know how to flip your board in a 180° in order to reduce stress on one side of your body.

Difference Between Wakeboarding and Waterskiing – Risks of injury

Given the fast and frantic nature of both wakeboarding and water skiing, we can’t deny the risks that go with them. Since each sport has its own stance, the most frequent injuries of each one are different from those of the other.

A study that was published in the Journal of Sports Science Medicine found that water skiing injuries mostly involve the lower body and hips, usually strains and sprains. As for wakeboarding, the same study has found that the most common injuries involve the head and neck. Dislocations are also quite common among these injuries.

When it comes to serious injuries, both water skiing and wakeboarding accidents can lead to cuts and fractures. Upon closer inspection, water skiing accidents lead to spinal cord damage. Wakeboarding accidents can lead to ACL and PCL tears, as well as cardiac issues and intracranial hemorrhage.

With that said, serious injuries in wakeboarding tend to occur half as frequently as in water skiing.

The most common injuries among slalom water skiers are dislocated or bruised rib cartilages. This is because most falls happen when the skier’s arms are extended, and they fall on their rib cage.

Wakeboarding vs Waterskiing – Tricks and Techniques

Each sport has its own mindset behind it. On the one hand, wakeboarding mainly revolves around performing tricks after jumping over the wake. On the other hand, water skiing is mostly about how hard you can cut across at high speeds.

There’s also slalom skiing which revolves around getting through a race slalom course in the shortest time. It is more oriented for water-skiers who want to deliver acrobatic performances.

Since wakeboarding is all about doing jumps and tricks, there is a lot of variety to be found there and plenty of techniques to master. If you want a water sport that is all about delivering flamboyant and flashy air stunts, then wakeboarding might be the sport for you.

Wakeboarding vs Waterskiing: Conclusion

To sum up, wakeboarding and water skiing are two sports that might appear to be similar. However, if you look into each one, you’ll find plenty of differences.

When it comes to wakeboarding, it is all about performing wake jumps and tricks while in a snowboard like stance.

As for water skiing, it mainly revolves around cutting fast turns and delivering an acrobatic performance at high speed. At its core, it’s all about the speed with a lot of style and panache.


  • My own knowledge and experience!
  • https://www.realbuzz.com/articles-interests/sports-activities/article/introduction-to-wakeboarding/
  • https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3737970/
  • http://www.usawaterski.org/BasicSkills/LearnToWakeboard.pdf
  • https://www.discoverboating.com/resources/straight-from-the-experts-21-waterskiing-tips-for-your-best-summer-ever

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