Water Skiing: Every Signal You Need To Know

Going water skiing for the first time is fun but a little scary too. Not only are you having to balance yourself on the waves, but you’re yards away from the people driving and spotting you. 

What’s more, they can’t hear anything you say, so you’re entirely on your own – unless you’re thinking of water skiing behind a yacht, in which case you’ll probably struggle to get up in the first place!

This is why water skiers have come up with a number of hand signals to ensure they can maintain communication with their drivers. These are absolutely necessary to learn before you go out onto the waves for the first time. 

First, though, you need to ensure you are water skiing in the right place with the right people. Many beginners, for instance, try out a sport like this whilst on vacation — it has to be said, waterskiing in Costa Rica is a lot more fun than water skiing in your local (freezing cold) lake. But if you are doing this, then you need to ensure you are doing it with a professional company with people who know the ins and outs of the sport. 

They will obviously give you the basics and the necessities for communication, but, to have an idea before you’re out on the boat, this is just a little run down to get you up to speed:

Let’s Go!

First things first, how do you set off once you’re in the water? In order to get some speed and stand up on the skis, you will want to give a clear thumbs up. Do not do this until you are in the right position and feel comfortable in your skis. 

All Good!

Once you’re on the water and feeling good, you need to hold your hands above your head in the form of a circle to let the spotter know you’re okay. This also applies if you have had a fall.

Turn Right 

Whilst water skiing, you’ll want to get a few turns in to test out your balance. To turn right, simply put a flat hand pointed towards the right as if you were signalling to turn on a bicycle.

Turn Left

Vice versa, to turn left, carry out the same hand gesture but to the left-hand side of your body.

More Speed

Feeling confident? Perform another thumbs up to get the driver to speed up. Of course, we know why adrenaline rush is a good thing, but this signal isn’t just for adrenaline purposes.  If you feel yourself sinking a little too far into the water and keeping balance is becoming harder, it’s likely because the boat is too slow. Asking the driver to speed up can help you regain your balance and momentum.

Less Speed

If, however, you feel the driver is going too fast, a thumb pointed downwards will indicate to them that you would like to slow down. Don’t be afraid to use this signal. Your instructors will know the best speed for waterskiing, but it’s always right to go at a speed you are comfortable with.


If, for any reason, you would like the boat to stop, then hold a flat hand out in front of you. As we mentioned earlier, you will be trying out water skiing with a trusted company that knows what they are doing, so ideally you won’t need to use this signal. But it’s essential that you know it, just in case.

I’m Getting Tired

If you’re feeling fatigued and would like to rest for a moment, make a motion across your neck with your hand. This will tell the spotter that you want the boat to stop. Also Read – Tackling Sports Industry Challenges With a Sports Management Degree

I Want To Be Picked Up

When you’re resting on your back in the water, you need to be aware of when enough is enough. Water skiing is great fun, but it is also demanding on the body, so if you’re feeling tired, simply hold your ski above your head, and this will demonstrate to the spotter that you are ready to be picked up.

I Want To Go Back To The Dock

But what if you want to go back to the dock in style? If you’re ready to stop skiing and call it a day, simply tap your hand on your head, and the spotter will know you’re ready to go back to the dock, and you can ski your way in like a pro!

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