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Gliding Across the Water

waterskiingWater skiing was invented in 1922 by a man named Ralph Samuelson. He actually used a pair of boards as the skis and a clothesline as a tow rope. The sport remained relatively obscure for several years after that. Samuelson later took his hobby on the road performing shows from Michigan to Florida.  In 1966, the American Water Ski Association officially acknowledged Samuelson as the first water skier on record. He was also the first to go over a jump ramp. In addition to this, he was the first slalom skier. Water Skiing became a part of the 1972 Olympics, but only as an exhibition sport.

Most water skiers prefer to begin with a deep water start crouching down in the water until the driver of the boat accelerates to pull the skier out of the water. In addition to a driver and skier, there needs to be an observer who watches the skier.  The skier normally uses hand signals to communicate with the observer and the driver. Speeds vary from as slow as 14 miles per hour to as much as 36 miles per hour if you are slalom skiing.  If you are barefooting, speeds can range from 45 miles per hour or higher if you are water ski racing.

As in any other sport on the water, barefoot skiers should take safety precautions by wearing wetsuits to protect themselves because of the high velocity required to pull them. Another tool used in barefoot water skiing is the barefoot boom. It provides a stable aluminum bar on the side of the boat where a short rope can be attached or the skier can grip the bar itself. The skier is within earshot of the people in the boat, providing a good platform for teaching. A beginner can wear shoes to decrease the necessary speed, lessen foot injury from choppy water, learn better technique, and master the sport.

One of the most popular forms of water-skiing is slalom skiing. Slalom skiers uses only one ski with two plates, a front boot and either a toe plate, open binding, or another binding (similar to the front binding) behind the main one. The bindings are oriented so that both feet point forward, with one behind the other. When slalom skiing is done properly, the skier will experience numerous isometric contractions, and extreme upper body torque, making it a good form of exercise.

As water skiing is a potentially dangerous sport, safety is important. There should be a 200-foot wide skiing space and the water should be at least five to six feet deep. The skier should know how to swim, but he or she should wear a life jacket regardless of swimming ability. The most common water ski injuries involve the lower legs, such as the knee, because a fall at high speed can create irregular angles of collision between the skier’s body and the water surface.

It’s not exactly walking on water. But it’s close — and you might even say it’s better. Gliding across the surface of a lake at 20 miles per hour with the wind in your hair is definitely a unique feeling.

Source: “How Waterskiing Works.” HowStuffWorks. Web. 23 Jan. 2013.

 

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