Barefoot Water Skiing – A Beginner’s Guide

barefoot water skiing

When’s the last time you tried something new? It seems every time you go out into the water, it’s always the same old stuff. Tubing, kayaking, paragliding - sure they can be loads of fun. But after the nth time, you might find yourself wanting to try something different. So why not barefoot water skiing?

The name itself definitely lures in more daring water sports enthusiasts who want to test their limits. And because it doesn’t call for a lot of equipment, you might already have everything you need to try this fun sport the next time you hit the waves.

The Basics of Barefoot Water Skiing

As its name suggests, barefoot water skiing is essentially water skiing without anything under your feet. The sport entails pulling a person behind a motor boat as they grip a boom or a cable. To do it safely and properly, you’re going to need a boat that travels at least 45 miles per hour.

Although it is called ‘barefoot’ water skiing, you’re still going to need some equipment for the sport. These include:

Water Skiing Boom

This attaches to you to your boat and protrudes out from the side. It’s ideal for beginners who have yet to achieve the kind of balance necessary for barefoot water skiing. The downside of course is that water skiing from a boom limits the movements and tricks you can perform.

Water Ski Rope and Handle


If you’re a little more experienced and you want to try your hand at more complicated water skiing techniques, then it’s time to graduate to a water ski rope and handle. This attaches to the rear of your boat and provides more flexibility for various moves and tricks for freestyle water skiing.

We recommend the Affordura Water Ski Rope with Floating Handles.

Life Vest or Jacket

life vest

You never know when you might lose your grip. A life vest or personal flotation device is an absolute must, regardless of whether you’re on the boat or out in the water trailing behind it.

Check out the O'Neill Reactor USCG Life Vest.

Barefoot Wet Suit or Padded Trunks

wet suit for barefoot water skiing

A barefoot wet suit is essentially a wet suit without any coverage on the feet. It’s always ideal to wear something more form fitting for barefoot water skiing since the strong resistance can easily blow off any loose fitting apparel.

We like the Seaskin Shorty Wetsuit.

Water Ski Shoes

water shoes for barefeet water skiing

This one’s optional, but if you find a pair that’s really snug, you can use a pair of water ski shoes out on the water. They can also help improve resistance when you stand since they seal out the spaces between your toes.

Although you might be able to learn the ropes on your own with some practice, there are lots of organizations and groups out there that offer lessons for barefoot water skiing. So if you’re interested in getting in on the sport, you might want to consider signing up for a professional tutoring.

These Unisex Water Ski Shoes are great!

Is Barefoot Water Skiing Dangerous?

According to statistics, water skiing causes some 300 injuries each year, some of which prove to be fatal. But that’s no reason not to give the sport a try. It’s important to remember that you could be met with injuries doing any sport or activity. So the best way to guarantee your safety would be to gain confidence, improve your skill, and observe proper safety protocol.

Studies have found that water skiing accidents and injuries usually involve the knees, ankles, hips, neck, and head. That’s because these joints are most prone to the excessive pressure produced by the upward force of the water against the body.

Fortunately, there are things you can do to minimize the risk of injury on the waves. Choosing the right location, wearing proper gear, and taking things one step at a time should reduce the chances of accidents and help you fully enjoy the sport without a hitch.

Tips and Safety Advice

Really want to give the sport a try but worried you might end up visiting the emergency room? Here’s what you can do to safely enjoy barefoot water skiing:

Know Where to Ski

Not all bodies of water will be a fit for barefoot water skiing. Consider the depth of the water and the kind of terrain beneath the waves. You should also think about how far the boat can tug you along before it has to turn, especially if you’re not quite sure how to balance yourself when movement isn’t linear.

Take It Slow

If you’re just starting to learn the ropes, don’t try to speed up the process. Take your time and start by keeping your center of gravity close to the surface of the water. Try to establish your balance first before you attempt stretching out your legs and assuming an upright position on your feet.

Do a Warm Up

You can easily pull a muscle or worse if you rush your body into the strenuous task of balancing barefoot on water. Before you take that cable, make sure you perform a few preliminary stretches to warm up your body and prevent a strain or sprain injury. You can also routinely exercise your legs and upper body leading up to your barefoot water skiing schedule just to make sure your body is in the right condition.

Wear the Right Gear

Some people tend to think that because they’re skiing over water, it’s going to be a soft landing. But cruising over water at a speed of 45mph can make that water feel as hard as a wall once you crash into the surface. Wear the proper gear, and maybe even try to use a helmet especially if you’re not confident that you can maintain your grip at high speed.

Time for a Change of Pace

Tubing and fishing can be loads of fun, but don’t you want to mix things up a little? Barefoot water skiing might be a little risky compared to a lot of other more relaxed water sports and activities. But with the right gear, proper practice and training, and just enough patience, you should be able to safely enjoy those waves without the need for a board under your feet.

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