slalom water ski course boat and water skier

Slalom Water Skiing

For many years slalom water skiing has been growing in popularity with it now appealing to a much wider audience due to the numerous locations available throughout the UK. Here at Tallington Lakes we have a man made world class competition level slalom course to cater for beginner’s right through the seasoned professionals.

Slalom Water Ski course at Tallington Lakes
Slalom Water Ski course at Tallington Lakes

Many people enjoy slalom skiing around a course rather than just ‘free skiing’ as it is much easier for the individual to measure progress, important for competitively natured people.

Each competitor begins skiing with a 75ft slalom rope at the minimum specified boat speed for the certain division they are in depending on age. For more experienced skiers they start at a higher speed and shorter length rope. To complete a pass the skier much pass through the orange gate buoys, complete turns around the outside of the six orange turn buoys before returning through the end orange gate buoys.

Boat Speed

The boat speed is linked to your division/group and ability which starts at 15.5mph and reaches 36mph for pro level skiers. In any slalom competition after a skier completes a pass the speed is increased by 2mph until the speed reaches 36mph for men and 34mph for women and veterans. Then to increase the difficulty the rope length is then shortened one increment for each completed pass until he/she misses a buoy or falls.


You will probably hear people talking about the word ‘off’. Basically this means the rope length taken away from the full 75ft length rope i.e. skiing a 60ft rope length is called ’15 off’.

Loop Color Meters Feet Feet Off
Neutral 23 75 0
Red 18.25 60 15
Orange 16 53 22
Yellow 14.25 47 28
Green 13 43 32
Blue 12 40 35
Violet 11.25 37 38
Neutral 10.75 35.5 39.5
Red 10.25 34 41
 Black 9.75 32 43


The table below shows the different coloured loops found in tournament ropes in relation to the length and also provides the ‘off’ values. When competing in a slalom competition the aim is to gain the highest amount of credits, I will now try to explain how it works.

For each successfully completed pass you are awarded six credits, one for each turn buoy, and you gain more credits each time you complete a pass at either a higher speed or shorter rope length, until you miss a buoy or fall.  A complete pass, is when the skier leaves wake, goes around the buoy and returns to the wake.  If a water skier decides to start at a higher speed or rope length, for their class, they will receive all credits for the preceding passes despite not completing them.

You will notice below, the world record includes a half buoy. A half buoy is when the skier goes round the buoy but doesn’t make the wake.

Slalom Water Ski  Course Facts

In total there are 26 different coloured buoys (four green pre-gate buoys, four orange gate buoys, six orange turn buoys, 12 yellow boat lane markers)

The six orange turn buoys are 37.5ft from the centre of the course.

At ’38 off’ the rope no longer reaches the buoys so the skier has to move their body to get around the buoy.

At the maximum ’43 off’ the rope is 32ft long which equates to being 5.5ft inside the turn buoys.

The world record is an amazing 2½ buoys at  ’43 off’ which was achieved by Nate Smith; something for us all to aspire towards 🙂

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