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How To Water Ski Safely

Aug 18, 2007
Kathy was sure she was ready for this. True, she hadn't been on water skis for 15 years, but she had skied a lot as a girl.

Water skiing, she reasoned, was no different than riding a bicycle. It all comes back to you once you climb on. So, even though Josh didn't want to drive the boat faster, Kathy insisted he crank it up. Faster! Faster!

Ahh! The exhilaration of the wind in her face and the water at her feet. Ouch! The pain of losing control and flying head over heels, landing on her back, and having to be pulled from the water with a seriously sprained shoulder.

According to the National Safety Council, about 5 million Americans water ski each year, and approximately 6,500 require emergency room treatment. Most of these injuries are the result of carelessness and poor preparation.

Driver Prepare

* Learn and obey the "rules of the road" on water.

* It takes three to water ski:
-the skier,
-the tow boat operator,
-an observer in the boat. The driver cannot watch and know if the skier has fallen while also seeing where the boat is going.

* Operate in a corridor at least 200 feet wide, giving a safety area of 100 feet on both sides of the boat. The ski path should be at least 2,000 to 3,000 feet in length.

* The boat driver is responsible for keeping the skier away from dangerous areas. Take time to get familiar with the shoreline, shallow areas and obstructions. Keep the boat a safe distance from the shore, docks, and objects in the water.

* Be alert for boats entering the ski area. If one does, shut down the engine and wait for the area to clear.

* Always pull novice skiers slowly. High speeds are not essential to pleasurable water skiing.

* Always approach a skier in the water on the driver's side of the boat.

* Picking a skier from the water is a dangerous proposition. Your boat engine must be turned off and the propeller must be fully stopped.

* The boat should run parallel to the shore and come in slowly when landing.

* When your skier is down, raise a ski flag to alert other boaters.

* Equip your boat with a wide-angle rear-view mirror.

* A towing pylon, boarding ladder and speedometer are also advisable.

Skier Beware

* Know how to swim!

* Do not ski in unfamiliar waters where there could be unseen dangers. When skiing in new waters, take along someone familiar with the area.

* Never ski in shallow water, at night, or in front of another boat. Rough water is particularly dangerous since waves and a running sea will prevent the tow boat from keeping a smooth speed and course.

* Always wear a properly fitting U.S. Coast Guard-approved lifejacket. Lifejackets are required in most states. The lifejacket should be Type III, approved by the Coast Guard, and designed as a ski vest. It should fit snugly, and it must keep the skier face up in the water if he or she falls.

* The skier and the boat driver should agree in advance on the general boat path, and signals to use.

* If a skier falls, he or she should clasp both hands overhead to be seen and to signal they are OK. In a congested boating area, a downed skier should hold up a ski to show that everything is okay.

* Buy age-appropriate skis. Make sure the bindings are snug, but will release in case of a fall.

* Wear a helmet to protect against head injury.

* Some of this information came from the website of U.S.A. Water Ski.

Other Water Hazards

* Don't stay on the water too long. The sun, wind, waves and vibration can make you tired.

* Whether you are pulling or being pulled, do not drink alcohol, take prescription drugs or over-the-counter medications, or use illegal drugs that can impair your judgment.

* Use and renew sunscreen.

* Some special advice for those who like to water-tube:
-Stay well away from shore. Most injuries occur when water tubers come too close to shore.
-Before water-tubing, inspect the rope for fraying and the tube for defects.
-Wear a Type III lifejacket.
-Two people should be in the boat.
About the Author
John Myre is the author of the award-winning book, Live Safely in a Dangerous World, and the publisher of the Safety Times Reproducible Articles..
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