Water Ski Coaching from Professional Waterskiers at ProSkiCoach.com

The Official Slalom Course Diagram

by Wade Williams

For years water skiers have set up their race courses while studying a diagram that is a flat out lie. To draw a picture of the slalom course that shows the buoys nearly as wide as they are apart is horribly misleading to say the least. As long as you're attacking the slalom course thinking that you need to ski wider than you need to ski down the lake, you're going to have a hard time skiing efficiently.

MeasurementDistanceTolerance (+-)
Entrance Gate to Boat Guides (length)27 meters / 88.5 feet.135m / 5.25"
Boat Guide to Boat Guide (length)41 meters / 134.5 feet.205m / 8"
Buoy to Buoy Diagonal47 meters / 154 feet.235m / 9.24"
Turn Buoy from Course Centerline11.5 meters / 37' 8.4".115m / 4.5"
Entrance Gate Width (buoy to buoy)2.5 meters / 8' 2.4".125m / 5"
Boat Guide Width (buoy to buoy)2.3 meters / 7.5 feet.23m / 9"

When you study the slalom course in a real-life environment (or in a to scale diagram that actually shows proportional distances) you start to notice a few things...

  1. The course is not very wide compared to how long it is.
    The buoys sit only 37.7 feet (11.5 meters) outside the centerline, but the boat-gate to boat-gate distance is nearly a hundred feet longer! This proves the obvious feeling that so few skiers even realize: that we are traveling much more down-course than we are side to side.

  2. The diagonal line from buoy-to-buoy is marginally longer than the distance between the boat gates.
    At 154 feet (47m), the diagonal distance between buoys is only 20 feet (6m) more than distance between the boat guides. This should come as a shock to all the skiers out there that feel as if they can ski straight down the lake behind the boat without a problem, but the buoys seem like an insurmountable task... you're only required to cover an extra 20 feet per buoy (at longer lines) to navigate the course. This is starting to sound easier already!

  3. We start out on an early line.
    The distance from the entrance gate to the first set of boat guides is 88.5 feet (27m). This is 65% of the distance from boat-gate to boat-gate in the slalom course! Not 50%, not 30%, it is more than half of what we get after we get out of 1. So, if you are rushing your gate to make up time and get yourself out around one before you have to make a turn, you're coming from the wrong approach. We are starting on an early line, so we must approach the gate in relaxed fashion.