Slalom Water Ski Setup – a How To guide

A slalom water ski is a very fine tuned piece of equipment. Normally the setup of the ski as it is out-of-the-box should be sufficient for beginner to intermediate skiers, but going past that would take some fine tuning to get the best performance from your slalom ski. Lets see how:

Why would you want to make adjustments to your slalom ski?

Any adjustments made to a slalom ski has an effect on the performance of the ski in the water. This can range from how high the tip of the ski sits out of the water to how short the turn is and even how quickly the ski decelerate when coasting just before the turn! It may not sound like significant changes, but when you have a ski strapped to your feet, it can make theh world of a difference!

What can be adjusted on a slalom ski?

The following factors plays an integral role on the performance of the slalom ski:

  • Ski length
  • Binding position
  • Fin setup
  • Wing setup

Slalom ski length:

The length of your ski is probably the first variable one should look at. Making sure that your ski length is matched to your weight and boat speed is certainly a good start to getting the correct setup for you. Most ski manufacturers has the stock settings and suggested ski lengths available on their website. Read this article on generically matching your ski length to your weight.

Binding position

The binding position on the ski refers to how far the binding is from the back of the ski. The more forward the binding is, the longer it takes the ski to complete the turn, but also makes the tip of the ski dip down in the turn (assuming that you have a balanced body position in the turn). The further back the binding is positioned, the more the ski tip would lift during the turn, but it also makes for a shorter turn.

How to adjust the binding position

The intent of this article is not to go in depth of the adjustment of the bindings, but rather a overview of how it is adjusted.

The bindings of a slalom ski is mounted on a plate, that in turn is mounted on the ski. Slots for the screws are cut into the plate that allows you to adjust the binding forward or backward and then tighten down with the mounting screws.

The front binding and back binding can also be adjusted independently as shown below:

Fin setup

The fin of a slalom ski can move in several directions, namely forward, backward, up and down. The front and back of the fin can also be adjusted up and down independently, changing the length of the fin (which also changes the surface area). A vernier is used to measure the distances as the smallest changes makes a big difference. The saying “If it aint broke, don’t fix it” rings very true when doing fin adjustments. There is no need to mess with stock settings if it will not make a difference to your level of skiing.

You can always reset the changes you made by adjusting everything back to the stock settings, just make sure you have them before you start to make adjustments.

One thing to also remember, change ONE thing at a time, this way you will feel the difference each setting makes on your ski. If you do not like the performance the setting has made, just change it back and move on to another setting.

Before you think that this may be too much and too complicated, let me break it down to make it a little bit more understandable.

Fin adjustment – Forward and Backward

When adjusting the fin forward and backward, you are actually changing the dimensions of the ski (to an extent).

When moving the fin forward:-

  • you move the place where the water breaks (it should be below your front foot) closer to the back of the ski.
  • it causes the ski to rotate less at the end of the turn
  • it lifts the tip of the ski at the end of a turn, that helps to reduce tip pressure
  • assist in making a smaller radius turn
  • the ski feels like a smaller ski

When moving the fin back:-

  • it moves the water break forward
  • the ski can handle more angle
  • the ski bites harder at the finish of a turn
  • the ski makes larger radius turns
  • the ski feels larger

Fin adjustment – up or down

The front and back of the fin can be adjusted up or down independently. Due to the shape of the fin, when adjusting the front of the fin up, you make the fin shorter and when you adjust it down, you make the fin longer

Shorter fin:

  • Moves the water break back
  • Carries more speed into the turn
  • Smaller radius turns
  • Reduce tip pressure at the end of the turn
  • Able to hold less angle and load through the wakes

Longer fin:

  • Moves water break forward
  • Increase deceleration into turn
  • Larger radius turns
  • Increase tip hold at the end of the turn
  • Hold more angle or load through the wakes

Shallower fin:

  • Moves water break forward
  • Allows ski to roll over more
  • Smaller radius turns
  • Speeds up edge change
  • Decrease tail hold
  • Decrease acceleration out of the turn

Deeper fin

  • Moves water break forward
  • Hold more angle
  • Increase turn radius
  • The ski feels larger

Wing setup

The wing angle controls the deceleration speed before the turn. The greater the angle, the quicker the ski will decelerate. This helps to minimize a slack rope during the turn.

A Wing Angle Gauge is used to set the angle. Gauges can range from 6° to 12°, but some gauges may have a larger or smaller range than that.

I hope this article is useful to you and help you to better understand the setup of a slalom ski. Please feel free to add your comments or questionsn should you require more informatio

REMEMBER: The settings on your slalom ski should never be used to correct improper body position and technique, but rather to compliment proper positioning and technique on the ski.

One Reply to “Slalom Water Ski Setup – a How To guide”

  1. Mark Beale

    I was an excellent skier back in the 80s. The fins had no wings and there was greater distance between lead foot and real toe shoe. New skiis are much lighter with above changes, but generally speaking, concave arrangements are very similar so I go back to the obvious change i.e. increased space between feet. Comments?


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