Tournament Slalom Skis

Maherajah Water Skis

Slalom--requiring the ultimate in poise, rhythm, timing, and strength

Slalom Competition

In competitive slalom waterskiing, a numerical terminology designates the results of a skier’s run through the buoys.  Designations such as “6 @ 0 Off,” “5 @ 16 off,” or “4 @ 32 off” are seen as a skier’ scores for each run is posted. This designation can be quite confusing if you’re unfamiliar with competitive skiing, but it is actually fairly easy to understand.

How a Slalom Skiing Competition Works

In sanctioned slalom competition, the skier must make a pass through a course of buoys that features three turn buoys on each side, for a total of six turns.

The skier cuts back and forth between these six turn buoys, and the number of successfully cleared buoys for the run makes up part of the skier’s score.

The degree of difficulty of each pass is increased by shortening the length of the tow rope.  The amount the rope is shortened is included in the score designation.

Let’s look at a sample score designation—”5 @ 32 off” and interpret the meaning of the numbers.

The First Number

In our sample slalom score, the number “5” in “5 @ 32 off” indicates that the skier successfully cleared 5  out of 6 buoys (the best possible number would be 6).

The Second Number

The second number indicates how much of the towrope has been deducted for the skiing run.  A standard full rope is 75 feet long, commonly known as long-line.  Shortening the rope makes skiing around the buoys more difficult, and hence leads to a higher score.  Whn the rope is shortened, the amount by which it is shortened is referred to as “off.”  So in our sample, “32 off” indicates that the 75-foot rope has been shorted by 32 feet, leaving a rope of 43 feet in length.

More experienced competitive skiers often begin their first run with the rope already shortened.  The turn buoys on an official slalom course are 37.5 feet from the center of the course.  The top skiers in the sport  are capable of running the course with the rope shortened so far it will not reach the buoy.  This requires the skier to stretch his body out in order to complete the turn.  A rope that is “38 off” is actually only 37 feet long—not even long enough to reach the turn buoys.

At the highest levels of competition, skiers regularly run with very short ropes. According to the USA Waterski and Wakeboard organization, the current world record run is 3 @ 43 off, set by Nate Smith on May 14, 2017, at Swiss Pro Slalom Tournament.

How the Tow Rope is Shortened

Tournament ropes have incremented loops to attach the rope to the boat at fixed settings.  Each loop is a different color.

The first loop is 15 feet from the rope’s original full-length connection point to the boat.  This is considered “15 off,” which gives a rope length of 60 feet (75 – 15 = 60).  The next increments are 22, 28, 32, 35, 38, 39.5, and 41 off.  In our example of 5 @ 32 off, the rope was shortened 32 feet for an overall length of 43 feet.

   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