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Water Skiing Hand Signals

May 29, 2024

Every year, over 3 million Americans go water skiing. This popular water sport has existed for over 100 years and is still going strong.

Whether you’re enjoying recreational water skiing or plan to compete, you’ll need to learn the basic hand signals that allow skiers and boat operators to communicate.

13 Water skiing hand signals

When you’re out on the water with the rush of the wind, the whoosh of the waves and the roar of the boat motor in your ears, you can’t rely on shouting out instructions. 

Water skiers and boat operators need to memorize water skiing hand signals so they can communicate quickly and efficiently and enjoy a safe day out on the water.

Speed signals for water skiersWater Skiing Hand Signals Infographics

  • Thumb up means go faster.
  • Thumb down means go slower.

Turning signals for water skiers

  • Flat hand to the water skier’s right means turn right.
  • Flat hand to the water skier’s left means turn left.
  • Hand across the throat means cut motor, or stop
  • One hand up with fingers outstretched also means stop.
  • Patting the top of your head means return to dock.

Signals for water skiers who are in the water

  • Hands clasped over the skier’s head means skier is OK.
  • Skiers holding a ski pointing up indicates they are in the water and boat operators should look out.
  • Holding a ski above your head means you want to be picked up.

General signals for skiers, boat operators and spotters

  • Making the OK hand signal (with your thumb and forefinger forming a circle) means OK. This can be used to indicate that the boat speed is perfect, or any other affirmation by the boat operator or water skier.
  • Holding one arm up above your head and making circles means the boat operator is turning the boat around.

Drive A Boat USA

Remember, there is always an element of risk when water skiing or participating in other towed water sports. Always follow water skiing and towed water sports safety guidelines and check the label on your PFD to be sure that it is approved for use in towed water sports.

Children must always wear life jackets on or near the water, and all participants, including boat operators and spotters, must wear a life jacket that is the correct size and type

Be prepared! Know what to do if your boat capsizes, and how to treat someone who is suffering from cold water immersion. Learn all about safe boating and get your state-approved boating license online today at Drive A Boat USA!