Water Sports Competition: Getting Started
Getting started in competitive water sports is easier than you think. A common misconception is that in order to compete in any of USA Water Ski’s 800-plus competitions, you need to be an expert. Nothing could be farther from the truth. While many of USA Water Ski’s tournaments are geared toward regional, national and international level competitors, USA Water Ski offers a nationwide series of tournaments specifically designed with the beginner in mind.
The National Ski League, National Wakeboard League and the National Barefoot League were formed in 1997 with the goal of making tournaments less intimidating by providing a fun and relaxed atmosphere in which participants compete against - and learn with - others of similar ability.
Here is a league-by-league look at each of USA Water Ski’s three grassroots competition programs.
National Ski League
The National Ski League is comprised of local water ski clubs across the country hosting fun tournaments for new and up-and-coming slalom skiers. These tournaments feature competition between skiers of the same ability - giving everyone a chance to win. A modified scoring system makes NSL tournaments enjoyable for all levels, even if you can’t run the slalom course. Many tournaments feature skier clinics and provide opportunities to demo the latest equipment. On-site announcers, music and banners from local and national sponsors create a fun and relaxed atmosphere.
National Wakeboard League
The National Wakeboard League is designed for beginning to advanced wakeboarders looking to learn new tricks, catch some big air, compete, and most importantly, have a good time on the water. Like the events of the NSL and NBL, NWL events offer a fun atmosphere, instructional clinics and product demos where participants get to ride the latest wakeboards while being towed behind the newest towboats.
The National Barefoot League
The National Barefoot League mirrors the NSL and the NWL by bringing grassroots barefoot competition to participants nationwide. The NBL’s ability-based format helps participants compete against ’footers of the same level. One restart is allowed if you fall before the course, and you can utilize a boom, which allows even the most novice athlete a chance to perform in a competitive atmosphere.
How to Get Involved
Getting involved is easier than you might think. You don’t have to be a great skier or rider, or even own your own boat. Simply visit USA Water Skis web site, USAWATERSKI.org, click on the NSL, NWL, or NBL logos and choose from the more than 150 events held each year.
Entry fees are typically no more than $35. To participate in the tournament you must become a USA Water Ski Active or Guest Member. Guest Memberships are $10 per event (you can sign up as a Guest Member up to a maximum of five times) and Active Memberships are $50 for individuals. Family packages also are available, making it easier for the whole family to join in on the fun.
With an Active Membership, you not only receive access to all USA Water Ski events, but you also receive a year’s subscription to The Water Skier magazine, a copy of The Regional Tournament Guide, decals and plenty of great discounts on industry-related products, hotels and rental cars.
You will need to bring a Type III U.S. Coast Guard-approved life jacket, your own ski or wakeboard and a rope if you are competing in an NWL event. If you do not have equipment, don’t worry; simply contact the tournament coordinator to see if extra skis, boards, life jackets and/or ropes will be available. A majority of the time there will be ski and wakeboard equipment demos or an extra ski, board or jacket that you can borrow. If you are planning to attend an NBL tournament, it is recommended that you have your own barefoot wetsuit.
Other recommended equipment and items (but not necessary) are: gloves, tools for possible equipment repair, ice cold water to keep cool in the summer heat, lawn chairs and other "fun in the sun essentials" such as a flying disc, volleyball and squirt guns. Contact the coordinator to see if food will be provided and what accommodations will be available on and off the site, such as hotels, restrooms and restaurants.
Why Join USA Water Ski?
You may be wondering why you should join USA Water Ski, but a better question is why not? By becoming a member of USA Water Ski, the national governing body of organized water skiing in the United States, you will join more than 35,000 water sports enthusiasts who take advantage of the many membership benefits. Besides receiving a free USA Water Ski membership card, decals and the opportunity to participate in the more than 800 beginner, intermediate and advanced competitions held throughout the United States, other benefits include a subscription to The Water Skier magazine; access to hundreds of clinics; free access to waterways and regulatory assistance; a 10-percent discount on your next purchase from Overton’s Water Sports Catalog; discounts on rental cars, hotel rooms, airfare and cruise line tickets; and much, much more.
USA Water Ski has a long and proud history of representing the interests of water sports enthusiasts. Formed in 1939 as a non-profit organization promoting water skiing in the United States, USA Water Ski is affiliated with the International Water Ski Federation (world governing body) and is recognized by the United States Olympic Committee and Pan-American Sports Organization as the national governing body of organized water skiing in the United States.
USA Water Ski-Affiliated Clubs
The backbone of USA Water Ski is the more than 600 USA Water Ski-affiliated clubs in the United States. These local clubs provide opportunities for their members to become involved in water sports. Nearly all tournaments, clinics, ski shows and exhibitions held in the United States are organized at the local level by USA Water Ski-affiliated clubs, allowing you and your family a tremendous opportunity to get involved in the sport.
USA Water Ski-Affiliated Ski Schools
Looking for a ski school to help you improve your skills? Let USA Water Ski help you decide where to spend your hard-earned money. USA Water Ski-affiliated ski schools feature expert instruction from USA Water Ski-certified instructors. USA Water Ski offers the only water ski coaching certification program in the country. So, by attending a USA Water Ski-affiliated ski school, you can be sure that you will receive quality instruction from some of the nation’s finest coaches.
USA Water Ski-Affiliated Camps
Sending your child to summer camp can be stressful. But you can rest a little easier when you send your child to one of the numerous USA Water Ski-affiliated camps. These summer camps offer water skiing instruction from USA Water Ski-trained instructors, ensuring that your child will receive coaching from an instructor who has passed USA Water Ski’s stringent coaching standards.
USA Water Ski-Approved Towboats
Not sure about what kind of towboat you need to get involved in competition? USA Water Ski has taken the guesswork out of shopping by testing the performances of towboats for you. Through USA Water Ski’s Approved Towboat program, USA Water Ski puts three event and wakeboard towboats through rigorous tests designed to determine their suitability for tournament use and ensure that competitors compete under ideal conditions. When you purchase a USA Water Ski-approved towboat, you are getting a quality product designed to meet the water sports needs of even the most discriminating buyer.
For more information about USA Water Ski, call 1-800-533-2972. You also can check out its web site at USAWATERSKI.org, or write: USA Water Ski, 1251 Holy Cow Road, Polk City, FL 33868-8200.