Right on Line

Don't let everyone's watersports performance suffer because of the wrong line.

Slalom skiers, wakeboarders, barefooters and tube riders. They all depend on the line they use for performance and safety. It is critical to fun. It connects them to the boat. Watersports fans can have the perfect boat, a great driver and the best equipment, but having a line designed for their favorite behind-the-boat sport is equally important to a successful day.

Professionals in each discipline have raised the bar for what can be done behind a boat, and manufacturers have kept pace by developing lines that work best for each activity. Lines for all wakesports have very little spring. However, there are variations as to how tight the line should be. Each sport also has optimal line lengths.

Recreational waterskiers, slalom skiers and jumpers want a little spring in the line, so their shoulders and arms can better absorb any looseness in the line when they make a quick turn or land a jump.

Manufacturers use polypropylene, a plastic material, to give waterskiers the right balance between spring and tightness. A line for waterskiing, including the handle, is 75 feet long. Skiers who run the slalom course use a line that has takeoff loops at lengths of 15, 22, 28, 32, 35, 38, 39 1/2, 41, and 43 feet off the line. In competition, each time a skier successfully rounds the six-buoy slalom course, the line is shortened to make each ensuing pass more difficult to complete.

Even for skiers not running the course, using a line with takeoff loops is still smart. Beginners benefit from using the 15-foot off loop (60 feet of line), because the shorter line gives the skier a tighter pull and less slack line. The boat’s wake might also be smaller for mastering wake crossings.

Wakeboarders, barefooters, wakeskaters, trick skiers and tubers want a tighter line, which keeps the pull even more consistent and makes getting air and doing tricks easier. But even here there are degrees of desired tightness, so materials and rope lengths will vary. For example, tube riders want a tight, consistent pull, so manufacturers use polyethylene, a plastic with a stiffer feel than polypropylene. Lines for tubing are typically 60 feet long. The shorter line gives the tube rider a less springy pull. It is also safer since it reduces how far the tube can get whipped away from the wake when the boat turns. Tubes come in various sizes to fi t one to six riders. To accommodate the various sizes of tubes, manufacturers make lines of various thickness: 3/8inch diameter for up two riders, 5/8inch diameter for up to four riders and 3/4inch diameter for up to six riders.

The tight pull and varied line lengths of a wakeboard line or barefoot line can serve double duty as the line for kneeboarding, wakeskating and riding a hydrofoil.

Wakeboard riders want an even tighter line, to help them get more hangtime when they jump the boat’s wake. Manufacturers use lowstretch materials such as Spectra and Dyneema to give the rider a very tight pull. Some lines are encased in silicone to increase tightness. Lines for wakeboarding come in 80foot lengths with takeoff loops at varied distances, such as 60, 65, 70, and 75 feet. The takeoffs allow riders to use a length that suits their ability level. Beginners typically use a 60foot length, since the wake is narrower closer to the boat, which makes jumping the boat’s wake easier. More aggressive riders and the pros like the longer line lengths, so they can get more speed when edging to the wake and get massive air.

Especially when doing starts and tricks, a tight line is advantageous for barefooting. ’Footers use lines made of Spectra to minimize line bounce. Barefoot lines are 90 feet long and have takeoff loops at 80 and 70 feet. Barefoot competitions are performed on a 70foot line. The less line, the more consistent and tighter the pull will be. However, for barefooting behind boats with a turbulent wake, the 80or 90foot line will get skiers farther away from the rooster tail.

Trick skiers use lines about 50 feet long made of polyethylene or Spectra, for a tight pull. This line length affords the trick skier a big enough wake to get air while keeping the inside of the wake narrow enough to move quickly from trick to trick.

Wakesurfing is done without a line, except to start, which is done close the boat, with lines 20 to 24 feet long. Wakesurf lines may have takeoff loops, so the surfer can place himself in the most ideal spot in the wake. The wakesurf line also features a thick braided section near the handle, which allows the surfer to pull up on the line to find the best spot. For safety, the wakesurf line features a very short handle, about six inches wide, or a just a pigtail handle, so if the surfer falls when he releases the line, his arm can’t get caught.

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