Rope Selection

Choosing The Right Rope

Whether you’re new to the sport or a seasoned veteran your choice of rope can have an impact on your performance in racing from start to finish.
As I watched from the bank at the last round of racing I couldn’t help but notice many skiers out there struggling with a rope not suited to them. This was mainly evident younger skiers who were using rope that was far too heavy for them.

SkiFast rope is by far the most commonly used rope in Ski Racing and is the only rope that has won world titles and broken the record of every classic river race. Rope is graded according to its width in mm and your choice of rope size is determined by your weight. SkiFast rope is available in five sizes –
4.0mm (for skiers who weigh up to 40Kg)
5.0mm (40-50Kg)
5.3mm (50-75Kg)
5.6mm (75-95Kg)
6.0mm (over 95Kg)

Each roll holds 200m (656ft) of rope and all sizes are available in pink and lime.

Buy it here

While this guide will apply in most cases, there are some exceptions to the rule. Depending on your skill level and technique you may need to choose a thicker rope to avoid rope failure during your start. If you tend to drag through the water before you’re up and going, you should probably go one size up just to make sure you don’t snap your rope.

If your rope is too heavy for your body weight you’ll see the rope dip into the water while you’re skiing. This is also common with excess rope length. When this happens, the rope ‘sucks in’ the water, pulling you over the front of the ski. It will feel like your harness is being ripped out of your hands. This becomes dangerous as it increases your chances of skiing over your rope which will nearly always lead to a fall.

Rope length is also critical and choosing the right length rope for your ability and the conditions is a process that takes a bit of trial and error and will be determined by speed, boat configuration and race course.

As a rough guide to choosing rope length, estimate your average speed
40 mph – 130 ft
50 mph – 150 ft
60 mph – 170 ft
70 mph – 190 ft
80 mph – 215 ft
90 mph – 240 ft
100 mph – 265 ft
110 mph – 290 ft
120 mph – 315 ft

Exceptions to this guide include races like the Southern 80 where long ropes just aren’t practical due to the sharp corners. Keep in mind that a long rope is also a heavy rope which as explained above can lead to dipping.
There are two reasons you need a longer rope as your speed increases. 1) The boat wake narrows as speed rises and so being further back from the boat gives you more room in the wash and 2) The faster you are going, the less time you have to read the water in front of you as it comes out from the back of the boat, the longer rope length will give you a fraction more time to react to the conditions.

In rough water skiing eg. grand prix or while skiing at slow speed we shorten the rope to prevent it from dipping and to get closer to the boat which gives the skier a better ride.

The reason we can ski on longer ropes at high speed is due to the extra drag associated with ‘water friction’, this adds more load to the rope keeping it from dipping into the water.

Make up your rope according to the guide above for your speed in rough conditions and then carry a 10ft, 20ft and 30ft extension with you in your ski bag allowing you to customise your rope to suit the water conditions on the day.

It’s vital to give your rope a thorough safety check prior to every race. This involves going over every centimeter and checking for frays, burns or knots. If your rope is in any way damaged you need to either replace the section that is damaged by cutting, re-splicing and making a join to connect your new section. Or depending on the extent of the damage replace your whole rope. Any old ski racing rope is suitable as social rope.
As with your harness, be sure to keep your rope off the floor of the boat and away from any hot engine exhausts after the race. Rinse any salt water out the rope and allow it to dry thoroughly (but not in the sun) before storing it away for your next race.

Below are some questions regarding rope that I have been asked previously

My partner and I want to buy a roll of rope to share, I’m 60kgs and he is 87kgs? Can we share the same roll?

Unfortunately in your case it is not practical for both to be on the same weight rope. Many 2up teams are able halve a roll, but you would be best to each buy the rope that suits your body size.

I’ve just bought a new roll of rope, is it ok to race with straight away or does it need to be stretched before my first race?

You do need to stretch a new rope before you race with it, either by using it in a couple of training runs or another method is to stretch it out behind a car. Attach your rope to a tow ball and stretch it out until the rope is firm. The rope will stretch approx 5-7% of it’s length. So, if you run it out on the reel to 200ft you should be able to stretch it out to 210 – 215ft. Leave it overnight to ensure there is no additional stretching on race day.This applies to all ski classes.

Does colour matter?

Your options are pink or lime. One is no more stronger than the other and no colour will outlast the other. The only advantage that pink has over lime is its visibility in the water, slightly reducing its risk of being run over. Some crews prefer their skiers to chose a colour each, enabling everyone to quickly identify them.

If you have any questions that you’d like to see answered in a blog post, write to us at

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