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Waterski Ropes vs. Wakeboard Ropes: What's The Difference?

Waterski Ropes vs. Wakeboard Ropes: What's The Difference?

Water skiing and wakeboarding seem similar. But that all-important connection between the rider and the boat -- the rope and handle -- plays a key role in ensuring you're properly tethered at speed, and having fun, safely.

Is there any difference between water ski and wakeboard ropes and handles? Yes! Let's take a look.

Water Ski Rope Lengths

color-coded water ski rope lengths

Pictured: Masterline Optimized Slalom Mainline

The biggest difference between wakeboard ropes and ski ropes is the length of the rope itself. For slalom skiers, the standard length of rope used is 75 feet, though 60 feet is a common alternative for advanced skiers working on tricks and acrobatics.

Water ski ropes are made up of individual sections, each being removable to adjust the total length of line behind the boat. The first section is always "15 off", or 15 feet in length, to make the transition between 60 and 75 feet.

From there, the number of feet removed per section of rope is standardized and often color-coded. The sections after 60 feet removing 22, 28, 32, 35, 38, 39.5, 41, 43, 44, and 45 feet. By removing all sections, the minimum length of a water ski rope is 30 feet.

Wakeboard Rope Lengths

wakeboard rope lengths

Pictured: Proline 65' Launch Wakeboard Rope and Handle

Wakeboard rope is a simpler affair. The length of the rope is determined primarily by the boat and the size of the wake. Generally, beginner wakeboard riders should use a 50' or 75' line.

The shorter wake rope is intended to assist new riders with learning how to clear the wake when they're closer together. As a rider gains experience, they may want to upgrade to a longer line -- more advanced riders often use a 65' to 85' line.

Unlike ski ropes, which have specific sectional lengths, wake ropes are made up of uniform 2.5- or 5-foot sections.

Ski Rope vs Wake Rope Materials

Ski ropes are meant to have at least a minimal amount of stretch. This helps to reduce the shock applied to the rider's arms when making tight turns and transitioning from carving left to right, and vice versa.

Wakeboard ropes are the exact opposite: They have no stretch at all to ensure the rider can cut through wakes, catch air, and land without losing energy or proper placement.

Ski vs Wakeboard Handles

Both handles are roughly the same diameter -- around 0.9" t o 1.1" -- and use similar materials: Either rubberized texturing for added grip, or softer foam for comfort.

But wakeboard handles tend to be a bit wider, measuring an average of 15". Water ski handles tend to be a bit skinnier -- they're usually 12" to 13" wide.

"Are wake and ski ropes interchangeable?"

Unless you're a pro-level skier or wakeboarder doing competitive work (or riding a slalom course), you can safely and effectively use a wake rope and handle to ski.

Inversely, there's nothing inherently wrong with using a ski rope and handle to wakeboard -- so long as the stretch is minimal, and length of the main line is appropriate.

Need help picking the right wakeboard rope and handle? Read our next guide!

Going skiing instead? We cover ski ropes hand handles, too.