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Watersport Trends & Popularity

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  • Watersport Trends & Popularity

    Somewhat useless post, but curious what you all are seeing for trends across the country.

    When I was growing up in Northern Michigan and on the water daily as a kid (peak around late-80’s to mid-90’s), the overall #1 activity we saw behind boats was definitely skiing, usually slalom, but a fair amount on two skis. Behind that was probably trick skis and barefoot. Then came tubes, which weren’t nearly as flashy as today, but their popularity was definitely growing. Wakeboarding seemed to be brand new around us, and while I did learn to do it at the time, I only knew one person that even had one. And, wakesurfing wasn’t even heard of.

    Flash-forward to today, I’m still in Michigan, but a different location, and the #1 activity I see on the lakes I frequent is definitely tubes/towables. Round and round and round….. anything and everything can pull one, so EVERYONE has about 10 of them for their kids (full disclosure: us included). Behind that is definitely wake surfing, then a fair distance behind, wakeboarding… and then along ways behind… skiing. We get to the lake early and often leave late, and I can go an entire day... week day or Saturday... without seeing another skier other than myself as soon as it becomes legal in the morning (10:30am on our lake), or maybe 1 or 2 others right before wake restrictions pop back on at 7:00pm when the other locals pull away from their docks to make a quick run as everyone else starts loading up at the launch. Sadly, I can go weeks without seeing a kid on two skis learning to do it, and went all summer without seeing trick skis or a footer.

    I know times have changed, but I guess I’m curious just for the sake of conversation, if what I’m seeing is just regional, or fairly common across the board for public-access lakes.

  • #2
    Like you, I grew up on the lake and skied through the 70's, 80's and 90's. I watched knee boards, wakeboards, surf boards and tubes all come out and skiing taking a back seat. However, I am fortunate that most of my neighbors are all skiers. We actually have too many that prefer to ski and I say this because I'm the only one with a ski boat! I have 9 of us that ski every morning and there are 4 other boats that are morning skiers that we share the lake with. We get the occasional morning surfer and they are usually pretty good about sticking to one area. After 10:00 the lake fills with surf boats and tubers and the skiers are generally parked for the day as the surfing will go on right into the night with lights.


    • #3
      On our lake there is no wake restrictions on time... to find the skiers, your up with the sun. There is a great local group/groups. Easy to talk to and welcoming. Tubes currently come out too early around 9:00 on weekends. Surfing is just after that and all day, everywhere.

      Our current regiment is to Ski first thing, then get back out on the wake foil! Chill during the heat of the day and come back out for evening runs on the ski.

      Trends on the lakes will continue to go toward the easier to learn, more crowd friendly surfing type. If you want skiing to continue I would suggest finding someone young and get them out there.


      • #4
        By far and large - surfing.
        If it produces a wave, people are trying to surf behind it.

        We actually have a few wakeboarders, but not much anymore.
        My lady wakeboards and actually doesn’t surf at all. Myself, I’m personally over the surf phase. But every person on the planet seems enthralled to stand behind the boat and slam a beer down their gullet.
        Almost anyone can do it, no matter how fat or lazy you are.

        Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk


        • #5
          Originally posted by TDOT View Post
          If you want skiing to continue I would suggest finding someone young and get them out there.

          I got my nephews and niece up on skis, wakeboard, surfing, and even kneeboarding last summer. I kept joking to the one at the time, that it's probably the first time anyone out there had even seen a kneeboard. hahaha

          One quickly moved from two skis to slalom and hasn't looked back (definitely his favorite)... though he's really taken to the wakeboard as well.

          One got the hang of all of them, but definitely favors the wakesurfing... I suspect because he thinks it's "the most cool".

          And my niece is happiest on a tube, but did a darn good job with all of them except the kneeboard. She hated that thing (so do I).

          My daughters (4 & 8) love the water, and love the tube, but were pretty chicken-$hit with everything else last season. Hoping I can work on their confidence more when the water warms. I've been telling them a lot of stories of when I was younger, and watching a lot of video's with them (many from on here) of much younger kids skiing and surfing... so hopefully they'll give it a more honest try.... because I know they'll love it once they do.


          • #6
            At 57, my wife and I both still slalom ski, wakeboard and surf. She insisted we keep our ‘91 ProStar when we bought our XT22.
            Due to hamstring issues, she has gravitated towards surfing. My 23 yr old daughter has RA and can only surf any more.

            My 26 year old son and his fiancé both slalom and surf. Three - yes, THREE - of his friends have purchased 80’s ProStar’s of their own in the last 12 months and all slalom ski.

            On our Lake Powell trip last summer, 7 of the 8 twenty somethings slalom skied almost every day despite the presence of an XT22 and an XT23.

            They even planned their own “slalom trip” later in the fall. I don’t think water skiing will make the comeback that snow skiing has but it’s certainly encouraging to see a group of kids still getting jazzed about a slalom boat.

            Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk


            • #7
              There is no doubt in my mind that the red tape, bureaucracy, politics and membership/boat/equipment costs, traditional 3 event competitive waterskiing is a dying animal.

              To become an official is alot of work, to maintain the ratings is alot of work. Boat prices, equipment costs, sanctioning, insurance, boat fees, and constant rules changes (so your kid makes the podium) are no question driving people away.

              It's a travesty and I am shocked that I was one of the only ones on my council to speak up and oppose such garbage.
              The sea, once it casts it's spell, holds one in it's net of wonder forever - Jacques Cousteau


              • #8
                It’s tough to match the efficiency of tubing. Teaching one kid at a time “arms straight, knees bent, here we go!” takes time and if you’ve got five other kids sitting waiting their turn, it’s not much fun. But if you have two tubes, all six can go at once and have fun.

                Surfing is very social and fairly easy on the body though I will argue with anyone who says “you can’t get hurt surfing”.

                Time on the water is at a premium these days and most folks are lucky if they can stay the whole weekend and usually have a soccer tournament to get to so surfing and tubing quickly become the go-to activities.

                Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk


                • #9
                  What your seeing is fairly common everywhere, except in my small group of friends.

                  My history of skiing started in 1991 and we basically did everything we could as newbies. 2 ski's, kneeboard, tried slalom, tube, trick ski's, got into barefooting all within the first several years.

                  Then wakeboarding got big and I was interested to try it but held off for a bit because of the cost and no one I knew had one. Then my brother got one and I tried it, then bought one, and for several years after that, it is all we did. After several years, possible concussions and a broken right ankle (all at 18-20 mph), I got back heavy into barefooting. Surprisingly fewer injuries at 40 mph.

                  In 2010, Buckeye Bash started and the majority, or at least half, of the group, are big into slalom. So naturally I got into it more and my two primary activities now are Slalom and Footing.

                  Admittedly, I did do the surfing thing starting in 2015 and progressed a bit but it was mainly an activity that was done after skiing and a few drinks. I did even buy my own used board.

                  I have not surfed or wakeboarded since 2019 and totally happy swerving, booming and long lining.. The great thing at the end of 2020 was my daughter got up on slalom and over the winter bought her own Radar Union. Excited for 2021.
                  If its not a competition ski boat, its always second best.

                  2008 MasterCraft X14, LY6, 400 HP
                  1994 MasterCraft ProStar 205 (SOLD)

                  Check out MasterCraft Buckeye Bash on Facebook!


                  • #10
                    I am one of the skiers here in Ohio with DoubleD, I would add that kneeboarding seemed to be fairly popular as an alternative to skiing early on.

                    Some of us would learn to barefoot while doing sitting on knee board starts.

                    I think 3 event skiing or more specifically slalom will remain constant and maybe even grow a bit if we can continue to share it with folks.

                    We host a small informal event here in Ohio around Buckeye Bash and handicap it so everyone can participate.

                    We have a vibrant wakeboard scene on Griggs and Norris but I will let WillyT speak to that when he comes along this thread.

                    I say try them all and do them all ... don’t be a one trick pony and heck even surfing is fun!

                    Grab a line and Step of the Dock!

                    Sent from my iPad using Tapatalk Pro
                    Ski in snow, ski in water, and always have fun!

                    2008 Prostar 214 MCX
                    1995 Prostar 190 "Evil Minion"
                    Previous 93 Prostar 190 1.5:1 GT40

                    "Left Foot Forward and preferring girls."
                    "Do you have Flake on that boat?"


                    • #11
                      my lake neighbor used to have his kids out and their friends, he says he had a rule, you have to try something else before the tube gets wet. He said that worked.


                      • #12
                        I should clarify... I've grown to enjoy surfing as much as the masses (definitely hurts less these days than losing an edge), and my wife loves it more than anything else... but my heart still gravitates to slalom, its just harder and harder to sneak in clean water on our lake, so I grab a few runs when I can, and then just play along with something that doesn't require clean water to keep us active longer throughout the day. Can't beat 'em, join 'em I guess. In the end, as long as the boat's burning dinosaurs, I'm smiling... just fun to watch times change... and I suppose, a bit sad to see your favorite grow less popular.

                        Sent from my SM-G960U using Tapatalk
                        Last edited by 86Skier; 05-04-2021, 09:18 PM.


                        • #13
                          Tubing is by far the most popular "watersport". Any boat can pull a tube,and no one has to learn anything to do it. I see few skiers anymore and fewer footers. Very rarely a kneeboarder. I'd say wakeboarding is still up there simply because you dont need an inboard (or reverse i/o) to do it.Most people that have access to an inboard are surfing. I know a few with $100k inboards that Im fairly confident dont know how to do anything behind a boat other than surf (and tube)


                          • #14
                            Still love to slalom, but unless we're out at sunrise, not ideal due to tubers and surfers. Break out the hydrofoil until winds die down around sunset, one last set.


                            • #15
                              On the illinois river southwest of chicago (section I frequent) mostly tubers a hand full of wakeboarders, 1 or 2 wake surfers.. 2 hard core slalom skiers.. weekends are nuts with tubers.. during the week is great with no one on the water... at 61, i enjoy the evening slalom runs....

                              Sent from my SM-G955U using Tapatalk
                              sigpic...A bad day water skiing still beats a good day at work...1995 Pro Star 205....