USA Water Ski & Wake Sports

Late Season Equipment Check

Note: This article first appeared in the Fall 2020 issue of The Water Skier magazine, the official publication of USA Water Ski & Wake Sports. If you are not a member of USA Water Ski & Wake Sports and you are interested in receiving the quarterly magazine, join now.


Written by Corey Vaughn

Photography by Jason Lee


Corey Vaughn slalom skiingMost skiers think of spring as the time to open that magical closet or shed, where the ski gear has been stowed for months and assess the situation as the new season dawns. I suggest getting ahead of that curve by taking stock now and carefully preparing your water toys for the long winter. You do not want to reach that first day of the season and then find yourself on the sidelines with equipment trouble. Here are a few tips to make sure you finish the 2020 season strong and come into the 2021 season prepared.




Winterize: If you are a boat owner, you probably have a system down for winterizing, covering and storing your boat. My family has been skiing for generations, but five years ago forgot to winterize the boat in time. Do not make that mistake. Keep an eye on the weather and make sure you have a winterization plan before the freezing nights come. 


Oil Change: Most folks ride that last oil change a bit long into the end of the season. Get in the habit of changing your boat’s oil when you winterize the boat for the year. That way, each spring you know that you are starting with fresh oil and not potentially damaging your engine or shortening its life. 


Dry Out: Another lesson my family learned the hard way is to make sure the interior of the boat is bone dry before covering the boat for the offseason. Yes, we created a science project. The mold, mildew and even plant life that grew under that moist cover was probably somehow illegal. I know it was not fun to clean.


Clean: At a minimum, use a spray cleaner and do a thorough “once-over” on your boat – inside and out. You will be glad you did come spring.




Upgrades: Now is the time to assess if next year is the right time to upgrade your ski. If you know you are going to get a new ski, get it during the off-season and start the new season with it from scratch. You are going to be rusty anyway. You might as well start dialing in to a new ski, while knocking the rust off. Better yet, pick up a late-season deal and finish the season on the stick you want to ride next summer.


Also check for any damage to your ski. If you have some chips or splits, the offseason is an opportunity to address those, so they do not get worse or affect the performance of the ski. 


Setup: If you are finishing the season on a high note, make sure you record your settings. If you do not know how to measure your fin or boots, find someone who does. At the very least, you can make a pencil line on your fin and trace your boots with a marker. If you are not feeling fully dialed in, consider what equipment upgrades you might need and return your ski to factory settings. Better to start a new season with a manufacturer’s guidelines than start up where you left off – lost.


Hide: Yes, hide your ski from the sun. Imagine that your ski is a vampire and cannot take any amount of sunlight. I find myself cringing too often at people’s $1,800 skis out sunbathing. Oh, and when you put your ski away for the winter, do not stand it up somewhere that it can fall.  




Repair: It is a fact that all boots require maintenance. Perhaps rubber boots require the least, but still need to be checked for rips, cracks and rot, or you may need new wraps that are snugger. If you use a hard-shell, there are many screws, nuts, and bolts to check, as well as the release spring, and wear and tear on the plastic pieces. Depending upon what your water is like, you may want to treat your metal parts with WD-40, including your boot screws. Finally, if you use a lace-up boot with a bungee, do me a favor and replace that bungee before you quit for the season. The elasticity of the cord weakens over time, which could not only change performance but also the boot’s ability to release. Bungees will wear out and snap eventually, so better to keep fresh cord around and know that you are finishing this season and starting the next with a safe and high performing setup. 


Dry: Before packing your ski into its case, whether it is for seven days or seven months, make sure the ski and boots are dry. It does not matter if you have hard-shells, rubber boots or a lace-up style boot. Rust, dry rot and mold are not your friends. 


Rope and Handle


This one is straightforward. If your rope or handle are showing fray, replace them. I broke one rope this summer and witnessed another break from the boat. It made me ask, “Why do we try to milk so many sets out of a single rope?” A good rope and handle are worth the investment, especially given that your safety and that of your boat crew is on the line. Check the loops of the rope that spend the most time on the pylon for wear. Also check the rope on your handle where it attaches to the bar and where some skis shred the handle by its “V.” Not only is safety a factor, but so is performance. If you are trying your best with a worn-out handle, you are wasting precious grip strength. Finding the perfect fitting handle is one of the easiest ways to enhance your equipment setup.




Like a new handle, fresh gloves can be game changing. Not only will they make your hands feel better (especially at the beginning of the season when your callouses are gone) but they can massively boost performance. Good gloves give you superior grip strength and allow you to use your full power. When you are trying to think of what to gift that water skier in your life this holiday season, remember that you really cannot beat a fresh pair of gloves.  


Vest and Wetsuits


This one is easy, because everyone can tell when neoprene does not fit well and needs to be changed. Just remember to hang up your neoprene somewhere (sometimes inside out, depending on the brand) where it can fully dry and where mice cannot get to it. You do not want to see your expensive suit or comp vest has been converted into a dwelling for a small mammal. 




It is often a melancholy feeling hanging up the gear for the offseason. Summer just never seems to last long enough in most parts of the USA. Whether you are planning a winter getaway or hunkering down until that first spring set, take the time this fall to evaluate your equipment and set yourself up for a strong 2021 season. If I can be of any help to you, do not hesitate to reach out. 


Corey Vaughn skis for Radar Skis, MasterCraft Boats, InTow Ropes and Handles and for love of the sport. He owns and operates the Bum Pass Water Ski Club in Virginia and welcomes skiers of all ages and abilities. Visit for more information.