Top 8 Best Cheap Water Skis | 2021 Guide (Rave, O’Brien)

As the 2020 Tokyo Olympics ended, I looked back to the old video I watched where water skiing was introduced as a demonstration sport in the 1972 Munich Olympics.

It was the first and only year water skiing graced the international sports event. 

Not many people know this, but water skiing used to be one of the original extreme sports popular among professionals; however, years after that, this sport feared extinction. The Olympics didn’t include water skiing in their roster. So eventually, people lost interest.

Those days are long gone, though. Today, water skiing is gaining popularity once more as water ski beginners and enthusiasts multiply over the years. 

According to USA Water Ski, there are over 600 different water skiing clubs and 11,000 active members across the United States. 80% of those people actively compete in tournaments, while the remaining percentage water skis recreationally. 

I know there’s a reason why you’re here, and perhaps it’s because you want to try water skiing as well. But sometimes, beginners of this sport face this dilemma — water skis are just so expensive. Prices of quality skis can range from $500 to over $1,000! 

But don’t fret. If you’re looking for cheaper water ski alternatives priced at $300 and under, you’ve come to the right place. 

What makes good water skis?

Did you know that water skis were invented by cutting up pine boards and strapping leather to the feet? Fast forward to today, even affordable skis are made from fiberglass, graphite, and aluminum. They’re also coated with resin layers for longevity and smoother rides.

Top 8 Best Cheap Water Skis

When looking for starter water skis, pay attention to the materials, their special features, and the bindings that may be included in the package. Check out these 8 water skis to help get you started on your water skiing adventure! 

  1. Rave Sports Rhyme Combo Water Skis — Our Top Pick
  2. O'Brien Celebrity Combo Water Skis — Best Budget
  3. CWB Connelly Big Daddy Waterski — Best High End
  4. HO Blast Combo Skis with Adjustable Bindings — Best for Family
  5. O'Brien Jr Vortex Kids Combo Water Skis — Best for Kids
  6. Airhead Wide Body Combo Skis 
  7. O'Brien Vortex Widebody Combo Water Skis 
  8. RAVE Sports Pure Combo Water Skis 

#1: RAVE Sports Pure Combo Water Skis — Our Top Pick

Rave Sports Rhyme Combo Water Skis

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Specifications: 

  • Price: $229.99
  • Type: Combination Skis
  • Length: 65″ (167 cm)
  • Weight limit: >110 lbs
  • Skill level: Beginner to Advanced
  • Other features: Slalom toe hold

On the top of this list is the brand that pioneered in making inflatable water trampolines — Rave Sports. The Rhyme Combo Water Skis are just the perfect starter skis for beginners. With these skis’ wider board surface measured at 65” or 164 cm long, you can easily get up on a plane and turn in larger curves effectively. 

Though they’re too wide for intermediate and aggressive skiers, beginners won’t have a hard time learning water skiing with these. They provide more balance and stability so they track well in water.

The Rhyme Combo Water Skis also provide less effort when it comes to deep-water starts, so it’s also easier for the boat to lift you. They also come with comfortable and adjustable bindings for a snug and more secured fit. 

Finally, these skis are all-around. One of the skis can be interchangeable as a slalom because of its rear toe hold for your other foot. For the price of only $229, the Rhyme Combo Water Skis will surely make your water skiing experience worthwhile. 

ProsCons
Good for beginner kids and adultsToo buoyant
Easy to adjust bindingsHeavy
Versatile

#2: O'Brien Celebrity Combo Water Skis — Best Budget

O'Brien Celebrity Combo Water Skis

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Specifications: 

  • Price: $154.59
  • Type: Combination Skis
  • Length: 68″ (172 cm)
  • Weight limit: >210 lbs
  • Skill level: Beginner to Advanced
  • Other features: X-7 adjustable bindings, Dual Tunnel Design, Nylon Fins, Rear toe strap

If you’ve been browsing through water gear and equipment, then there’s a good chance you’ve already come across the household brand O’Brien. This company has been creating water sports products for over 50 years, from life jackets to SUPs — you name it, they have it. Because of their reputation, they’ve already gained thousands of loyal patrons globally.  

The O’Brien Celebrity Combo Water Skis are their most popular product for beginner to more advanced water skiers. These 68” long skis have adjustable X-7 bindings that fit men’s foot sizes 4.5-13 comfortably (although some users comment it’s hard to adjust these things). They also have side-cut bevels and dual tunnels for better control and stability. 

These water skis are designed with a flat rocker for seamless threading through the water and effortless deep-water starts. This saves fuel and energy on the boat as it takes a shorter time to make you come out of the water.

Finally, these skis also have nylon fins for water traction and a padded rear toe plate for progressing in slalom techniques. 

ProsCons
Can handle the heavy weight Bindings are hard to adjust
Sturdy and long-lasting
Affordable

#3: CWB Connelly Big Daddy Waterski — Best High End

CWB Connelly Big Daddy Waterski

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Specifications: 

  • Price: $232
  • Type: Slalom Skis
  • Length: 69″ (175 cm)
  • Weight limit: >220 lbs
  • Skill level: Progressing Beginners to Intermediate
  • Other features: Polyurethane (PU) resin core, Aluminum fin, Connelly advanced profile technology, Adjustable bindings, Rear toe strap

The Connelly Big Daddy Water Ski is for progressing adult beginners who aim to improve their water skiing ability. With this slalom ski, you’d be able to learn how to make wide turns and generate big splashes of waves in no time.

Larger builds won’t have a problem using this world-famous big ski because it has a weight capacity of more than 220 lbs. It has a narrow underfoot design with wide tails and fins that makes for effortless starts and smoother glides for slower speeds of 28 mph and under. Aside from that, Big Daddy can also cover 550 square inches of water surface area seamlessly.

This water ski’s core is made from closed-cell polyurethane resin layered with fiberglass so it’s durable and stable. It also comes with adjustable front bindings and a slalom toe hold that will fit your other foot comfortably.

There’s a spot by the aluminum drop-through fin where you can put a stabilizer if you’d like to add one. Sure, Big Daddy might be a bit expensive than the other combo skis on this list, but it’s way, way cheaper compared to other slaloms!  

ProsCons
Suitable for low-speed water skiingBinding may not be suitable for people above 250 lbs
Stable, easy to maneuver
Great balance

#4: HO Blast Combo Skis with Adjustable Bindings — Best for Family

HO Blast Combo Skis with Adjustable Bindings

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Specifications: 

  • Price: $161 – $199
  • Type: Combination Skis
  • Length: 59″ (149 cm), 63” (160 cm) , 67” (170 cm)
  • Weight limit: 50” is up to 120 lbs, 63” is 110-160 lbs, 67” is over 200 lbs
  • Skill level: Beginners to Advanced
  • Other features: V-bottom design, Rear toe hold, Adjustable bindings

Going for a water skiing adventure with the family? I recommend the HO Blast Combo Skis. These water skis come in three sizes and can accommodate weight limits from 120 to 200 lbs. They also come with adjustable bindings, so kids can easily fit them according to their feet sizes. For added balance, you can put a trainer bar on the skis’ tips. 

The Blast Combo water skis also feature a wide combo shape for smooth start-ups and a V-bottom design for balance and maneuvering on speeds up to 26 mph. They are also compatible to use as a slalom. Just drop off one ski and put your other foot on the rear toe hold of the other ski. 

ProsCons
Comes in different ski lengthsMade of plastic fins
Can be used as slalom ski
Fairly priced

#5: O'Brien Jr. Vortex Kids Combo Water Skis — Best for Kids

O'Brien Jr. Vortex Kids Combo Water Skis

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Specifications: 

  • Price: $179.99
  • Type: Combination Skis
  • Length: 54″ (137 cm)
  • Weight limit: < 140 lbs
  • Skill level: Beginners to Advanced (Kids to Teens)
  • Other features: Jr. X-7 Bindings, Dual Tunnel Design, Removable Stabilizer Bar, Nylon Fins

With the O’Brien Jr. Vortex Kids Combo Water Skis, kids can have much fun as adults do! 

These water skis are compact, yet, they have a wide forebody. Because of that, the skis can cover a larger surface area which makes start-ups and steering easier. They also have a dual tunnel design that lessens dragging and provides smoother and more stable skiing. These features keep the small skiers safer as they glide the water. 

A stabilizer bar is also included with every purchase of the Jr. Vortex Water Skis. The bar can be used to train kids in leg positioning and can be removed once they get more comfortable in the water. One of the skis has a rear toe hold where the kids can place their other foot. All they need to do is drop the other ski to slalom. 

Because the Vortex Water Skis are more fit for slow-speed cruising, kids will surely enjoy their skiing experience. The best part is these come cheaper when they’re purchased on Amazon!

ProsCons
Good for kids, beginner-friendlyMay be too wide for younger kids
Suitable for slower cruises 
Stabilizer bar included
Cheap

#6: Airhead Wide Body Combo Skis

Airhead Wide Body Combo Skis

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Specifications: 

  • Price: $214.19
  • Type: Combination Skis
  • Length: 65.5″ (166 cm)
  • Weight limit: ≥ 200 lbs
  • Skill level: Beginners to Advanced
  • Other features: Fiberglass reinforced fins, Dual-density adjustable bindings, Durable foam core, Slalom toe

You’ll surely love the extra-wide tips of the Airhead Combo Skis whether you’re a beginner or an expert water skier. With these skis’ hourglass design, the rear and frontal tips make wide turns easier even at low speeds, and jumping wakes more fun. The tips also displace more water so deep-water starts will become effortless. 

The Airhead Combo Skis are well-made and durable. Their skis’ fins are made of reinforced fiberglass and their cores are constructed with durable foam/composite. 

For stability, these skis have dual bindings that you can easily adjust for a snug and comfortable fit. These combination skis can accommodate US sizes 5-12, so they’re more compatible for young teens to adults. 

Like the others, the Airhead Combo Skis also has a rear toe hold, so you can drop one ski can to perform slalom. The only drawback is they’re not compatible to use with a stabilizing bar, which is a downside if you prefer to use it during training. 

ProsCons
Made with high-quality materialsNot compatible with training bars
Easy to stabilize yourself

#7: O'Brien Vortex Widebody Combo Water Skis 

O'Brien Vortex Widebody Combo Water Skis

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Specifications: 

  • Price: $199.99
  • Type: Combination Skis
  • Length: 65.5″ (166 cm)
  • Foot size: Men’s 4.5-13
  • Skill level: Beginners to Advanced
  • Other features: X-7 adjustable bindings, Dual tunnel design, Nylon fins

With different variants of water skis (all made with the best quality), it isn’t surprising that another O’Brien product is included in this list. Similar to the Celebrity, the Vortex Widebody Combo Water Skis are also a great choice for budding skiers who want to take this sport to the next level.

Learning the basics like start-ups and big carving turns is now made easier, thanks to the X-7 pinch-slide adjustable bindings. These water skis also have wide forebodies that will enable you to easily stabilize yourself when water skiing.

Since these skis have a wider body surface, the boat pulling you will consume less power because it’ll be easier for you to stand right up in deep waters. The Vortex Widebody Skis’ other features include a dual tunnel design and nylon fins for smoother maneuvering, and a rear toe hold for slalom.  

ProsCons
Beginner-friendly, suitable for teens to adultsMade of heavy plastic
Can double up as a slalom
Looks good, well-made
Fast delivery

#8: RAVE Sports Pure Combo Water Skis 

RAVE Sports Pure Combo Water Skis

Check Price on Amazon

Specifications: 

  • Price: $229.99
  • Type: Combination Skis
  • Length: 67” (170 cm)
  • Weight limit: >125
  • Skill level: Beginners to Advanced
  • Other features: Double density adjustable bindings, Slalom toe, Plastic laminated top, Fiberglass rods

To end this list, I’ve chosen another great product from our top pick brand, Rave Sports. The Pure Combo Water Skis are 67 inches long, so they’re more suitable to use for beginner adults to more advanced water skiers. With these skis’ specially designed center ridge and deep-edge channels, you’ll be able to get good control and steering while shredding through waves.

These combination skis have double-density adjustable bindings that feature soft-step inserts to act as cushions for comfortability and ease of movement. They are also more stable and responsive, so larger people can effortlessly transition from combination skiing to slalom. 

Lastly, these skis have tips with a wider surface area compared to others. This means you can easily pop out of the water without much effort, and you also don’t have to worry about constant wipe outs ruining your sessions.

ProsCons
Beginner-friendly, easy to useSome people find the bindings uncomfortable
Good value for money Can only fit adults 
Stable and glides fast
Buoyant

Buyer’s Guide: Which Water Skis Are Best For You?

Before you purchase your water skis, you must first know the differences between them to know which ones will suit you best.

First, we have the slalom, a single ski meant for velocity and navigating buoy courses. This one is often used by more advanced skiers. For beginners, however, we recommend starting with combination or combo skis first. Wider combo skis offer more floatation and stability in comparison to slimmer ones. 

Last but not least are the tricks skis used for performing stunts. Although these ones have smaller fins and are shorter in length, they’re expensive because of their construction materials.

5 Tips for Water Skiing Beginners

If you’ve already decided on which water skis work best for you, it’s now time to get into the waters. To make your water skiing experience memorable (and safe), you must keep in mind some of these beginner-friendly tips! 

    1. Before getting into the water, practice the correct water skiing body position. Do this on dry land first. Your arms should be straight, your knees bent, and your back leaned. When in water, always look forward and stay crouched until you’re more comfortable standing up. 
    2. Wear safety equipment. The bindings on your waterskis must be adjustable for a snug and tight fit. You must also wear coast guard-approved life jackets for safety and water ski gloves to protect your hand as you hold the rope. If you get dragged by the boat, let go of the handle and fall backwards. 
    3. It’s a three-man team. As a beginner, you must always go with two other people when water skiing: the boat driver and your ‘assistant’.  The assistant should hold your back to help keep you stable before the boat pulls you upward.
    4. Ski in open waters. The recommended water distance suitable for water skiing is at least 60 meters wide and 2 meters deep. 
    5. Know the hand signs. It may be hard for you to communicate with the boat driver because of the distance. In this case, you should know the basic hand signals in water skiing. 


Frequently Asked Questions

Q: What are the things you need in water skiing?

You need quality water skis that are compatible with your weight and skill level. If you’re a beginner, we recommend using combination skis first then progress to slalom as you get more comfortable. 

For added safety when skiing, you need to wear a coast guard-approved life jacket or vest in case you accidentally let go of the water ski rope handle during a wipe out.  

Q: What is the cheapest water ski brand?

The O’Brien brand manufactures the cheapest, yet high-quality, entry-level water skis. Other cheap brands include Rave, Ho, and Airhead.

Q: How much are water skis?

Entry-level water skis range from $150-$300, while water skis for intermediate and advanced riders average from $300 to $1000+.

Q: Is water skiing safe?

Water skiing, like any other water sport, is prone to accidents and injuries such as bone dislocation, sprains, lacerations, concussions, and back pains. To prevent these things from happening, you can wear a helmet, ski gloves, life jackets, or vests. You must also follow minimum safety protocols such as skiing in 2-meter deep waters with a surface area of at least 60 meters.

Q:  Can you water ski barefooted?

Yes, this type of extreme water sport is also known as ‘freestyle barefoot water skiing’. Barefoot skiing requires faster speed than ordinary water skiing and is only performed by intermediate and expert skiers. Beginners are discouraged from trying this because it’s prone to injuries. 

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