Understanding Watersports Ropes and Handles

Buying Guide, Ropes and Handles, Tow Ropes, Wakeboard Ropes, Water Ski Ropes -

Understanding Watersports Ropes and Handles

It may seem that purchasing a tow rope or handles for water sports such as wakeboarding and water skiing should be very simple. One would likely think that he or she could easily go into a sporting goods store or look on an online buying site, find ropes and handles the size and length that they will need, and purchase or order them on the spot.

The truth is that buying the correct ropes and handles for these summer activities is a very important purchase, and anyone considering them should have knowledge of the various types and styles of ropes and handles before making a choice. This guide will help anyone trying to decide which ropes and handles they need for their wakeboarding and water skiing excursions.

Ropes for Wakeboarding and Water Skiing

One cannot assume that the same rope can be used for both wakeboarding and water skiing. The rope to be used depends very much upon the user and the activities the user plans on doing when wakeboarding or water skiing. A recreational user will require different ropes than someone who does tricks on the water while wakeboarding or water skiing.

Wakeboarding Ropes

There are several types of wakeboard ropes which are available on the market today. The price of these ropes varies according to brand, style, and quality. They are normally from sixty to seventy feet long, but other lengths are available.

No-stretch wakeboard ropes are made from a material which is known to be very durable, with very little stretching. The rope will absorb very little moisture, which makes it remain light even when being used for water sports. 

Aside from no-stretch wakeboarding ropes, there are also low-stretch ropes for the sport, which are made of polyethylene or a blend of polyethylene and other materials. They will stretch a bit more than the no-stretch ropes, and are a good fit for most water sports as well.

The non-stretch ropes are often considered to be a better fit for those who like performing tricks while wakeboarding. Low-stretch ropes are a better pick for those who like both water skiing and wakeboarding. These ropes remain stiff enough for recreational wakeboarders, yet will stretch just enough for those who enjoy water skiing as well.

Water Skiing Ropes

Unlike typical no-stretch wakeboarding ropes, the ropes used for water skiing need to stretch some for the skier to move from one turn to the next and change how fast he or she is traveling. The elasticity of the rope acts as a shock absorber for the skier as he or she moves over the boat wake.

Water skiing ropes are normally about seventy feet in length. Their handle adds five more feet, for a seventy-five foot total length. These ropes are made out of polypropylene, and they will stretch two to three percent of their length when used under normal conditions.

The thickness which is most recommended for the rope's braid is a quarter inch of diamond braided polyethylene or polypropylene. It should have a breaking strength which is over eight hundred pounds. Most of these ropes come with as many as ten sections which can be taken off so that the skier can be as close to or as far from the boat as he or she wishes.

Handles for Wakeboarding and Water Skiing

In the same way that the ropes vary between wakeboarding and water skiing, the handles for the two water sports vary as well. Handles for water skiing are not as specialized as the ones for wakeboarding. This is because the wakeboarding handles have to offer more features which make it possible to perform tricks and aerial moves with ease.

Wakeboard handles tend to have a wider grip than those for water skiing and range from thirteen to fifteen inches in width. Handles for water skiing tend to be shorter and range from eleven to twelve inches wide. The wider grip on the wakeboarding handles make passing the rope behind one's back a bit easier. They also make it much smoother to do spinning tricks. Features such as a rope braid or another smaller handle grip that branches off of the rope will make this easier.

The handles for wakeboard ropes are usually made from a neoprene foam, which will help the handles to float instead of becoming bogged down or water-logged. In comparison, water skiing ropes are normally not made from material which floats because the faster speeds at which these riders travel would cause the handles to be torn off by the water. Wakeboarders travel much slower than water skiers.

Ropes and Handles for Other Water Sports

Aside from water skiing and wakeboarding, one may also need ropes for kneeboarding or towing. The ropes which are used for kneeboarding are very similar to those used in wakeboarding. The same is true of the handles. No-stretch kneeboarding ropes are made from Spectra, so they have no elasticity. They are very durable and will remain light in the water.

Kneeboarders may also choose a very low stretch rope which provides a bit more elasticity to those who wish to ride recreationally. Just as with wakeboarding, it is better for those whose participation in kneeboarding includes performing tricks to use a no-stretch Spectra rope. For those who appreciate both kneeboarding and water skiing, a low stretch rope may be a better choice. Ropes for kneeboarding are usually between sixty and seventy feet long.

The handles used for kneeboarding are much like wakeboarding handles, and are more geared for those who enjoy tricks and aerial feats. Their grip is wider, in the same width ranges as handles for wakeboarding. They are also made from the neoprene foam which makes them float.

It is important to remember that the ropes which are used for water skiing and wakeboarding are not made for towing or tubing. Ropes which will be used for these two recreational sports will have a much higher breaking strength than other ropes, and will stretch less than most ropes used for water skiing. The breaking strengths of the ropes for towing or tubing will vary according to the number of riders who will be towed.

For one rider, weighing one hundred and seventy pounds or less, the tensile strength of the rope should be 1,500 pounds. For two riders with a combined weight of 340 pounds, the tensile strength should be 2,375 pounds. For towing three people with a combined weight of 510 pounds, the tensile strength should be 3,350 pounds, and for towing four people with a combined weight of 680 pounds, the tensile strength needs to be 4,100 pounds.

The ropes which are used for towing should always be between fifty and sixty-five feet in length, and will have loops at either end. These loops should be used to connect the rope to the boat and tube. Tow ropes should never be tied to the harness of the boat. One should always check with the rope's manufacturer for its specifications as well as follow industry guidelines.


Water sports can be very exciting and fun, but care should always be taken to ensure that those participating will be safe. This requires that one purchase and use the correct equipment for the sport they have chosen, including ropes and handles. When water skiing and wakeboarding, it is a good idea to never use the same ropes for both sports unless the ropes were designed for both sports. Ropes for water skiing and wakeboarding should never be used for towing, and tow ropes need to be checked carefully to make sure that they are the correct tensile strength for the number and weight of riders who will be pulled. One should be aware of the industry recommendations before purchasing equipment for water sports.

Looking for a New Rope? Shop for Ropes & Handles Here


Leave a comment

Please note, comments must be approved before they are published