About Disabled Water Sports

Water skiing has been adapted so that physically disabled athletes can participate and compete. Tournaments offer slalom, tricks and jumping events for vision impaired individuals (blind or partially sighted), multiplegics (paraplegics and quadriplegics), leg amputees (above and below knee), arm amputees and athletes with both arm and leg disabilities. The skiers in the latter three categories compete with the same water ski equipment used by able-bodied athletes and have the option of using a prosthesis.

Vision impaired athletes do not require special equipment. However, they are guided by another skier in the jumping event, although they must be released before they go over the ramp and use audible signals instead of buoys in the slalom course.

Multiplegic athletes use a sit ski, which is larger than the ski of an able-bodied skier and includes a cage similar to that used in snow skiing.

A narrower slalom course than that set out for able-bodied competitors is an option for those whose disability is greater such as quadriplegics and athletes with both arm and leg disabilities.


The original categories were as follows: Arm amputees (A); Leg Amputees (L & LP); Multiple Plegics -Paraplegics & Quadriplegics – (MP1, MP2 & MP3); Blind & Vision Impaired (V1, V2 & V3); Deaf; Les Autres (the others)

– The Leg Amputee category was divided into two (with and without prosthesis) after the 1989 World Trophy.

– The Multiple Plegics category was divided into three after the 1991 Trophy according to a classification system performed at each worlds.  The women were recombined at the world tournament  in 1995 because of a lack of participation and were separated again in 2000.

– The Vision Impaired category was divided into two according to the International Blind Sports Association (IBSA) classification system, which necessitates passports indicating status.  In 1994, it was combined back into one again. 1998 saw the IWSF Disabled Classification Committee take over the task of classifying its athletes using the IBSA like parameters.

– The category for Deaf was eliminated after the 1989 Trophy.

– Les Autres, a catch-all category for those who do not fit into the current framework, became demonstration in 1990.

– The IWSF Disabled movement was determined to be for the physically disabled only in 1989.

– A new category was trialed in the 1999 Worlds called A/L for those with significant arm and leg impairment, arm and leg amputation, and hemiplegia.  This category would also include skiers with cerebral palsy and other disabilities/conditions that are able to ski upright for slalom. It received a second trial in 2001 and was added as an official category after that event and for the 2003 Worlds, for men only. After the 2003 Worlds, this category was expanded to include women. In 2006, it was divided into two categories (A/L1 & A/L2).

– Also trialed was a new slalom event for the vision impaired called audio slalom, which better simulates able-bodied slalom. It replaced wake slalom in 2001.

Information was provided by USA Water Ski