Clemson University Water Ski Team 2017 Boat

Boats, Boats, Boats

In a nod to a Winter Conference breakout session about boat maintenance several years ago, I’ve stolen the title, “Boats, Boats, Boats.”


Recently, we’ve seen an influx of articles on teams purchasing new or newer boats, or raising money to maintain their team boats. Many of you have questioned how these teams can afford to purchase a boat, much less maintain it. We’ve asked several of our NCWSA teams about the different aspects of possessing a team boat.

I did some research on average costs of boat ownership; keep this in mind as you read below. I went to dealer websites for new boat costs, used Ski-It-Again for used boats, called my dad (a lifelong boat owner), and did some Google investigating for the remainder.

  • Average new 3-event boat cost: $75k+
  • Average used (1-3 years old) 3-event boat cost: $57k
  • Average used (3-6 years old) 3-event boat cost: $45k
  • Average used (7-10 years old) 3-event boat cost: $30k
  • Average yearly maintenance & storage: $1500/year
  • Average insurance: $300-$500/year (boat only, not liability coverage)

Budgets & Funding

The first step in owning, renting, or leasing a 3-event ski boat is establishing a budget and securing funding. Budgets are often dependent upon the size of the university, the ski program, and the status of each club with the school (varsity sport, club, etc.).

ULM Water Ski Boat
ULM skiing the bayou

At the University of Louisiana at Monroe (ULM), the ski team’s budget was established by a student government referendum in the 1980’s. This referendum assessed a small fee to each student, which helps fund the water ski team. This referendum allows the team to fund team boats and take advantage of university vehicles, among other things. As the team wins championships, this budget allocation has increased. Simultaneously, ULM hosts tournaments and sells t-shirts to help with fundraising efforts like many other teams.

To purchase a boat, the Clemson Water Ski Team notifies the University of their boat requirements, and the University deals directly with local dealers through a bidding process. With this process, Clemson can get a new boat each year, alternating each year between ski boats and wakeboard boats. The team does this so each discipline has a new boat every two years, and the trade in value is still high. If either boat is damaged, the team can request emergency funding from the University for repairs.

ULL Water Ski Boat in Parade
ULL with boat in parade

At the University of Louisiana at Lafayette (ULL), the team’s boat and all associated expenses are funded through an endowment fund. Alumni and the community can donate to the University’s Annual Fund, specified for the Water Ski Team.

In the Midwest, funding is a little different, and budgets often come directly from skiers and their parents. Michigan State University’s ski team funds the lease through team dues, tournaments, and fundraisers. Iowa State University Water Ski Team is a sports club affiliated with the University, so they receive money from their school to help fund their boat.

UW Stout 2009 Nautique
Wisconsin Stout’s upgraded boat

Camille Tyler is an Honorary National Director from the South Central Region and skied at Texas A&M, Texas State, and ULL. Camille recommends visiting your school’s recreational sports office to get more information on club budgets and funding. At this visit, you should be prepared to discuss team standing, a history of team accomplishments, and requirements. They should be able to guide your team towards funding opportunities. Take advantage of every chance to apply for supplemental funding through your university’s recreational sports department. Most universities allocate funds to their sports clubs based on financial need. However, your team’s executive board will have to know about funding to apply for it. Make sure to visit the recreational sports office to be notified of these opportunities.

Boat Ownership

Arizona State University Water Ski Team Shore Station & Boat
Arizona State’s Boat & Lift

Owning a boat is essential to ULM and is a huge part of their recruitment efforts. The boats at ULM and Clemson University are owned by the respective universities. These boats are used for both training and tournaments. ULM has leased boats and used promo boats in the past, and is currently purchasing a used boat each year. Right now ULM has two Mastercraft ProStars (2016 and 2012). They purchase these boats through a dealer and buy used boats from a ski school. While Clemson and ULM have boats owned by their respective universities, the water ski team is ultimately responsible for their boats.

Boat Rentals & Leasing

Michigan State Water Ski Team BoatMichigan State University (MSU), on the other hand, leases a boat each year through a dealer. The dealer technically owns the boat, and MSU uses their team budget to pay for the use of the boat. Iowa State is similar to MSU, in that their team rents the boat that they use. Iowa State practices and hosts tournaments at Dream Lake Estates, a private, residential ski lake. One of the homeowners on the lake allows the team to rent his boat. At Texas State, the boat is owned by a team alumnus or parent, and the team leases the boat, with monthly payments.

Although these boats are not owned by the team, each water ski team is responsible for the boat while it is in their possession.

If your team is interested in leasing a boat, contact a local dealer or promo team member to see if they would be interested in helping your team locate or lease a boat. If your university is willing to pay the down payment, negotiate a contract to pay off the boat with team dues. In an ideal scenario, teams can locate a one or two year old dealer demo boat or promo boat and negotiate a multi-year deal to trade in and out.

Maintenance and Storage

Clemson University Water Ski Team 2017 BoatAll teams we talked to are responsible for maintaining their boats. Clemson keeps their boat at the lake they use to practice, along with their equipment and team trailer. This is funded through their university budget. If the team does not keep up with regular maintenance, they risk losing the ability to sell the boat, and they risk losing funding from the school. Further, ULM’s team is responsible for keeping the boat in working order. The budget for gas, maintenance, and insurance comes from the team’s general budget, discussed above. Most routine maintenance is completed by team members, and the boat is stored on campus at the boat house.

Iowa State is responsible for any damage or incidentals that occur while the boat is under their care. The team takes responsibility and assists the owner with those costs, from their school budget. Since they are on a private lake, it is stored in a shed on site.

MSU, Texas State, and Texas A&M fund maintenance through team dues, tournaments, and fundraisers. Gas is paid for by set, which typically runs skiers about $5 per set at Michigan State and Texas State.


At schools where the university owns the boat, insurance is typically covered through school’s general liability policy. Some teams also supplement this with insurance from the USA Water Ski Club Insurance Program. At schools like MSU, the team also has to fund their own insurance.

Thanks to Contributors

Thank you to Joey McNamara of ULM, Camille Tyler, Ashley Stevens of Clemson, Amber Aho of Iowa State, and the Michigan State Water Ski Team for their contributions to this article.

If you have any additional information that would be helpful for other teams looking to budget for their first boat, please email