Ride The Curve
Most water ski tips center around the details of body mechanics. As a coach,
I am as quick as anyone to point out errors with the location of your
hips, weight distribution on the ski, and even handle position to name a few.
Sometimes, however, the root of the problems can be more effectively managed
by addressing the ultimate goal of managing energy through the slalom course.
Managing energy? What could that possibly mean?
Managing energy is the idea that we enter the course with a certain amount of energy in the form of the following things:
• pressure on the rope created by the pull of the boat
• pressure on the ski created by the placement of the ski relative to the rope and boat
• overall body mass, and
• physical power to be exerted where necessary.
As skiers, our job is to take all of these things and manage their use and align their forces to create the most efficient water ski path we can. Let’s break it down into several key ideas and practices:
Start the course with a big swing
To create the most potential energy, you must start with enough width. By cutting out and advancing to a point high on the boat (up beside the boat), you give yourself a great amount of potential energy (much like pulling someone back to get them started on a swing set). While you still have speed in your glide, your main goal should be to place pressure on the inside edge of the ski by shifting your body mass to that inside edge while maintaining an upright stance with your knees slightly shifting forward. This redirects the energy toward the wakes and carves you into the next phase with little or no waste of energy.
The Power Position
Inject the ski with power
The efficient carve into the gates should carry you into a nice stance that helps you harness the power of the boat. This should consist of balance between both feet and body alignment above the feet such that when the ski has fully made it through the carve into the gate, the rope should basically be aligned with your aligned body. This will ensure that every bit of the pull from the boat will create pressure down into your feet, thereby creating additional pressure on the ski in a progressive fashion. This is what creates the additional speed needed to get you across the course efficiently.
Catapult to the apex with control
Although the transition should not consist of massive or overly aggressive movements, you must maintain the aforementioned power position while also absorbing the knees slightly while maintaining forward pressure with the rest of your body and pressure against the pull from the boat. This should cause the ski to begin to move out to the turning edge while the connection to the handle continues to swing you out toward the buoy line. Again, much like the steps above, the movements should be very mild and calm. Excessive movement or outbound thrust will cause you to lose position as well as lose the connection to the boat. This error will cause you to redirect your speed down-course, giving you a fast an ineffective approach to the buoy.
Ride the energy back to the handle
If the transition is properly executed, you will have enough speed to not only carry you out to the buoy line, but also to bring you all the way through the turn and back to the handle. Your job is to maintain pressure against the line while allowing your feet to move out from under you. This will create a lengthened body as you reach such that the ski is able to carry out to maximum width while also creating great body alignment.
The ensuing turn should be fairly simple to maintain provided you don’t get impatient and move with the upper body before the ski has had an opportunity to carve through the turn on its own. This is an oversimplification of the basic process of maintaining energy through the slalom course, but the moral is this: start wide with speed and energy, then do your best not to disrupt the natural carving path by assisting the process as outlined above. Our biggest mistake comes when we overexert in any one part of the process thereby disrupting our natural path.
Seth Stisher can be found coaching at his SkiSeth Training Center at Oz, in Charleston, South Carolina, or at any number of locations around the world through his traveling waterski clinics. Checkout SkiSeth.com, or email firstname.lastname@example.org to arrange ski sessions with him. He is sponsored by Connelly Skis, MasterCraft Boat Company, Eagle Wetsuits, PureFood and H2OProShop.com.