Corey Vaughn 6/25/2013

Corey Vaughn.

Interview by Bud

Can you explain the changes for you, business wise, this summer?

This summer has brought about many changes, some expected and some not. Obviously, I didn’t plan on spending the summer sidelined with injury but these things do happen and I am committed to making my time off the water constructive and enjoyable to both benefit my life and my skiing. In past summers, I have felt overwhelmed trying to juggle my pro ski career, my ski school, pro shop and the care of my Granddad. Going into this summer, I knew I wouldn’t be skiing and reevaluated my other priorities. I quickly realized that having a good time with my Granddad and doing my best to help him would be the most important thing I do this summer, and so it has been.

Though I have not quite mastered the time management and relaxation practices to allow myself much leisure time, I am getting better about that. I’m finding that good things just happen when every moment of the day is not overscheduled and crammed full of TODO items, and that it is much easier to appreciate the good and simple things when you have a little extra time to be open to them. This may be the biggest lesson I have learned from this summer’s new perspective.

I have essentially cut my ski school volume in half in order to spend more time with Granddad and to provide those occasional hours of leisure time. Sure, there has been a financial cost in making this cut-back but it has been well-worth it for those rare moments of pure relaxation, which I would have otherwise completely missed.

As for the future, I’m going to try to be open and manage the challenges and opportunities that arise. I will likely keep the ski school smaller again next summer, as I will also have to devote time to my own skiing – something that was always first to go in the past. I no longer want to sacrifice my ski time for a few extra bucks. It is far too precious and I have too grand an opportunity to not give myself some optimal skiing.


What ski and bindings are you riding these days and why?

I am riding the Mapple 6.0 with a Reflex Front and rear kicker. I use the kicker because my back heel stays lifted and moves all the time and I have never been able to ride a double boot. I love my Reflex, as it is comfortable, high performance and safe. I’ll never forget how nice it was getting my foot in something that didn’t cramp after 4 passes; that added so much joy to my skiing!

As for joining Team Mapple, that was a no brainer. When Andy invited me to test his ski I was excited. When I found that it was a revolutionary, one-of-a-kind stick with sky high potential, built for the aggressive style skier, I was deeply excited by the possibilities. Add to that, the chance to work with the greatest skier of all time and learn from his body of knowledge and excellence of character. I want to be the best skier in the world and I think joining Team Mapple may be one of the most beneficial career moves I have made in this pursuit.

Now if only I could be riding the ski… At the moment, all I am riding is the stationary bike at PT and my Cannondale mountain bike at home!

What is your opinion on the newer ski boot designs from ski companies that still have not committed to hard shell boots?

It looks like there are some pretty innovative designs coming out of our ski companies these days. Thus, bringing us up to only 5 years behind wakeboarding in terms of bindings. I really haven’t sampled most of these new boots, so I can’t claim any personal understanding of them. However, I have seen a lot of satisfied customers of Radar’s Strada and Vector bindings.

I think we could still make some serious progress in Kicker technology. I would love the opportunity to work with a company on developing better rear toe plates. The ones we are using are not too different from just the slabs of rubber they used to screw into wooden skis. I think we can do better.

Perfect Pass to Zero Off:

Was it an easy transition for you?

I’m pretty sure I liked ZO right from the first set. Yes, it was different but it was more accurate and therefore more predictable. There is no doubt that it is a superior system to Perfect Pass and one of the best innovations in our sport in the last decade. I do think all of the settings are a little silly (A1-C3 and now the +). If the whole idea is to maintain speed so perfectly, why give skiers yet one more thing to obsess over? The setting doesn’t really matter, folks. Just pick one and stay with it. They should have designed the system without various settings.

How has ZO affected you? e.g. made you a better skier, taken from your buoy count, etc…

ZO has made me a better skier. It came along just at a time when I was beginning to really focus on technique and move beyond just being a scrappy tournament skier. The consistency of the pull forced me to be consistent with my movements behind the boat. I could no longer get away with a series of mistakes and over-corrections. I had to dial my game in, focus on high quality gates and consistent, balanced, rhythmic movement. When ZO came out, my tournament PB was 3@39.5 now my PB is 3@41 – no complaints from me.

Technique Coaching:

What do you believe is the biggest misconception in slalom ski theory?

The big misconception that I always hear has to do with wake crossings, specifically how long a skier (especially at 15 and 22 off) should hold his/her edge. There is so much bad and sloppy language on this subject: “Lean through the second wake,” “hold your edge all the way through the wakes,” “don’t let off your pull behind the boat,” “you’re popping off the wake, you must be going flat, lean harder,” “get your hardest lean right behind the boat.” To the 15 off skier, all of these statements are entirely false, and to the shortline skier, they completely miss the nuance of what is going on with a good wake crossing.

Ask any pro skier to run 15 off 30mph and I promise they won’t do any of the things mentioned above. They will complete their turn into a balanced, leveraged position and build their edge progressively into THE FIRST WAKE. As they edge up the first wake (like liquid ramp that it is), they will keep their legs strong, not absorbing any of that liquid speed bump with their body. Their shoulders will stay back behind their hips but they will ever so slightly start standing taller, beginning to de-weight the ski as they come off the crest of the first wake so that they can be agile as they reconnect with the water ON THE OTHER SIDE OF THE SECOND WAKE and get right into their transition (edge change). In other words, they will attack the first wake, much like jumpers attack the ramp, and use it to their advantage. They won’t bog themselves down by trying to keep their ski engaged in the water through the turbulent prop-wash and second wake. Those areas would only create drag and pull their good position apart. Instead, they will sail clean over the middle and second wake, like a shortcut and take their good balance and power into the pre turn. If the skier is trying to keep the ski in the water through the middle or really give some oomph on the second wake that skier is missing the opportunity to take a far easier and more rhythmic path through the course. They are likely compromising position on the first wake (squatting back, letting hands out and/or absorbing the wake with the knees/hips) in order to “stay on edge.” Staying on edge does no good if it means sacrificing balance, position and power to the boat. From here the boat will just drag the skier along the narrowest remaining path and the skier will lack the control to make a good turn.

We need to recreate slalom language to talk about exploding “outward off of the first wake,” “being strong with the legs up the first wake,” “staying balanced into and off of the first wake.” My guess is that the bad language was created by skiers at 28 off and shorter, who no longer contend with wakes (rather a trough). Since they no longer experience “pop” they figure it must be bad to sail over the wakes. But if you watch any accomplished skier run 15 or 22 off, this is exactly what you will see – a series of 6 balanced pops and efficient transitions. Most struggling 15 off skiers have good enough body position to create this outward thrust off of the first wake but end up sacrificing the position because they think they need to go THROUGH the wakes.

Another misconception that feeds this ugly beast is to not look at the wakes because they will scare you. Whoever came up with this piece of advice, telling an athlete to not look where they are going, should probably just stick to pin the tail on the donkey. Of course the wake will scare you if you give it the element of surprise by not looking at it! If you were going to ride a bike off of a ramp (or hit a golf ball or any other athletic skill), wouldn’t you want to see what you are doing?

What is the difference between teaching and coaching and what do you prefer?

May I just cite and quote one of the world’s greatest coaches right here? I don’t think you can put it any better than Seth has… Click here for Seth's interview.

If you had a student that has never skied before, what would you instill in them, or a drill to perform over and over that you feel would support their future skills?

Waterskiing is a JOURNEY not a destination. As a coach I see all skill levels and people at all points of the journey from first-timer to pro. I have heard way to many people say, “I’ll be happy if I can just make _____.” or “well, that’s easy for them to say because they can run 35, I’ll never be able to do that.” The beauty of our sport is that there is no endpoint. Everyone can always be striving to improve in one way or another. Even CP and Nate, who have the world record, still want more buoys. They are not fully satisfied and it is okay to want more. It is not okay, however, to develop a sour attitude in this quest!

Skiing is a sport. It is something to do for fun. It just so happens it can be great for mind, body and spirit as well. One should practice skiing in such a way that it is healthy for mind body and spirit, yet too often I see just the opposite. I see ski addicts who over-ski to the point their body can’t produce optimal performances, nor can their mind focus on quality passes/sets to create improvement. Thus, they get down on themselves and the downward emotional spiral only further takes its toll on their skiing and sometimes their lives off the water.

Some of the most fun sets to coach are first time skiers (on two) or a first time slalom set. The sense of pride and accomplishment are so great that the joy just radiates. It is even powerful for the coach’s mind/body/spirit. I just want to tell these people to continue to enjoy each step from here. Even the steps backwards allow you to take a better path forward if you allow yourself to see that path. What some people see as the ultimate achievement – to run 35 off – is actually where I find the largest population of grumpy, dissatisfied skiers.

Your skiing is your journey and yours alone. Enjoy each step of the way, including the back steps and sidesteps. Never lose sight of the fact that you can improve in some way and allow yourself to feel the full joy of your achievements when you make them. You are a true water skier if you always want a little more but the best way to keep getting more is to have a healthy attitude toward your ski-life.

Sport of Water Skiing:

Is water skiing a dying sport?

NO. Waterskiing, like rock and roll, will never die. What is dying is water ski culture. Our tournaments have lost direction and most importantly competition. Nobody wins at a water ski tournament. There are no prizes and no fanfare. Even calling most of them tournaments now, is indeed a misnomer. Mainly we see a lot of rating events, where skiers come and try to equal or outdo their Personal Best. This is a very hard thing to do and basically a recipe for disappointment, which is the primary emotion you will hear from most skiers at a tournament. Thus, between the lack of fanfare/competition, the grumpiness of the skiers and the repetitiveness of hour upon hour of slalom, it is no wonder that few people want to devote their precious weekend time to such an event. Consequently, “tournaments” are comprised of a concentrated bunch of die-hard skiers, many of whom enjoy officiating the sport as much as actually doing it. This leads to complicated politics and way too many rules and the fun gets squeezed out like the last little bit of toothpaste.

The poor tournament culture does not help grow the sport on public water, where there is more access to skiing than exclusive, private clubs. For why would someone go to the trouble of maintaining a slalom course and endure the challenges of big water (wind, jet skis, fisherman, bulkheads –yeah, this was my life’s story) if the forum to share this passion with others (tournaments) is such a bummer? Consequently, alternative water sports like wakeboarding, are an easy and attractive choice. Thank goodness for crusaders like Marcus Brown who keep trying to remind us of our roots and make our sport relevant to the masses on big water.

We need to stop hiding out in pristine lakes and making every tournament about PBs. We need to start making family friendly events on the weekends that encourage skiers of all levels to come participate. We need to make the rules more simple and judging and scoring more available to anyone. We need to create an onsite atmosphere that is fun for kids so that they may want to spend their summer days at the tournament and who knows, maybe throw the ski on twice a day for 10 minutes amidst their running around and playing. If it was a low pressure situation, wouldn’t they be inclined to try? Let’s get our tournament culture out of solitary confinement and share this awesome sport with the world.

Where do you see the sport in 5-10 years?

I hope that the young crowd of skiers out there, small though we are, decides to step up and make some changes. We need to cut the rule book in half and focus on the fun. We must be open to all fresh ideas and create growth on public lakes. In 5-10 years, most watersports enthusiasts should be able to realize that wakeboarding has a shelf life. Your knees are only going to hold out for so long, especially if you are starting the sport later in life. Waterskiing can be a lifelong journey and should go hand in hand with other water sports and lake activities. I think with a few strategic moves, we could be a much stronger sport by 2020.

What can individual skiers do to help our sport?

If you call yourself a water skier it is because you got hooked on this truly incredible sport. You felt the joy and elation of moving across the top of the water and loved it. Then you found that you could turn a buoy and your life changed again! The best thing you can do is always give back as much as you have gotten. If your ski journey has provided you with all of this joy, give back to the sport by sharing this joy with those around you. Appreciate your driver and ski partners and most of all; turn some new people on to this great sport. Get your friends to come out to the lake and try it. They don’t have to become shortline swervers. You still loved skiing when you could barely cross the wake and you thought it was all about making spray. Give somebody else the gift of this journey. It will remind you of how far you have come and can be so rewarding to help someone else experience all of that joy for the first time. If all water skiers taught just one person how to ski each year, our sport could only grow.

What has the sport of water skiing meant to your life?

Waterskiing is an integral part of my identity. Take waterskiing out of my life and I would be a completely different person. My ski journey started as a family pastime. We just loved cutting up the water of Lake Gaston in NC and had a blast as Wallys for many years. When we stumbled across tournaments in 1994, I was 8 and tournament and jr. development culture was still alive and well. The great people sucked us in. I dreamed of being a pro water skier but even through my time at Clemson University, I was told by many voices that a “real world job” was where to focus. After a brief attempt at the “real world” I knew I had to try to reach for my dream. I had to overcome a big fear of failure and channel my deep passion for the sport. It turns out that this was one of the best decisions I have ever made. I am living my dream and in a better way than I ever could have hoped or dreamed. The people and places that I have encountered on this journey have only fueled my fire and enriched my life. Skiing has helped me stay in shape and out of trouble. It has taught me the value of living passionately and made me learn a wealth of knowledge that will enrich other parts of my life for the rest of my life. Best of all, I feel that the greatest parts are yet to come!

What do you feel are some contribution you have done for the sport?

I hope I have been able to contribute to the sport as much as it has contributed to me, though that is a high bar. I take the duty of giving back very seriously and try to make it a natural part of my approach to skiing and coaching. I believe that the jr. development program is the sport’s future and try to stay heavily involved in jr. development. I try to create a positive ski culture and fun experience for all who come to my ski school. I also accept the responsibility of being a roll model to younger skiers and try to conduct myself in a way that makes them want to strive to reach their potential in anything they do and to show them that the life of a water skier can be a really cool one! Going forward, I hope to continue to pump positive energy into the sport of water skiing at all levels coaching, skiing, hosting clinics and tournaments. The more efficiently I can spread the message of Peace, Love & Waterskiing the better!