Seth Stisher 6/14/2013

“On the Dock” with Seth Stisher

June 14, 2013

Interview by Lee Goade

Can you explain the changes for you, business wise, and what is your current relationship with H2OProShop?

"Over the last few years I have had to struggle between my commitment to my coaching and trying to properly manage H2OProShop. I made the decision over this past winter to partner with another pro shop (Fogarty’s Lake Flower Marina in Saranac Lake, New York) to more efficiently take care of customer’s needs. With this change, myself and my staff from the training center can more effectively take care of our clients’ and students’ direct needs personally and then forward any orders on to H2OProShop (now a part of Fogarty’s Lake Flower Marina) for them to handle the supply side of the order. They pull orders from a larger inventory and better supply chain system so we can more efficiently serve a customer’s needs. It has been great so far and I couldn’t be happier now that I can focus even more heavily on my coaching, which is my true passion."


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

"I am on the D3 Fusion although I have been back and forth between it and the D3 Quest. The obvious answer most people would assume is that I ride the D3 because my affiliation has been with D3 for years and they are my sponsor. That couldn’t be any further from the truth. From the beginning of my decision to work with D3 and their decision to work with me, there has always been an understanding that I am involved with them not just to nurture a long term relationship, but to be a part of a ski company that produces quality, high performance water ski gear. I ride every ski out there every year in hopes that I will find a ski that surprises me and helps me take my skiing to the next level. The fact is, every year I have chosen the D3 products over the other skis I have tested, There are a lot of great skis out there and the best ski for each individual can be very different, but for me, I have found no brand on the market that has ever produced a higher quality product that performs better for me. I also feel very confident that D3’s are a great option for all of my students although we offer almost every brand on the market."

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

"Although there are a lot of great new advancements in what I commonly call “soft boots” there can be no long term substitute for a hard shell boot from a performance standpoint. They aren’t evolving as quickly as we would all like partly due to limited demand and production numbers in our sport couple with a large degree of liability when a manufacturer steps “outside of the box”, but I personally believe that mechanically releasable boot and binding systems of some form should be available even on combo skis. A mechanical release system rather than having to depend on your foot contorting itself to come out of the boot makes a lot of sense. We just need to find a more flawless binding system so we can carry the industry out of the softshell boot era fully."

Perfect Pass to Zero Off:

Was it an easy transition for you?

"I wouldn’t say it was easy, but I wasn’t one of the skiers complaining about it for one simple reason…Zero Off holds speed more accurately. This is what everyone hated about the system at first. IT wasn’t forgiving. For me, I always basically said, “Get over it!” And, offense intended, if you were one of the people who said you were going to stop tournament skiing because Zero Off made it too hard, then I hope you did (which means you aren’t reading this right now). You might ask, what is my reasoning for this bold and borderline rude statement? Well, I think we should all appreciate that our sport needs to continually progress and take human error (or error in general) out of the equation and have a more accurate system to tow us through the slalom course. There is less speed fluctuation (I am not just talking about getting better times) with Zero Off and that is what was tough to adjust to. After one season the pros were breaking records again. Speaks for itself….unfortunately I wasn’t one of those pros breaking records…still I believe it is a great system."

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

"I am running about what I ran with Perfect Pass on a good day. I think the key to adjusting is/was learning to use the power of the boat to your advantage. I think that is one of the keys to efficient slalom skiing in general as well."

Technique Coaching:

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

"I believe the biggest misconception is that there is a right way and a wrong way. It is about efficiency. There are several ways to approach different aspects of slalom skiing. For example, the crossover to snow skiing makes sense in some parts of the process but swing theory is more important in other phases of what we do. Different methods also match different body types or mentalities. Now, don’t mistake what I am saying. There are some methods that produce little too no results and there are also some principles that I feel can’t be avoided, but there are definitely a few different ways to approach slalom skiing that all may produce a similar result from skier to skier."

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

"There is a tricky balance of these two things when you work as a professional “coach” in any sport. The truth is that with most people I work with I do both. "

"In teaching, you are truly educating a skier, client, athlete, or student by introducing them to ideas to which they may have never been exposed or at least may have never understood. You are giving them a better understanding to build a more long-term solution to many problems (some of these solutions pre-empt problems that the athlete may have encountered in the future without proper education."

"In coaching, the methods are more about eliciting change within the skier. In most cases the education is there, but the athlete is not executing the desired movement or performing at his or her peak. In other cases (as can be the case with some of the greatest athletes in any sport), the education step may even be bypassed in order to keep it simple for the athlete/skier to simply take their performance to the next level."

To sum it up, for the typical student, Coaching without teaching leads to short term gains only and teaching without coaching is merely a lecture.

"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?"

"Balance on the ski and rhythm in swinging behind the boat. I do a drill called the rhythm drill that you can find links to on my website. With this drill, I have the skier first stand balanced on the ski (pressure over front foot with minimal line tension). From there I have them edge out to about 20-25 feet outside the wake. Then, while maintaining a balanced stance, I have them edge back toward the wakes (without attempting to “TURN”) so that there pressure on the edge of the ski in the desired direction of travel creates speed in the direction they want to go. As they cross the wakes, I have them advance the hips VERY slightly so that the ski rolls out onto the turning edge. They then repeat the process back in the opposite direction. This drill establishes the simplicity of the mechanical elements of slalom skiing while showing how rhythm and timing can facilitate great slalom skiing."

Sport of Water Skiing:

Is water skiing a dying sport?

"Quite frankly, No! I believe everyone confuses the fact that we are a small sport with the idea of being a dying sport. The two ARE NOT the same thing. We are a “sport” and not a leisure activity. As a leisure activity, perhaps there are more people wakeboarding on the big lakes, but as a sport we are strong and the people who participate are athletes…or are learning to become athletes. Embrace it as a sport where we are motivated and driven to progress and excel, and you will see that we are growing. If someone suggests that it is dying because lazy couch potatoes aren’t participating, remember that is the American way of life that is dying. Some of those people need to have one of you (who is in the sport or appreciates the sport) motivate them to get their butts up and try it. The sport isn’t dying at all. I see more new skiers every year than I can tell you."

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

"I envision it as a thriving growing sport as I mention above. There probably needs to be some connection between the leisure activity and the sport, but I think people are doing this with “Ski Leagues” and “Amateur Tours” and such, so if you aren’t get to work so we have a future!!!!"

What can individual skiers do to help our sport?

"EXPOSE IT! Tell your friends. Start a local ski league or have an afternoon each week where you invite newbies to come and learn. I coach as a profession, but let me tell you, teaching new people to ski and to appreciate the sport is one of the most rewarding things you can do."

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

"My friends and water ski family have been so important to me in so many ways. I have traveled throughout the world and met people I would have never come in contact with otherwise. I grew up on the water at Guntersville Lake in Alabama and the majority of my childhood memories took place at the lake. I can also thank waterskiing for a lot of my physical well-being. And to be honest, sharing time on the water with my kids has been a bond that is unbreakable."

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

"To be honest, I feel as though I definitely have a lot left to give to the sport based on how much it has given me, but up to this point, I believe some of my largest contributions have been made through my coaching. Of course since it is my career, I do get paid for most of it, but I try to make sure I approach my coaching in a way that not only represents the sport well but also exposes enthusiasts and newcomers to a side of the sport that they can embrace and hold onto for their entire lives. Whether it is showing someone how they can overcome an obstacle, giving them a way to stay fit, helping them grow a family bond through the sport, or just giving them an outlet to get away from the things in life that we all sometimes need a break from, I hope that I have helped people establish waterskiing as a positive piece of their lives. It may sound melodramatic, but through these things, I hope I have and continue to help grow the sport daily."

Seth, you are a great ambassador for our Sport. From all of us here at Skiall6, thank you for this interview. Our Sport has certainly been enriched by your involvement and contributions.

Lee Goade

Seth Stisher can be reached

Toll Free: 866.213.7993 Outside the US Dial: +1.843.793.4470