You’ve probably noticed that waterskiing is a passion that can be rewarding or frustrating, in equal measures. Any sport that relies on motors, equipment, physical skill and good conditions is bound to throw up obstacles along the way.
Sometimes the skiing gods are against you, and you just have to put it down to one of those days.
However, if “those days” are happening all too often, perhaps you aren’t giving yourself the best chance of maximising your time on the water.
At Waterski Mag, we are lucky enough to spend time with professional skiers, or at least people who bring a professional approach to their sport.
Not surprisingly these people make all aspects of the sport look easy. Boat and equipment failures are minimised, and handled easily when they occur. They usually have a calm, positive attitude to waterskiing, and enjoy the physical and mental challenges the sport presents.
So we thought we would look at some of the things that allow these pros to have so much fun, and so little frustration.
Having a brand new boat and all the new gear helps. For starters, mechanical breakdowns and equipment failures will be far less common. But you don’t necessarily need to spend big bucks to maximise your enjoyment.
So here are some tips that will help you look like a pro, and enjoy skiing even more. Some might seem obvious, but hopefully you will all get something out of this …
Have a Check List
Ever been all set for your first ski of the day and realised you don’t have a ski rope? Doh!
If you have a list to check off before you leave home, it could save hours of frustration at the other end.
Everyone’s check list will vary depending on different situations, so it is worth starting a list and adding to it as you go. Begin with the things that will completely ruin your day if you forget them, and work backwards.
Some of you may have a favourite spot you head to each time, others may vary the destination.
If you are unfamiliar with a location, do a bit of homework beforehand so you know about ramps, speed restrictions and particular regulations for that area.
Always make sure your boat will run before you leave home, and most definitely before you launch it. We’ve all waited at a boat ramp while someone has backed their boat into the water only to discover it’s got a flat battery.
Fill up at a servo before you put it in the water. Sounds obvious, yes, but again we’ve all seen boats go in the water only to run out of juice five minutes later.
Copping a big fine from the Water Police really sucks, as will watching a small electrical fire burn your boat to the water because you don’t have a fire extinguisher. So make sure you’ve got your gear on board, so you are both legal and safe.
OK, so buying a new boat isn’t an option for everyone, but if your days on the water are spent constantly battling mechanical breakdowns, it’s well worth considering. Fortunately there is a great range of boats available to cater for all budgets in Australia.
Invest in a good boat cover, one that wraps over the front of your boat all the way down to your trailer, to prevent stones from being flung into your bow from the rear tyres of your car.
Do not forget to put the bungs back in the boat. These cheap plastic plugs can cause so much misery! Avoid a sudden sinking feeling and add this to your checklist.
Backing a boat down the ramp and launching can be daunting and embarrassing if you haven’t had much practice. The key is to break it down and take everything slowly and deliberately. And if you’re a shocker at reversing the trailer, maybe practice in a quiet spot some time when there isn’t a crowd heckling and pointing.
There will come a point when you will have to upgrade your gear, as hard as it may be to let go of your old faithful gear, it will improve your skiing experience. If you’re still kicking about in your flouro wetsuit and riding a 15 year old ski, treat yourself to some new gear. We’ve seen plenty of people (who swear by the ski that they’ve had since 1995) start smiling uncontrollably when they hop on a modern ski. Skis really have come a long way.
Lose the Long V Handle
Long V slalom handles are great for learning deep water starts, but once you’ve mastered these upgrade to a Short V handle. This will be a challenge at first, but it will help if you start with the rope on the same side as your front foot (i.e. left hand side for left foot forward skiers). Then you should also point your ski in the same direction, so that it is bumping into the line as you come out of the water. It may take a few times to master it, but once you get it you will never look back.
Untwist Your Ropes
Noticed how pros have ropes that are always nicely coiled and ready for action? And how some people have ropes that seem to automatically tangle as soon as you look at them? Ski ropes get twisted while they drag around behind the boat while heading back to pick up a fallen skier. The key is to untwist your rope at the end of the day. Start at one end and begin to twist the rope in the opposite direction that it’s tangled to, and continue to do this all the way down the rope until all the twist unravels out of the rope. You will then be able to roll your rope up nice and neatly every time.
We’ve all heard about road rage, and unfortunately some people manage to continue this onto the river as well. Ever noticed that drivers who get red in the face and shout a lot are usually really bad at controlling the boat? Stay calm, be considerate to other users, and look after your skiers.
Nothing looks more unprofessional than a hot headed boat driver waving his fists in the air, screaming out at passing boats. If this is you, jump in and cool off.
Due to a lack of rain in much of the country, ski-able waterways can be scarce, and therefore more crowded. Considerate driving has never been more important. The simple rule is don’t do to other boats what you don’t like having done to you. Like not taking off in front of another boat as they swap over skiers, sending rollers in their direction. And not turning in front of a boat that is following you. Instead, slow down off the side and let them pass before turning.
Ever seen those ghost ski boats floating serenely down the river? It’s funny, until you realise you’ve got to do the right thing and tow it slowly past all the boat camps waiting for someone from the bank to start screaming out excitedly. So make the effort to tie up securely rather than just beach your boat, particularly if you are going to be out of sight of the boat.
How cool are dry starts? They look good and they feel good. And you often get a cheer from your camp when you pull one off. The key to a good dry start is a good boat diver, and a skier with balance. The driver must not give the boat too much gas too early. Timing is crucial. Once the line is 90% tight the driver must begin to accelerate, and once it’s completely tight begin to take off even faster. As a skier, begin on a wide body slalom when learning the dry start. The extra surface area is a big benefit. Once you’ve mastered this, go back to your traditional ski.
When it comes to your slalom grip, you should use the baseball grip; one palm up and the other palm down. Which hand is up and which is down depends on which of your feet is forward. If you are left foot forward, your left palm should be facing down and your right palm facing up, and the opposite applies for right foot forward. This will help you with slalom cutting by keeping your body symmetrical and balanced.
Big Slalom Spray
Nothing is more impressive than a massive wall of water rolling out from underneath a slalom ski as the skier goes into the distance. Working on your technique is the key, particularly learning to turn more with your front foot rather than relying heavily on back foot turning. Putting more pressure on your front foot helps keep the tip of your ski down during the turn, and keep more ski in the water, meaning more surface area to create spray.
Hit up a Ski School
There are plenty of great ski schools throughout the country. Skiers often find that an intensive day or weekend at a good ski school will benefit their skiing more than an entire season usually does. Book in and enjoy the experience.
Run a Course
Ultimately at the end of the day, nothing will make you look more pro than running a slalom course. This is what all skiers should strive for; nothing will beat the experience of running the course for the first time! Unfortunately there is no easy way around this one … just hard work and practice.
Good luck, and hopefully you’ll be looking like a pro in no time.