Craig's VERY Cool and Excellent Waterski Page

This is the place to come if you feel the need for speed - cutting across the wake totally on edge!

I love to Slalom Waterski. And, I think about it every day, 365 days per year.


Unfortunately, it's a sport that requires 2 additional people (a spotter, and an experienced boat driver), a very calm lake or other body of water, AND, a ski boat. Not to mention a ski and other equipment/accessories. Therefore, it is not often that I have the opportunity to ski!!


Being a committed slalom skier also requires that a person stay in shape, as it is a VERY physically demanding sport, engaging ALL muscle groups in the body. It also requires a lot of practice to achieve the level shown in this picture of a World Champion on the left, compared to me on the right (Dec 2007, while still recovering from surgical repair of my 2006 shoulder injury):


The way it's done...  Getting there...

Training
A regular committment to a complete workout regimen is required to enable someone to stay in this sport. In particular, you want to work on endurance (lung capacity), hands/grip, forearms, shoulders, back, core, thighs, knees, calves, ankles, and your general balance. One run (two passes, down and then back, through the slalom course) is enough to give a person major muscle pain that will last for days. Not to mention the possibility of injury to someone who is not in shape that attempts this sport. Also imperitive is stretching thoroughly before each time you ski.


Lake or Other Body of Water
A calm body of water is essential. Hitting a chop at the wrong angle can cause a major faceplant and resulting injury. You are not a chicken if you see too many boat wakes or wind chops and decide not to ski. Wait an hour, or until the wind dies down or the other boats on the lake are out of the way. The ultimate is a private waterski lake, and even better is a man-made waterski lake with banks designed to diminish and not reflect waves.


Ski and Equipment/Accessories
A good slalom ski with snug fitting bindings is essential. Depending on skill level, look for a tunnel bottom, with deep rear fin and full-wrap front binding or boot. I like double boots for security and injury prevention - plus, they keep you locked onto that ski! Theories vary, but I want the ski to stay ON when I fall, unless it's a really bad fall. You should use lubricant on your feet to slip into (and out of) bindings/boots easily. A rope with preferrably one-piece handle is needed. Buy a ski rope, don't try to scrimp here. The handle should be grippy and not too smooth. Gloves are important, too. Leather with Kevlar can't be beat, and you want them snug, with adjustability. Some gloves have precurled fingers and are relatively difficult to put on. You will want clothing that is comfortable and does not pull off when the boat is pulling you out of the water! Functionality rules here, not fashion.


Ski Boat
Not just any boat will work for this sport. You want a flat wake so you can cut it at high speed without being thrown for a fall. No deep-vee hulls here - those are for wakeboarders (who WANT big wakes). To accomplish a flat wake with good tracking and handling characteristics takes a purpose-built ski boat - usually an inboard, but outboards can also work well. Pulling power is essential, especially out of the hole, or start! You want a nice, strong, linear pull, but not arm ripping. Getting out of the water can be a strenuous part of skiing - you want a boat that will pop you out. You also must learn techniques that minimize drag time at start - you need to let the boat do the work! Most ski boats are inboards with powerful automotive V8 engines. It should be able to pull you between 26 to 36 miles per hour (depending on skill level).


Other Stuff
The ultimate is doing a slalom course, which is 6 buoys laid out in a long grid, and the boat pulls you through the middle. You concentrate on alternating buoys, first one side, then the other, back and forth. As a skier's skill level increases, the rope is shortened, and the boat speed increases! Whether you aspire to skiing the course, or free skiing, it doesn't matter - so long as you enjoy it! My favorite part is the blinding acceleration coming out of a turn toward the wake, cutting over the wake on the edge of the ski! Nirvana!!!!


Finally, consider this. A professional water skier being pulled behind a boat going 36 miles per hour, rounding a buoy, makes a 90 turn and accelerates to approximately 70 miles per hour within 25 feet or so. As a non-professional, it's still an intense rush to feel HALF that acceleration...vivid is the only way to describe it!


NOTE and WARNING: In December 2006 I injured my shoulder skiing, most likely while being pulled out of the water. My doctor (a top sports osteo surgeon) partially attributes this to the use of 'Clincher' gloves (containing a dowel pin embedded in a palm-strap intended to reduce forearm fatigue). Using these gloves makes it easier to NOT engage certain muscles in the shoulder (and arms), which if engaged would otherwise protect the shoulder joint. The surgeon felt that these gloves were a huge contributing factor to my being injured. Recovery from this surgery has taken approximately 9 months.