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Crazy brainstorming: MUCH safer turn markers


Than_Bogan
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As many know, my ski partner MikeT tore his achilles this year. There's a whole thread about that, with many folks contributing who have done just that at some point. And 2012 has seen a cluster of buoy-related injuries in New England, including some that occured with Bubble Buoys.

 

So we've started trying to think way outside the box about how the sport might someday make a dramatic improvement in safety.

 

Thought I'd start a thread to throw around insane ideas and see what happens.

 

@eleeski You better contribute something or your reputation for insane ideas will be at risk!

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For those who have skied at John's Pond in NJ, you are probably aware that all of the boat gates there are pieces of foam "swim noodles." Because of the overlapped course (another insane idea that worked out brilliantly!), it's possible for a skier who is running late to ski right over the boat gates of the "other" course. I don't know if I've ever done that, but I've seen people hit them and it doesn't disrupt the path of the ski in the slightest.

 

To be fair, the ski is on edge and the skier is stacked behind it at that point, which is a far less vulernable position that stretched out trying to get the ski around a turn ball. But I strongly suspect that it's very hard to hurt yourself with hitting a foam noodle. In case you haven't already done so, ask someone to swing one as hard as they possibly can at you. It just doesn't hurt. The combination of the hollow core and the spongy material absorbs a crazy amount of energy into deformation.

 

This idea is not without substantial problems. The first one is pretty easy: You need to move the noodle-turn-marker out a few inches so that the outer edge of it is in the same place as a traditional buoy's outer edge. But then there are issues with visibility, consistency with past records, judging, and even the "trivial" issue of finding some way to dye a foam noodle so that it doesn't instantly fade to off-white in the sun.

 

Oh, and forcing everyone in the country to change...

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Actually @Than_Bogan, one could argue that leaving the slimmer noodle-buoy where it is would right an old wrong: when the course was 'metricized', we went from balls that were 37'6" off-centre-line to 37'8.75" (see http://ballofspray.com/forum#/discussion/comment/38238). That was not nice for us 5'7" guys. It would be lovely to bring them back in.

 

Anyhow, while I think your idea will upset the very few folks who sell slalom balls, my cheap ('frugal') side loves this idea.

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Interesting! In what context has someone "tested" burying their fin in a noodle? Could that be skiing across one that was laying down in the water? I'm having a lot of trouble imagining how something like that could happen with a piece of noodle anchored vertically in the water. (And I'm pretty sure it's never happened at John's Pond, but admittedly hitting those is relatively rare.)
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@andjules I doubt a Noodle Marker would actually end up THAT cheap, because a regular noodle is going to insta-fade if in sunlight all the time. And custom-made anything gets expensive fast.

 

Kind of off-topic, but: I doubt narrowing the course actually turns out to be a relative advantange to someone who is shorter. That makes it easier for everyone, and so just means that folks push into even shorter ropes. My bet is that increasing the speed is what would provide a relative advantage to shorter guys, by keeping *everyone* a little farther away from the geometric limits where gargantuan reach becomes required.

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I think things would be much safer if tournament sites would just follow USAWS's recommendations. Our site gets accused of having the buoys too small and too low. Well... I follow the rule book and their recommendation. We also fill them with about 1/4 water. Considering switching to Wally buoys next year.

 

Every site I go to, they buoys are much bigger and much higher. Ours are not too small; everyone else's are too big! The rule book quote is below. Notice what they recommend. Make a template that matches their recommendation. If the nipple is 1-2" out of the water, pull them down! The height (3.9") is half of the width (7.8"). So the water line should split the nipple if the buoys are 7.8".

 

Skier and Gate buoys shall be generally spherical in shape and 20 - 28 cm

(7.8” to 11") in diameter (20 cm (7.8”) recommended), and fastened so that

they have 10 - 17 cm (3.9” to 6.75") of height out of the water (10 cm (3.9”)

recommended). They shall be of lightweight, pliable material with a smooth,

exposed surface.

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@Than_Bogan good point. Somewhere else someone suggested the course should get tighter (shorter distances btwn segments/boat gates) because we're reaching the geometric limits around width (giving too much advantage to a skier's height).

 

As to the cost of noodle markers, if you designed a good hook system, it would probably be cheaper to replace the noodles two or three times a season than to develop a UV-resistant foam dye...

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@andjules Very true about frequent replacement being a cheap option. Personally, I'd be way too lazy for that and would rather spend some money upfront.

 

@clemsondave That's a great point, and well worth emphasizing. But I still think theoretically there probably are directions we could go that would be even a lot safer than that.

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Be careful with 1/2 water, even 1/3. They become so light, they will drift. We used to use 1/3 until I noticed them floating 3-4 feet down course in a light wind. For us a little over 1/4 is the sweet spot.

 

Not saying something else could be safer. Just that I see a lot of really big and high buoys. Even at some really big tournaments.

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How about using the foam material that noodles use and form it in the size of a turn ball, very thin foam to make the ball on the outside and mostly air on the inside, with some kind of pressure release(hole) to make them deflect when hit. One problem could be what @Steven Haines suggest with burying the fin in the foam and going OTF.
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I have a floating slalom course which can sometime feel narrower than an individually anchored one. The buoys on my course float higher by default forcing you to get out wider. When I get to another course it does not feel any different. Ours are attached with mason string, so they are likely to get knocked loose if you hit them hard enough. I have run over buoys on my lake many times with no problem. If you don't have the bubble buoys, maybe something that will allow the buoys to get broken off if they are hit.
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I've whacked noodles hard. No injuries, but certainly not the solution. I had a collapsible design that worked as well as Bubble buoys but didn't hold up well. Another idea that was OK was a bunch of tiny noodles sticking up like grass. That was OK but didn't last (for other reasons). The Bubble buoys performance and acceptance ended my quest.

 

@Than_Bogan Holographic projections!

 

Bubble buoys, while not perfect, do rock!

 

Eric

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@eleeski YES! Holographic projections! I KNEW you'd have the best idea!! Never, ever hit anything ever again.

 

Cool thought on the "foam grass," too, although I can easily imagine the durability being really poor.

 

We're getting bubble buoys soonish, but it seems worth trying to do even better somehow. One of the most severe injuries around here (Hamstring detachment) was, I believe, into a bubble buoy. (EDIT: It seems I was misinformed. He may not have hit the buoy at all. Working on getting better info.)

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Spines were something I think may have some potential. I have experimented with them and they are very safe and visible. The downside is they support marine growth and that changes things rapidly. So, they need to be cleaned and "fluffed" routinely. The rubber-band type material tends to lay down quickly in the sun. Air filled spines are better, but no production exists on sufficient length for a "regulation" buoy. It keeps the inflated bladder very small and just below the surface.
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What about a sub-buoy just far enough below the water you can ski over it without hitting it. Then using a hook, rope, or clip (to allow for complete rotational movement) connect a small vertical marker. The marker could be foam, noodle material, anything rigid enough to stand up but not hard enough to hurt someone. The idea would be to hit with your ankle and not notice it. Similar to snow ski gates, they are made to be hit (just much softer). The sub-buoy would do all the work of keeping it in the correct location. They could stick up higher than standard buoys and could make judging easier.
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Tow boat test: Sunset lakes October 2007. Experiment, A pool noodle was utilized as the right hand entry gate. Watched numerous skiers throughout the test ski with no apparent issues!!!

I was asked to help do some Perfect Pass testing as a skier. On my third pass at 32 off I came through the gate and hit the noodle with catastrophic consequences. Best I can describe was that when the fin entered the noodle it lost all directional stability allowing the ski to trip and pitch me out the front/side. After I got my wind back the boat had come back not thinking the crash was that bad!!! I Thought I had broken my right arm because I could not move it, it floated limp in the water no feeling in the arm. Later I found out that I suffered a side impact whiplash that caused temp paralysis. Also sustained a ruptured ear drum, broke the ski in two pieces, came out of the radar front binding still had the D-3 leverage and half of the ski on the back foot.....Andy Mapple was their said he had never seen a ski break against the rocker before if that says anything to how hard I hit the water. Pictures of the after math was taken. I commandeered the broken noodle pieces for evidence in case........Well evidence enough said!

Later I was told by Andy that he had seen similar effects however not nearly so catastrophic when another elite skier was testing the same idea!!!

Keep in mind a letter is on file from me to the AWSA safety and tech committee's concerning this very stupid idea and how unsafe it really is!

You on BOS have now been warned! So far the safest buoy I have experienced is the Goode Bubble buoy, and on my own course where I utilize standard buoys however they are really low in the water with black surgical tubing.

Say No to the NOODLE!

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Wrote in another thread about this but seems better here. If the bouy is larger but sunk deeper, would that not be similar to hiting a ramp at 5' vs 6' as it pertains to the result of lift off the water? I have mine 1/2 filled with water, oversized and sunk deeper. Visually they are seen just as well. Kinda like rolling over an upside down plate vs smaller upside down bowl with a scooter. Which will have the greater affect on the wheels getting displaced and the rider falling. It is float course so we added small 3 hole bricks to at the ends of the pvc arms. Stops any drift even in wind. No idea for out of the box thinking....yet. Just wondered if lessoned slope angle of a bouy would lesson reaction of a ski.
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@OB. If the PVC is dead level, and the brick isn't enough to sink much of anything (just keeps line snugger then just the pipe) how is narrow possible?? Its a cable corse. Hmmm? If narrow was the case on my course my home scores should be well above tournament perf. Not so in my case.
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So, to review... Smaller seems better. Lower seems better. Smooth impervious exterior to prevent fin embedding is prefered. Must retain location, but displace very easily if struck. Angle of impact surface may affect amount of deflection. So maybe we need a sub buoyed, trapped air (bubble) solution that is smaller and sits lower, with lower angle of impact surface? flatter dome top with a progressive rounding to edge?

 

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@OB it's a little brick with 3 big holes in it. Can't way 2lbs and the PVC is thick. Short course ball holds PVC center up. Just the PVC would probably do it but this adds just enough to avoid drift. If its narrow then I really suck in practice. Tourny score average is better by 2. Maybe I'm wide. ;)

 

Edit: the bouys are lower do to more water in them. Brick just adds that tiny bit of tention and probably sinks it another 1/4 inch.

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@OB Underwater halogen. Wow, that's damn close to the holographic projection idea. I AM IMPRESSED.

 

I can fairly easily design a system to allow judging (the key is to place the camera under the water pointing upward just like the underwater light), BUT I don't see how it can be implemented for a reasonable cost OR effort, both of which would be required for tournament use.

 

Just for fun, let me take off the financial-reality shackles entirely for a fantasy that personally I think would be insanely cool (and is totally doable with current technology if willing to throw down a few million dollars -- maybe less!).

 

As the skier enters the course, all of the skier "buoys" are bright red underwater lights. As the skier enters the gate, an automated system detects that the skier's front foot has legally passed through the gates, and the gates change to green lights. A moment later, the skier passes outside the 1st virtual-ball, and the 1-light turns orange. A few milliseconds later, the skier passes into the half zone and the 1-light turns yellow. Next, the skier crosses the near boat-path line on her way to 2-light and the 1-light turns green. (This one is actually by far the hardest to detect because the skier is no longer close to the buoy. But this is a fantasy, so just ignore that.)

 

This process continues until the skier exits, leaving the entire course turned green behind her.

 

When the boat turns around, a judge pushes a button and resets all the lights to red.

 

Next she comes back at 43 off (hey, let's keep the imagining going!). She falls after rounding the 2 ball, and the sensor in the handle recognizes that she dropped it, so stops updating lights. This leaves a green gate and 1-light, a yellow 2-light, and the rest of the course still red. Everybody in the place (and people in airplanes overhead) can easily see her new world record score of 1.5.

 

Wow, that was fun. :)

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@ToddL Like the fountain idea!! That is some clever thinking. Can anybody think of any negative consequences of such an idea? Cost is a little bit of an issue, but I wouldn't think a ton of power is required so local batteries would likely do it.

 

Heck, combined the fountain and the light, and you basically have a physical buoy that is made out of water.

 

This thread is already WAY more fun that I expected, and some of these ideas are actually sorta possible!

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these flexible field markers are used in cricket

http://www.goodbuddy.com.au/Resources/ProductImages/969_lo.jpg

I wonder if you couldn't put something soft and buoyant inside (short piece of noodle? sorry, but I wonder if this marker over the surface wouldn't eliminate the foam-fin-embed-crash risk?)... add some LEDs...

No idea if it would be any safer than our current buoys, but I think so.

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I just realized that a few of the more clever ideas here might be almost impossible to translate to an accufloat style, because they require suspending something slightly beneath the surface of the water. Getting perfect neutral buoyancy in water that is changing temperature sounds impossible to me.

 

I certainly don't want that to stop anybody from continuing on such riffs. Just noting it.

 

A possible workaround could be the use of a super-tiny surface buoy that's just enough to suspend an almost-neutrally-buoyant system. Still possible to hit that, of course, but there would be almost no restrictions on size or visibility since that's handled by the light/fountain/whatever.

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Hm, just had an unfortunate thought about noodles and fin catching. It may well be that it's the deforming itself that "catches" the fin. You don't literally have to pentrate on impact -- if you hit is right in the center, it will deform in such a way as to "cradle" your fin. Add in the wing sticking out and it might be real hard to dislodge from that. It's almost literally like something with claws grabbed your fin.

 

That could mean that the exact property that is key to aborbing all other impacts, is the dangerous fin grabber as well??

 

Hopefully I'm wrong.

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I'll weigh-in with my usual awesome contribution. How about big-a$$ buoys that you just avoid altogether because hitting them would not be an option? Like big USSR things from the 1960s made of fiberglass with galvanized hooks and chains holding them down. Like big mooring balls in a major shipping port.

 

Or, alternatively, some sort of short, soft, break-away wand akin to what is used in alpine slalom racing, only not hard plastic that requires armor to "block" it out of the way. You would take it across the shins like a slalom gate, but it would be soft enough that it wouldn't hurt (much).

 

Carry on.

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How about big-a$$ buoys that you just avoid altogether because hitting them would not be an option? Like big USSR things from the 1960s made of fiberglass with galvanized hooks and chains holding them down. Like big mooring balls in a major shipping port

 

that's great. I once had a neighbor who argued the safest car would be one with a dagger strapped to the steering wheel pointed right at your chest

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Weird I know but what about balloons. Sort of..... They do this in Red Bull airplane races. Pilots nagotiate at a rediculous speeds between and around towering blow up towers. They get within inches to shave time off laps. They get hit all the time and basically pop. Does not affect the plane at all. They deflate and fall to the ground. They basically have another deflated one inside the popped one and up it goes before the next plane. Same system on a buoy scale. Pop... and another inflates instantly from maybe a sensor recognizing a new one is needed. Air source could be can of compressed air under water of some sort.

 

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@wish and @ob, simple to have PVC be level despite weighted buoys and or water filled. The length of line to the PVC has to be shorter to account for the deeper ball. Even if the end of the pvc were 2 inches lower than the driver gate, the degree of narrowing would be negligible.
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