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Reflex R-Style and back pain


Mazda
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I have tried twice to switch from back rubber boot to Reflex R-style while having front black reflex boot. I tried to switch because Andy Mapple suggested it and in both times the transition was easy and I felt the ski performed better (sharper turns, more angle into the wake) My problem is this: in both cases after several sets, my back would go into a severe spasm. first time as I was going out of the water, the second was after I finished skiing. My question is does skiing with an R-Style put more pressure on the lower back? Or were my spasms not related to R-Style switch? Any feedback is greatly appreciated, including tips for easier-on-the-back water starts, or suggestions to prevent back spasms in general will be greatly appreciated
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The trick to a deep water start with an iffy back is to really tighten your core as you come out of the water, and the trick to a tight core is to work on it in the gym.

 

I’m not at all sure why, but I’m not a fan of a deep water start in an r style either. It always felt awkward coming out of the water. I tried one for several sets over the winter, both with a Super Shell and a regular black top Reflex and I just couldn’t get comfortable with either set up. If I had liked the binders, I’m sure I would have adapted to the starts, but I agree with you that something about the r style makes the get up awkward.

Lpskier

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I’ve suffered back spasms for the last 6 years or so and have been through a variety of steps to correct it. If you can figure out the things that trigger it, I think you will be on the way to correcting things. Three things that I think helped me the most were glute exercises ( too much desk sitting), switch mattress ( 3 times, firm), finding the least resistance on my deep water starts ( basically Bend my knees so that my butt touches the rear of my back foot). Also don’t underestimate the shorts you are wearing, if they catch water, it will put a tremendous strain on the back. If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to message me. I tried a bunch of different things such as massage therapy, Rolfing, acupuncture, chiropractor, etc, etc.

Funny that you mentioned the R-style boot because I went to an Adam Caldwell built R-Style a few weeks ago (Also changed front boot). It is causing me to work through some stance comfort/control stuff but has not caused me any additional back trouble. As I said message me and I’ll answer anything I’ve been through. It sucks but it can probably be corrected, you just have to figure out the root or roots.

 

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I 2nd the least resistance deep water starts. I've always used both feet in, even with an RTP (now HRT.) I can have back issues if I resist too much. As you hear the boat gas up, don't resist, allow the ski to compress into you so your butt touches the back heel as @9400 said. If I resist more in the legs I feel it in my back over a couple start ups. Work on your core in the gym....planks, planks, planks.
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@Mazda, I have the same reflex setup. While I don’t think I felt worse back pain after switching, I think the above comments likely hold your solution. I too only ski in certain bathing suits with low resistance (don’t catch water in the legs), press knees tight together (less resistance on legs), and use that core, not just the low back.

 

In terms of exercises, Google “McGill Big 3”. Developed by researcher and doctor Stuart McGill up in Canada. I’ve read multiple testimonials from people who say if you do at least these 3 exercises (curl ups, side planks, bird-dog) EVERY day (it’s about 20min) your core will be in much better shape. To @9400 point, I’ve added gute bridges to my daily routine as well (again too much desk sitting) - big difference! I’ve been doing these 4 exercises for a month and have never felt stronger!

 

One interesting thing - through his research he says planks held more than 10sec aren’t helpful. Better to do multiple reps of 10sec holds.

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When I switched from a full rear to a 1/2 rear (first the reflex R, and now the Radar HRT) I found I had to make adjustments to my deep water start as the first couple tries I kept pulling my rear foot out of the binding on the way up.

 

Once up I found my position on the ski was different (for the better) as well. I suspect you are just using your muscles differently (not necessarily right or wrong) than before and your body needs to adjust.

 

Do you feel like your fighting the boat on your start? The comment on baggy shorts is a good one, they can become a major drag on your body.

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I cannot subscribe to idea that shorts could create any noticeable grag.

Before was also thinking that way.

But when I tried to create virtual model of how shorts behave during stars I found that there is nothing that may help shorts to hold parachute shape. Under water pressure it will either fold, or roll up on deform in any other way.

Same like parachute without slings and weight below - it will be just another piece of cloth without any supportive effect.

 

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I find that long board shorts or bathing suits that come down to the knee and are loose fitting at the leg cuff can create a scoop underneath the back of my legs on take off that adds drag.

 

I happen to have a few pairs that create this effect, hence I don’t ski in them anymore.

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Agree with some Board Shorts turning into an anchor. Went to Nike Compression Shorts and Love them.

 

Been using R-Style for 3 years. I found that when you go to come out of the water, push the front boot "FORWARD" as you come up. Takes all the force off the rear foot and you can come up like a Baby !!!

 

 

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, Real glad to hear this conversation taking place. I run the New England Slalom Championship in Wolfeboro, NH, since 1988 and I have a background in competitive golf from back in high school. I brought the golf handicap format into our tournament years ago. I do 2 divisions which one is sort of an open AB division with a group of skiers that run into 35 off or higher and in golf terms, a gross score division or actual score. The rest of the skiers ski in the net division or handicap adjusted division. No more being the only one in your division. Like golf, handicapping makes it fun to ski against a large field, a chance for an actual prize or gift, no trophies for adults. I worked with Dave Allen to begin instituting a handicap system into WSTIMS. My partner Than B. constructed a spread sheet to pre-figure the handicap and make the adjustments and tally the scores during the tournament. We have our own parameters and formula to determine a fair baseline to figure the handicaps and it's proven to work very well with many years of data.

I think all local C's should move to ABD's and make those tournaments more fun. I have heard and read about many interesting formats. It would be nice if everyone could put their heads together. Maybe a task force. We could potentially think about Handicap divisions at Nationals like Nastar which is wildly successful.

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We I changed skies a few years ago my back started hurting. I read a thread on here about 4 way stretch shorts board shorts. I've had zero issues since. Deep water starts were painful before. I'm been using radar shorts last few years but any board shorts that say 4 way stretch will work as long as they're not too balloonie.
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I didn't touch on the things that didn't help on here but over the course of the last 6 or more years, planks (without the balance exercises) aggravated my situation. From the majority of my reading, weak glutes cause a bunch of issues with the back. I found a video on youtube from Athlean-X about lower back spasms that got me kick started and started giving me some relief. From there, once I learned a little more, I found a handful of exercises that work on the glutes and have had more recovery than I thought I was ever going to see again. Last August through October, I thought I might be done skiing forever,

by the end of November, I was back skiing once a week and have picked it up to 3 times a week now. I get a little stiff here and there but for the most part, very few spasms (and the ones I do have, i can work out the glute stuff and it tends to fix them fairly quickly).

I didn't want to discourage the planks because I think they will benefit a lot of people (me included), but if you have a desk job, the glute work will help you. For the record, my back spasms were not just lower back, they seemed to migrate to various muscles throughout the back. However, it was when the lower back got really bad that I had to shut down skiing completely.

@ScottScott had a much better description of the deep water start that I employ.

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Squats and dead lifts are really good exercises for skiers. In fact if you only did two things, squats and dead lifts would be the way to go, in my opinion. On the other hand, technique is really important, so don’t go pulling a lot of weight without someone helping you with your form.

Lpskier

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There is a massive correlation with foot spread and back issues for reasons that may not be so obvious.

 

People (and I was in this mindset for years) that bigger foot spread is better because it offers more balance. I have since found so major performance loses from having your feet spread way apart.

 

I’ll try to make a quick video to explain in more detail. But, typically , the R style is going to first push your feet further apart because of the proximity issues with the release mechanism on the front foot.

 

Also, the second issue, is that unless the upper plastic on the R/style rear is modified, your back ankle will have too much control over the ski. An effect that is counter productive to what your front foot is doing. This issue is exacerbated by wider foot spread that demands more rear ankle flex in certain conditions.

 

This can act to dramatically upset the attitude of the ski in some critical areas. Sure, maybe you have more angle, but it’s possible your consistently taking more micro hits due to a stall on the back of the ball, or, from just not being able to get the tip in the water on before apex.

 

The way the forces play out, a stock r-/style will block the ski from moving under you naturally, and cause your hips to fall back off the second wake due to the fact your back ankle cannot articulate enough coming through the second wake.

 

The upper plastic on the base of a rear shell that is in front of your ankle is the root cause for the issues. The plastic in the reflex products is very stiff compared to the HO/Goode.

 

 

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@adamhcaldwell, what are your thoughts on the Radar HRT Boa? I’m trying to make the change from a rear hard shell (loosely fitted) this year. I’m hoping that it will help my mobility especially hip mobility. One thing that I like already is that I was able to get my toes closer to my front boot, almost touching.

 

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@Golson, the powershells are definitely a more pliable plastic and do not to seem to be such an issue. The thickness and type of liner also plays a roll in this formula as well as how the rear boot is physically mounted to the ski itself.

 

Obviously I am biased toward the kicker now...so if you have something figured out your happy with, thats great. But here is a little about what I have learned and what I do.

 

Firstly, Not all rear kickers are created equal. If you take the time to make one there is NOTHING BETTER. It think if you look closely at some top PROs who have been advocating double boots for a long time, you'll see a trend happening back toward the rear kicker.

 

Quick back story. I tried 3 or 4 different kickers back in 2008 after having old double approach bindings in 2000-2005, followed by a extreme version of a cutdown rear shell (very soft plastic) from 2006-2011. This rear shell exploded one day out at Andys testing skis and Cord and I ended up pulling Mapples kicker off his ski and using that for an afternoon. We both had NO issue making the switch with Andys Kicker - there was just a few sets of getting 'used to it', but in general 'it worked'. When I got back to Charleston the next week, I took two or three 'brand name'' rear toes out to try them as they were stock, and could not run a pass. My heel was falling off the side of the ski and it was very sloppy & slippery.

 

This was a huge surprise and unexpected as a kicker seems so simple, how could it be that different between Mapple and the brand name? - Well, Mapple built his kicker for performance, reliability, consistency, longevity, functionality. While as the brand names are made to look good, look comfortable, easy to get your foot in and have a good appearance on the showroom floor. Grip tape on a metal plate is not as attractive in the pro-shop as a nice thick cushy foam pad.

 

Cord still uses the Mapple pattern for his kicker, while I have found off the shelf parts from Wileys that work phenomenally well for me, I just got tired of cutting parts myself. Wilely's products are highly underrated. They evolve from a designs from hundreds of pro-skiers over the decades - back then I think there was a broader knowledge of the finer aspects of skis setup at the upper level manufacturers across the board. At some-point there was a shift. Change driven by good intentions, but not necessarily a good understanding.

 

Certainly a hard-shell creates more leverage over the ski. Question is, is more leverage over the ski actually better? IMHO, the answer is No. While leverage seem relay integral behind the boat, it can be a major detriment to the skis ability to articulate under our body throughout the entire turn phase, starting from CL.

 

If anyone is interested here is the "Caldwell kicker recipe":

Wilely Plate with all the foam removed.

Apply a tread/grip tape in replacement of the foam pad.

Remove the rubber loop and mount it back further on the plate such that your foot can penetrate the loop to get your entire foot to be supported to prevent excessive twist. Your toes should not be hanging over the edge of the plate. You should be able to move your heel some, but not twist it off the side of the kicker plate..

 

Personally, I love the Wiley because they are setup with various size rubber loops, and wide/narrow plates, along with off the shelf parts that are low cost and easy to to repair, and affordable to keep on hand.

 

For some, one big fear with the kicker is the foot 'slipping out'. If that is happening or close to happening, then the kicker is wrong. Even if you break at the waist, your back foot shouldn't feel like its going to slip out.

 

Its common when going to a kicker that the ski will be much better at rolling/turning and keeping the speed up. It can also allow your hips to move much further forward, as well as reduce the leverage acting on the back leg/foot/ankle. This helps the nose of the ski stay down much better everywhere allowing the front foot to do its job in managing roll angle, while the back foot is just along for the ride. Sometimes this requires a shift to the fin/boots to correct the way the ski rides in the water.

 

If/when going to a kicker, plan on taking a couple sets to re-calibrate with the ski setup. Dont judge too quickly if using an off the shelf kicker. Take the time to get it setup right. For under $100, you can get a wiley kicker shipped out. Low price to pay for a lot of potential gain.

 

Often with more free ankle movement, and a closer foot spread being achievable, the front boot will need to be moved back on the ski. As the feet get closer together, your hips are naturally taller, and pelvis will consistently shift further forward.

 

 

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@adamhcaldwell do you feel a need to accommodate RTP to front binding effective height? Essentially does the liner, shell, various bedding techniques etc. cause an issue.

 

You mentioned Mapple's RTP but he also famously cut out the base of his liners in the reflex boot, and previous to that I believe he cut out the bottom of the front binder as well.

 

Concern or no real problem?

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@BraceMaker - I have no base in my liner either. The skin on the bottom of my foot is directly on top of grip tape inside the plastic shell. I would say if your front foot is more then 1/8" higher then the rear, then yea, I would elevate the rear plate a touch (from under the metal).

 

I think the only issue is when it becomes an excessive difference one way or another. I do not advocate going with the rear higher then the front. Bad idea. Definitely error in the other direction.

 

Heres a pick of CP on his gate. This is the first place you can encounter issues with the R-style rear. If your back shin cannot move over the edge of the ski without influencing the ski, then you back leg ends up getting blocked to keep the knee further back and the hips further back, while at the same time its holding the ski on too hard of an edge after CL.

 

If your trying to work on elevating your mass and unweighted the ski earlier (aka edge change) an R-style can block that from happening. This is due to the angulation of the body above the ski and imparting forces through the high plastic of the shell. It makes the ankle joint hold the ski on edge too long - blocking you from keeping mass over the ski and against the centripetal force in the line after CL.

 

If the ski stays on edge too long without enough speed, you'll get a major spike in 'load' in both the ski and the rope the instant you cross CL. If the ski is banked up hard after CL, the lift produced by the ski is driving it in the opposite direction the boat is traveling -and at the same instant the handle just changed direction at CL moving from downswing to upswing.

 

The flexibility in the rear ankle is massive for performance. Both behind the boat, AND in the turn. The turn is a bit more complex, but the pitfalls root from the same issue and all the problems start back during the pullout for the gate before ever getting into the course.

 

If you want to be able to stand tall like Paris, Mapple, Nate freedom of motion above the ankle bone on the back leg is paramount. Else, your forced to be 'compressed' due to the blocked ankle flexion and end up with your but in the backseat taking all the load in your lower back instead of through your legs when the entire system is forced to experience a change in direction at CL.

 

Generally speaking, I believe this is why people with double boots tend to like shallower longer settings the those with a kicker. It helps force the ski flatter ealier, to compensate for a lack of range motion in the rear ankle. Else the ski stays on a hard edge way too long and you cant Yaw the ski in time to be turning before the buoy.

 

 

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@adamhcaldwell Your rear tow plate setup seems worth trying. Thanks for sharing! I would normally order an XL (size 12 shoe). Do I need to upsize, or order the Wiley spare parts (rear toe rubber and overlay) in order to move the rubber loop back on the plate and not have it be too tight to get my foot that far in?

 

Also, will any old grip tape work (many available on Amazon it seems)? Thanks again!

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Calling @adamhcaldwell. Same type of question as @OscawanaSkier .

Can u post a pic of your RTP. Might switch to a Wiley RTP and wonder if I should go size up to fit while foot in. If you just move the toe loop back it seems it would just move your foot back on the plate increasing separation from the front, not allowing to get entire foot wedged up into the loop as explained. What am I missing? Sorry for the stupid question. Just trying to make sense of it all

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@OscawanaSkier the grip tape to use is 3M Safety Walk, can be found on Amazon in various sizes.

 

I also use this grip tape inside my hardshell boots to control movement of the liner. I use a very tight fitting liner to control movement of my foot. I tried the bottomless liner but did not like the rough feel on my skin, but studies show that barefoot gives the best feel for balance.

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I was unable to ski for a week+ due to lower back pain from deep water starts. I’ve had lower back problems on and off for 15yrs, but never had a problem with deep water starts before. R style, for some reason I can’t explain, does seem to put more pressure on the back. I was signed up to ski a tournament this weekend and was nervous I’d ski one pass and be done. I read this thread and tried the “flex the abs as hard as I could during the start”. No back pain! Four passes for both rounds = 8 starts. No pain! It works. I highly recommend others with this problem try this technique.
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