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Connection and Swing


AdamCord
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It’s fall! Time to geek out on ski technique. I've been wanting to do a video about this for a while, but thought it might be smart to start a thread and see what people find confusing about it, and what needs clarification.

 

There is a ton of coaching about how to turn, or how to achieve "stack", but I hear very little about how to get connected and stay connected with the rope, and how to use that connection to ride the swing around the boat. That to me is absolutely the most critical component for making the jump from longer lines to running short line. The 35/38 off wall that people hit is because they don't do this well. Every pro skier does this one way or another.

 

Specifically what I'm talking about is separating the idea of pulling against the rope, and pressure against the bottom of the ski in your mind. These are two separate forces, and should be treated as such. When we first learn to ski, we learn to pull against the rope and edge the ski to move left and right. Then we learn to “edge change” the ski and release with our outside hand to start to make a turn. What happens through this process is we learn to equate pulling against the rope and edging the ski as the same move. As people get better and start to shorten the rope, this concept sticks and people continue to ski this way. This is why many skiers will edge change and release the handle with their outside hand at the same time. This inevitably ends up holding people back from running shorter line lengths.

 

What we want to do is think of these two concepts as separate entities. Anytime you are edging right or left you are creating pressure against the bottom of the ski that will help accelerate you right or left. When that happens you will generate load in the rope, and you must be in a “stacked” position to handle that load. Those concepts are pretty well established and most people can grasp that idea pretty easily. But what we need to realize is that there can be very high load against the rope even when there is NO pressure on the bottom of the ski. How does this happen? Centrifugal force.

 

When we stop thinking about traveling in a straight line across the lake, and start thinking about traveling in an arc around the pylon, we can see how this works. Anytime you are moving left or right on a ski, you are traveling in a circular path relative to the pylon in the boat. This creates a centrifugal force down the rope. The faster you are going through the wakes, the higher this force. Also, as the rope gets shorter, this force increases. We need to recognize that this force is completely separate form the load on the bottom of the ski, and put ourselves in position to hold that force.

 

The video above shows one way to do that. If the skier is in good position, the ski only needs to be on a cutting edge with angle for a VERY SHORT amount of time and space. Once the sufficient tangential speed around the pylon is achieved, keeping the ski in angle and on a cutting edge does nothing beneficial, and actually makes it harder to hold position against the rope. In the video above I am actively trying to stand up out of angle and onto a flat ski by centerline, but my upper body stays strong against the line all the way up until I release the handle for the preturn. In fact, I NEED to keep my upper body strong against the line in order to handle the high centrifugal force. This is what allows me to “swing” around the pylon and reach the buoy line early.

 

Please note that I’m not doing anything special with front arm or back arm pressure. I’m not making some big effort to rotate my hips one way or the other. I’m just holding my position against the line, while letting the ski roll flat and point down the lake early. I’m also not making any big effort to stay ahead of the ski off the second wake. In other words – this does not need to be complicated.

 

Ok please fire off your questions or tell me why this doesn’t make sense ;)

 

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THANKS for this post.

 

This is, without a doubt, the biggest single problem with my skiing. As soon as I make my edge change I'm almost immediately taking my outside hand of the handle and lose connection. It's an incredibly frustrating muscle memory thing that I just can't shake no matter what I do.

 

So keeping it uncomplicated... what tricks do people that have beat this used?

 

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Great tip! I try to change edge at the wake but that doesn’t work very well until the turn radius is dialed in correctly to give you the initial speed needed to allow you to ride the arc of the handle out to the buoy. After A Lot of fiddling I think that I’m getting close.

Thanks for the post, I have it saved for next season as a reminder.

Keep them coming!

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@jimski @chris55 This pass is 35off 34mph. When my ski is set up right my edge change happens at about the same place regardless of boat speed. I run a faster setup for 34 than at 36.

 

@mlange Without it getting complicated - As SOON as I hit what feels like maximum angle and load in the pull (usually right at the start of the first white wash), I am doing everything I can to get the ski out of angle and off it's cutting edge. Mechanically I do that by pushing the ski more in front of me and trying to point it straight down the lake (not across it toward the shore). At the same time I am leaning away from the pylon with my upper body to keep myself in position to hold the centrifugal force. What it feels like from the skier perspective is that I am standing up very straight and tall through the wakes. That forces the ski to roll flat and lets me stay in a hips to the handle position against the rope.

 

Now I think there are lots of ways to do this. Some very good skiers get compressed through this area and use their knees to get the ski off it's cutting edge. I've never had any success trying to do that. But one thing ALL high level skiers do is maintain a strong load in the rope long after the ski is no longer loaded.

 

I think the biggest "Aha" moment for me with this was sometime back in 2011 or 12 when I drove Chris Parrish @CParrish43 for the first time. That guy is an extremely powerful skier who stays connected like this as well or better than anyone. He would literally drag the boat toward the buoys just from the centrifugal force caused by his body swinging around the pylon. As a driver you would have to steer away from the buoys pretty hard to keep the path straight. Since then I have driven other top level skiers and felt the same thing, but no one does that quite like CP. That dude is a water ski robot.

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@AdamCord for me it looks like your body position when you’ve set the edge and angle at zero ball and every other ball is perfect and on a very fast and quick to accelerate ski. (Great promotion for the Denali mark here).

 

With the early speed and energy, you’re able to start the edge change early, directly behind the boat, continue through the wakes and your ski is neutral and just starting on the new inside edge at the crest of the 2nd wake. This is what gives you gags of time and space to “point the ski down the lake” HUH?!

 

Something we’ve been taught not to do for many years now.

Having a hard time getting my head around that one.

 

Some other observations:

Your timing with edge change and knees is perfect. We never see even the slightest pop off the wakes.

You carry great speed through the turn at the buoys and line up the perfect amount of angle and lean immediately after the ball which enables you to get that early and quick angle cross course.

 

What I don’t get is the comment to reduce angle and pressure with your ski and lower body at the 2nd wake.

 

And yes, I’m hitting the wall at 35 off.

 

Thanks for your thread and any comments

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@AdamCord, my wife read your first post and has a question. She is familiar with GUT and has skied with Caldwell, so this is not completely new. She asked “is centerline is always the ideal target? Does it differ by speed and line length.” I have some thoughts, but I am smart enough not to provide input, I’ll hang up and listen to your answer. She also questions whether the phrase “stand up” is appropriate in the next to last paragraph. She suggested that someone reading your thoughts on slalom for the first time may not interpret it as you would like, but let us know if you think otherwise. FYI, she is a 15 off 26-32 skier... and a hell of a boat driver.
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@Stefan Yes for sure Nate gets off his pulling edge super early. I would argue that's because he generates speed so well into the wakes. He only needs to be on a pulling edge an extremely short amount of time. That's what allows him to start the transition so early.

 

As far as ski speed it can depend on your setup, but in general I will run less wing and/or a forward/shallower fin at 34 compared to my setup at 36.

 

@GaryWilkinson yes absolutely I am able to transition early because of the speed I generated before the wakes. That is what makes this possible. What always surprises me though is when a skier is good at creating that speed, but then they still try to ski to the bank, which forces separation form the handle.

 

My turns look easy and seamless because I was able to generate so much space before the buoys, and therefore it's easy to stay in time with the boat and ski back into a tight line. Chicken, meet Egg.

 

As far as reducing pressure and angle on the ski, I mean what I say. I'd suggest you do some free skiing and play around with that while not chasing buoys. You can build lots of load and speed into the wakes, but then work the ski out of that load and angle behind the boat. If you can stay strong against the rope, you will move up on the boat very quickly.

 

@jimski I could possibly be persuaded to do a clinic or two in the spring when it starts warming up again. Too cold now!

 

@BlueSki is centerline the target? Not necessarily. Where this transition takes place is 100% dependent on how much speed you have crossing the wakes. The faster you are going, the earlier it will happen. A pro could probably edge change before centerline at 15off 26mph, but that doesn't mean your wife could or should. At her level she needs to be working on getting stacked and learning how to get her hips and elbows to meet during the pull. While you can absolutely ski this way at 15off, I wouldn't expect someone to be doing that when that's their hardest pass.

 

And about "standing up", yes that's what I mean but I'd like to hear what's confusing about that (seriously, I would like to know so I can clarify my message?). In my mind when I'm moving into the wakes that's what I feel like I'm doing, driving my sternum as far from my feet as possible to keep me in a stacked position while also forcing the ski to flatten and not stay on edge. I appreciate that feedback!

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I think of this coaching tip as "initiating the edge change without changing direction, AND not letting go of the handle." A snow slalom skier, before initiating the turn, first shifts all the weight onto the uphill ski, before changing direction. They call it lateral projection.

In other words, to help me understand, is that your point too?

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@AdamCord, I think the potential for confusion that she noted was more in the “up” of standing up than the standing. To pull from your second post, “At the same time I am leaning away from the pylon with my upper body to keep myself in position to hold the centrifugal force. What it feels like from the skier perspective is that I am standing up very straight and tall through the wakes.” Up is relative. Is up relative to the surface of the water, toward the sky, or relative to your ski so that you can “drive your sternum as far from my feet as possible,” or even a combination of both in the way it feels as the skier? This is a minute detail, similar to the use of “hips up” vs. “hips forward,” but she highlighted it. This is great stuff, please keep sharing your thoughts.
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@Ski4Life723 Actually, I've noticed that the tendency to "unweight the skis" is one thing that can hold back a good snow ski racer who is learning waterski slalom. In fact, that has the potential to be a bit dangerous -- in the most exaggerated form you can lift the ski out of the water and send the tip down and catch it. (I just saw this done last week by a very good snow skier!)

 

I'm certainly interested to see how @AdamCord thinks of this. It may help me in coaching said snow skier to run more buoys and do fewer cartwheels.

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@Horton, good pics. Adam mention some top level skiers having their knees compressed when coming off of edge. These really illustrate well the load on the line without load on the ski. I think her point was that some may misinterpret standing up with giving up and a lack of load on the line... semantics. Pictures, even stills, can be very informative.
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@Ski4Life723 I am not sure if there is a correlation there or not with snow skiing. In general I'd say people focus way too much on what they are doing with the ski through this transition, and not enough on what they are doing with their body to stay connected with the rope. Some people lift their knees and "unweight" like what @Than_Bogan mentions, some people are a lot more straight like Lucky Lowe. In my opinion those differences matter a lot less than the connection that allows you to swing around the pylon.

 

Something else to consider - Through the back of the boat and off the 2nd wake is usually where the Zero Off is gassing the most. The rope load can actually be even higher at the 2nd wake with ski unloaded than it is at the first wake with the ski banked and loaded as a result, so you better be ready for it!

 

@Horton good pics. I'd also like to submit this one as it does a good job of showing what I'm talking about when I say "Point your ski down the lake":

ikucoi5dv6q2.jpg

 

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This is something Cord and Caldwell were telling us at the Denali summits. It's such a departure from traditional thinking of slalom. But it's such an eye opener when you process skiing in this way. If I see a skier that has enough speed b4 centerline (correct gate is paramount) and they are still struggling/scrapping, even at longer lines and slower speeds, typically I can tell them to try to point their ski at the ball from center line while keeping the line loaded. I say nothing about arm pressure or elbows to vest or stand tall or any of the common suggestions we all hear. This is usually met with disbelief until they run the next pass smooth, with more space, no slack hits, way better timing with the boat and they comment; it's physically easier and feels slower. I hesitate every time I suggest it cause it is so simplistic and if it doesn't work, their disbelief becomes cemented. Fortunately so far it's just been the aha moments and rather dramatic advancement in their skiing. Adam, I was worried about Hortons pics as well cause they make it look like those skiers are pulling to the shore. A few frames later or a diff angle tells a way diff story.

 

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@mlange 100% no

 

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Before GUT was a thing, I always ..always.. thought TW vid was sort of mind bending skiing. Mostly because he was "doing" so much after CL and the line always looked sooo heavily loaded. Obviously this is the compreased style Adam referred to but it's such a great example of a loaded line and no load on the ski off the second wake while being pointed down course. Wish there had been an overhead vid of this as well. At 35 off going into 135 he's actually begun unloading the ski before CL.

 

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@AdamCord This is probably obvious, but when you say strive to "point down the lake early" you are talking about after you have achieved sufficient width on the buoy, right?

 

I am concerned that the wording of "point your ski down the lake" could be mistaken to mean that right after crossing the CL, it is perfectly fine to let your ski turn in completely downstream parallel to the boat. Of course, that would kill your cross course angle. In all the pictures @Horton posted, those guys are making major efforts to keep their knees pointed cross course which seems like what you want to do.

 

In the picture you posted to illustrate "point the ski down the lake", that skier is already well past CL and much further up in the swing than the skiers in the photos that @Horton posted. Correct me if I am wrong, but what I am taking from from your advice is that if we can stay connected and get ideal width early, then we want to let the ski come around early so that it is pointing down the lake just before we round the buoy.

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@bsmith great questions. I think this gets to the root of the confusion about this and helps highlight how easily it can be misunderstood.

 

I find the pictures @Horton to be a bit deceiving because it looks like the skis are still holding a lot of cross course angle. Compared to how much angle these skiers had into the 1st wake, they actually have much less in these images. From a different angle it looks completely different. The image of CP is right at the edge of the whitewash, just like the pics Horton posted, and I'd guess that their ski angle is actually about the same. Perspective is important.

 

To answer your question directly, when I say "point your ski down the lake early", I am talking about as EARLY as possible BEHIND THE BOAT. For me I try to start this transition before the 1st wake, and when I do it well I have the ski pointing inside the next buoy as I exit the 2nd whitewash. You have to understand that holding "direction" is pointless, especially as the rope gets shorter. By the CL you are essentially a weight on a string, swinging around the pylon. The only thing that will effect your path through the course is how much rotational speed you have around the pylon. My path from CL to buoy line wouldn't change if the ski was pointed backwards at the 2nd wake if I was able to maintain the same rotational speed around the pylon. What trying to "point the ski down the lake" does is get your ski pointed on the same path that you are traveling instead of working against it. Trying to keep the ski pointed to the shoreline with a lot of angle will only ski you away from the handle, cause you to lose connection, slow your swing around the pylon, and therefore make you late and narrow into the buoys.

 

Another way to think of it is that when done right the ski will be sliding sideways into the apex of the turn, like a drift car. The more you can get the ski to rotate before the apex of the turn, the slower you will be in the turn, the tighter the line will be, and the less the ski has to rotate to finish the turn. Everything happens so fast after the 2nd wake that you need to start this rotation before the centerline!

 

This is why the best skiers have such smooth turns. They don't have to do all the rotation right at the finish after apex.

 

I tried to find some images that show what I'm talking about a little more clearly. These show how much less angle Cale Burdick has as he exits the 2nd whitewash compared to his max angle at the first wake. He's also back against the line so he stays super connected:

 

ajsno1rt1015.jpg

3ijci7w1t5gd.jpg

 

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@AdamCord Thanks for the explanation. This makes a lot of sense now and the photos of Cale Burdick illustrate well what you are talking about. Cale definitely has a lot of loaded ski pressure and high cross course angle into the first wake. And has he flies out on the upswing his ski is pointed much more narrow with less cross course angle even while his body and ski are following the pendulum path of the rope that is caused by all the swing speed he generated beforehand.

 

As you mentioned, there is so much momentum involved at this stage along with the ski being held relatively flat, that the orientation of the ski and fin can't do much at all to change the travel path of a well connected skier. That turns out to be an advantage for the skier because he can then influence the ski tip to turn in slightly such that by the time the buoy is reached the ski has already gained a lot of rotation that assists in making a smooth turn.

 

All of us are familiar with how a ski drifts at the buoy such that you can often get the tip around the buoy even with the tip pointed well inside the buoy. What I have learned from your explanation is that this drift actually begins quite distant from the buoy, and that as long as we can stay well connected and following a tight pendulum path out to the buoy, that we can go ahead and allow the tip of our ski to start rotating inward much sooner than we had ever thought possible.

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The biggest misconception in this sport is that the ski needs to be pointing out at the shoreline in order to reach the buoy. That picture of Mapple is showing us exactly that.

 

Reality is that IF you can stay connected and continue to swing on the rope after passing CL (by keeping a strong connection & trajectory), the ski can actually rotate into the turn almost before getting off the second whitewash. The outbound swing energy will carry you around the boat, and literally swing you to the apex of the turn despite where the ski is pointing. Of course, there are several perquisites (timing, speed, position, etc) before this scenario can happen.

 

This sport is much more closely related to a motorcycle on a dirt track then a snow skier or race car. Where the ski (or moto) is actually pointing more toward the center of the arc rather then away from it.

 

My piece of advice is this. Do not get stuck focusing on what the result looks like and trying to emulate it. To many people (even at a very high level) are trying to explain what they are seeing, without any understanding of what it really takes to create the correct connection and swing.

 

Even had guys this past weekend saying to me they like how I ski open to the boat and with level shoulders and counter rotating into the turn. It was beyond frustrating to hear that as that is NOT what is going on. My objectives and goals are nearly the polar opposite of that.

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You've described it many times, & it has made a huge difference in my skiing lately. This clearly shows tremendous load in the hands while the ski is pointing down the lake. He is obviously swinging around the pylon very fast. Thousand words in that picture!
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I think for many of us, it is intuitive to understand how a slalom ski slides and drifts when it is at maximum lean in the middle of a turn. With the ski rolled over and the fin barely in the water, it is easy to see how the ski can slip and drift in that circumstance.

 

On the other hand, it is counter intuitive to think of a ski drifting so much just after center line. When you look at that photo of Mapple, the tip of the ski is out of the water and all the slippage is occurring with the fin deep in the water. And with the ski pointed down course as much as it is, a lot of water pressure is hitting the fin in nearly a perpendicular fashion. From an intuitive perspective you would think that maybe the travel path of the ski would be affected and that the ski would travel narrow to the buoy.

 

But apparently, all that water pressure against the fin is just causing the ski to point more down course even while the ski and skier are traveling on the pendulum path of the rope out to the buoy with no loss of width. It is still just amazing to me that this is what actually happens.

 

But of course, for this phenomena to happen, the skier had to generate high swing speed before center line and had to maintain that swing speed by staying connected and not letting his hands get away from his hips.

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@twhisper... trainwithterrywinter.com has a really good video from over head that shows how much more "down coarse" you actually go than cross coarse. Except for a very short distance right after the buoy the ski is never pointed into a ton of angle. It also clearly shows how close to centerline the ski rolls from edge to edge. It is a really cool perspective.
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@AdamCord all I can say is thank you for this post. I've studied the GUT articles many times over the last couple of years & fixed my gate approach after watching your gate video many times. So my pull out and turn into the gate has been pretty good for a while now. And I'm that kind of skier that you and @adamhcaldwell talk about that builds great angle and speed into the first wake. And then it all goes wrong from that point out to the buoy. Couple things been holding me back for years. one of them has been keeping my ski pointed toward shore off the second wake.This summer I seem to a fixed that. The other is due to my snowmobile racing background and not having much coaching. In snowmobile racing when you come into a turn at a high rate of speed there's a weight transfer that needs to take place to keep the inside ski down. I guess off the second wake I've been applying that same concept thinking I need to jump on the front of the ski to slow it down. You guys have laid it out in great detail in this thread how to ski properly and efficiently through the course. Let's just say I went out this morning and apply these concepts of kicking the ski out in front of me at centerline and remaining strong against the pylon and swinging very fast up on the boat. That was the game changer for me What a different look at the course now. I have so much time to make nice easy turns . All morning I've been running the cleanest passes of my life. Riding the c-75 it would be a shame to throw away all that angle that it builds into centerline. What & A ski and what a Grand Unified Theory of Slalom! Thanks Adams for all you've done to help improve the waterskiing industry
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@AdamCord not sure if I completely understand all this but I was trying to put it into play today. I did feel like I was pulling to long to the ball but that may of been trying to hold line tension with my upper body to the release of the handle.

Video would of probably helped me see what I was doing

 

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Well done, Adam.

 

For me, the most important feature for a short line transition move from upswing to downswing is continued lower body/ski resistance of the load through initiation of that move. So, if you’re still looking for input/edits, please consider deleting the reference to “standing up” (or clarify) as a method of initiating the transition from downswing to strong upswing. That descriptor may confuse some ballers who will focus solely on the phrase and will literally “stand up” as the force coming through the ski is peaking around centerline. Put another way, they will allow the upper body to be pulled forward, up and out of the lean to initiate the transition. I’m pretty sure this is not what you meant.

 

In giving up lower body resistance, at this key moment when the load coming through the ski is peaking, the skier loses the opportunity to harness that energy for the upswing. Even if the skier resists with the upper body and maintains a good connection to the boat on the upswing thereafter, he has already missed the opportunity to harness a good chunk of the energy generated on the downswing and will end up getting dragged narrow and slow to the ball. I know you would agree that harnessing that energy, not giving it up, as the skier initiates the transition move or through initiation of that move -- is key to success at the shorter line lengths. So, to be specific, please consider these changes to your excellent piece here:

 

Drop or clarify the “stand up” description.

 

Consider describing transition techniques, collectively, as "Transition Moves".

 

Re-emphasize the importance of resisting the load through the ski “as the skier initiates The Transition Move” or “through initiation of The Transition Move”.

 

Hope this helps.

 

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@HSL,

 

We’re not talking about standing relative to the surface of the water, but relative to the top of the ski as it’s banked up behind the boat.

 

The number one objective is to avoid compression within the body when under load from the boat. Unless your making a massive effort to keep the shoulders away from the feet (literally standing up), then compression will happen and the swing energy will suffer.

 

Also, downswing = path into center under load. Upswing = centerline to apex. Maybe that’s where the confusion is?

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@adamhcaldwell No one believes that. You have to squat on your toes if you want to be good at slalom. Never mind that it is impossible non-sense. That is what you must do.

 

The number one objective is to avoid compression within the body when under load from the boat. Unless your making a massive effort to keep the shoulders away from the feet (literally standing up), then compression will happen and the swing energy will suffer.

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@HSL

 

When I'm talking about standing up, there is a LOT of pressure in my legs to drive myself taller off the ski, but that does not mean the ski is still loaded and in angle.

 

I think that's where the confusion comes in. If the ski is still loaded on a cutting edge past centerline and off the 2nd wake at shortline, you are actually slowing your swing and forcing premature separation from the handle.

 

The act of driving your body taller off the ski performs a few different beneficial functions. When I am skiing I think of it as a similar feeling to performing a dead lift in the gym, locking in my core's connection with the handle. It also flattens the ski and gets it off edge and out of angle. So yes, there is absolutely a great deal of load in my legs, but it is for the purpose of driving my body upward, not to keep the ski on a loaded cutting edge.

 

In the pics below both Caldwell and I have a lot of load in our legs, but the ski isn't "loaded" against the boat. We're using our legs to drive our hips and chest up and locking in the connection with the handle, allowing us to ride the swing around the pylon.

 

ncpdct8zozb3.jpg

bg1yyqrv4j1e.jpg

 

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"I think that's where the confusion comes in. If the ski is still loaded on a cutting edge past centerline and off the 2nd wake at shortline, you are actually slowing your swing and forcing premature separation from the handle."

I think you two have been VERY clear on the point above. Maintaining load against the boat through the cutting edge of the ski past centerline and off the second wake to "get wide" = wrong path and separation from the handle at shortline. So no, I don't think this needs to be clarified.

 

Instead, I was suggesting greater clarity would help explaining how to "initiate" the transition at centerline emphasizing the need to maintain the load through the ski as that move begins. I've seen many skiers who give up that energy at this critical moment. They transition from downswing to upswing by simply "standing up" relative to the surface of the water at centerline and simply let the pull of the boat bring them up and out of the lean. And they get dragged late and narrow to the ball. The skier shouldn't give up that peaking load at centerline to initiate the transition. The skier should use that load and energy as they initiate the transition. For me, this translates to nudging the ski forward a bit as the load on the ski -- and my resistance to it -is peaking at centerline.

 

I think the three of you (Cord, Caldwell, Horton) have done a pretty good job clarifying the point. So thanks for that!

 

 

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@HSL. Maybe another way to think about it is, if you are still loading the ski on the cutting edge past CL (think pendulum), or 'fighting' against the boat, how can you catch up with the boat? And, you need to catch up with the boat to finish the pendulum swing.
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