The 2016 Vapor is the 5th high end ski from Radar* and is a completely new shape from the 2014 / 2015 Vapor. Manufactured from 100% carbon laminates and a PVC core, the Lithium Vapor is one of the truly elite skis in the sport today. Radar also makes slightly less exotic versions of the Vapor from the same mold (Graphite Vapor and Alloy Vapor).
If this review had to be one word long that word would be “Refined”. The Vapor is not the fastest or the hardest turning or the most radical anything. It is a remarkable blend of speed and stability and predictability. The Vapor is one of the very best short line skis reviewed to date and is also one of the most user friendly and forgiving skis reviewed to date.
From Second Wake to Ball
Perhaps the one surprising attribute of the Vapor is its stability off the second wake. Typically slower skis are more stable and faster skis are looser at edge change. Skiers on faster skis often find it more difficult to stay connected and maintain rope tension after edge change. The Vapor is a legitimately very fast ski yet is surprisingly stable and tactile at edge change. The result of this stability is that it is easier for the skier to maintain additional connection through and after the edge change. This one attribute greatly helps the skier do what is needed to round more balls.
After edge change the ski easily flows out wide and early in front of the ball. The ski is not over stable but is simply comfortable approaching the ball.
Toe Side (Off Side) Turn
Turns on the Vapor are a decreasing radius arc ending with substantial angle. Turns finish less abruptly and the ski carries more speed back to the inside than the previous Vapor.
Unless the skier does something unwise, the tip of the ski naturally stays down. Turns end with as much angle as anyone could want. Impatient skiers may find that pushing too hard at apex will result in more angle than anticipated but recovery from imprudent maneuvers is another of the Vapor’s strengths.
Heel Side (On Side) Turn
There is no such thing as a truly symmetrical ski or symmetrical skiing. Skiers all do things a little different on On Side vs Off Side. On Side turns on the Vapor are as similar to Toe Side turns as possible.
The previous Vapors turned On Side fast and sharp if the skier kept their weight forward approaching the ball. Skiers should strive to be forward coming into the ball on any ski, but the 2016 Vapor gives the skier more latitude than expected approaching On Side.
Should the skier panic or attempt to “drop the bomb” at apex, the ski will resist stalling and maintain water speed. No ski can make up for all skier mistakes, but the Vapor is extremely forgiving.
From Ball to Second Wake
The tip almost always stays down exiting the ball, and the ski makes ample speed before the wakes.
Most modern skis reward skiers who do not overload from the ball to the wakes. The Vapor is moderately forgiving in this regard.
With almost every ski reviewed to date, there has always been a quirk of the ski that stands out and a recommended focus for the skier to get the most out of the ski. In the case of the 2016 Lithium Vapor, you can forget about the ski and work on your skiing.
What about ski setup? I put the fin where Radar (Chris Rossi) told me and have not moved it. Rossi did recommend I try moving my bindings forward ⅛” and that worked a tiny bit better for my hardest pass. Original Settings 29.75 / 2.460 / 6.960 / 0.748 / 9
*MPD, RS-1, Strada, 2014-2015 Vapor, 2016 Vapor
Rarely in sport of water skiing does a new slalom ski come out that does not resemble a previous generation. Sometimes the resemblance is blatant and sometimes it is hard to see. The 2016 Denali is like no other ski. It is as unique as a high end slalom ski can be. It looks different. It is designed to perform different. The 2016 Denali drips with innovation.
The Denali is a strange mixture of attributes. On the one hand, it dependably turns as hard and fast as any ski reviewed to date. On the other hand, it requires remarkably little physical effort to get very wide and early. Skis that turn this aggressively are usually described as quirky or as requiring a lot of work or both.
When ridden with restrained aggression, the Denali is an absolute joy to ride. It casts the skier out as wide as possible and creates the illusion that the boat is going slow. If the ski is ridden with too much aggression, unmanagable loads are created at the wakes. This excess load creates handle separation for most skiers and causes a vicious circle of frantic skiing.
The GT is the latest in a long line of skis from Connelly whose design heritage can be directly linked to the Connelly F1 that Jamie Beauchesne rode to the top of the slalom world a decade ago. The F1 evolved into the Prophecy. The first generation Prophecy (2008) was an aggressive and quirky ski. By 2013, the Prophecy had evolved into a much more refined and balanced ski. In 2015, the Prophecy was reworked to become the GT. Below is the BallOfSpray review of the 2016 Connelly GT.
The 2016 Connelly GT may be the easiest and the most consistent turning ski reviewed to date. This ski is basically fool proof at the buoy. The GT rides deeper in the water than many other high end skis. This attribute contributes to its amazing forgiveness at the buoy as well as an overall feeling of stability.
Toe Side (Off Side) Turn
The off side turn on the GT is one of the great joys of water skiing. The stability of the ski makes it easy for the skier to move forward approaching the buoy, to arc in early, and to carry ample speed back to the wakes.
The GT is far less sensitive to weight distribution approaching Off Side than any ski previously tested from Connelly.
Heel Side (On Side) Turn
On Side turns on the GT are noticeably quicker and sharper than the Prophecy. The ski can be turned with the skier’s weight slightly farther back than expected. The ski is so forgiving approaching on side that skiers need to be too careful to not become accustomed to staying back.
From Second Wake to Ball
The fact that the GT rides deep in the water means that the ski is stable from the second wake to the ball and that it bleeds speed very quickly. The trade-off is that without adequate body alignment at the wakes and rope tension (aka “connection” or “handle control”) through the edge change and out to the ball line, the GT may slow down faster than preferred and draw a narrow path to the ball. At longer rope lengths this behavior is unnoticeable, but as the rope approaches 37 ½ feet in length, the skier needs to exert discipline and strength in order to achieve an optimal path from the wakes to the ball.
Provided the skier does exert the aforementioned rope tension and water speed is maintained, the GT will carve a smooth path wide and early in front of the ball. Skiers who do not maintain enough rope tension will find the path from ball to ball to be somewhat frantic. As forgiving as the ski is at the ball, it is equally unforgiving to poor rope tension from the wake to the ball.
From Ball to Second Wake
The GT is more of a stable ski than a fast ski. The strength of this ski is its ability turn and carry speed back to the inside. It does not generate as much additional speed from the ball to the wakes as many other skis in the category.
In a perfect world, the best turning ski would also be the ski that gets widest with the least effort. In the real world, ski designers have to compromise. The GT is a fantastic turning ski because it rides deep. The trade-off is that it is not the fastest high end ski. At 35 off and beyond, skiers that excel at keeping a tight line to the ball will love this ski, and skiers who struggle with this skill will struggle with this ski.
The fin box is an old school design that is a bit painful to use. A new fin box from Connelly has been promised soon.
Binding placement and fin settings are critical for all high end tournament skis. Some skis are more sensitive than others. The GT is surprisingly insensitive to settings. This does not mean that you can put the fin and bindings anywhere without consequence, but the margin of error is remarkable.
Unfortunately, this review & my season were cut short by an injury. I rode the Ho V-Type for about 10 of the allotted 25 rides. I will tell you what I do know and what I do not know.
Overall: Before I got hurt, I strongly suspected that this ski would make my short list of personal favorites. With only half of the allotted rides, I feel that I have to be a little inconclusive, but I am telling you that this is one hell of a ski.
As I have stated previously in other posts, I believe there is a trend toward softer flex skis. The V-Type is the first mass production ski that I am aware of with tip flex numbers in the low 130s. The flex numbers on my V-Type are 72/98/118/131. In years past soft skis were thought to be slow or finicky at the ball. The V-Type displays neither of these attributes.
Turns: Ridden aggressively or ridden with more finesse, this ski turns very consistently and creates a lot of angle. The sweet spot at shorter line lengths is maybe smaller than some other skis but not by much. I am unsure about this as I did not have enough rides. I am not sure I found the right spot to stand on this ski – 10 rides is not enough. The next thing I was going to try was to ride the ski extra neutral – equal weight on both feet and much less total body movement.
At the time of my injury I was searching for the right stance for an even better On Side. I found that I had to be careful to not fall to the inside approaching On Side. I can only speculate why but the V-Type requires a skier to be more vigilant about keeping their inside shoulder up when approaching the ball.
I also noticed that when I brought the handle slightly forward all the way from the edge change to the apex the ski turned extremely well. I assume it was simply a matter of maintaining a little extra rope tension but I am not sure.
From the Ball to the Wakes: (I am guilty of saying this about most skis in the last year) The V-Type is best when the skier does not apply too much extra effort through the wakes. If you set your angle and just hold it you will have more than enough speed before the centerline. Past HO Skis like the A1 and A2 encouraged the skier to work harder. The V-Type is not that kind of HO.
The ski is fast and makes a lot of space in front of the ball. There are skis that may make more space but I am not sure if any ski makes more space and turns as well as the V-Type. As with most modern high end skis, the V-Type is not nearly as fast if the skier’s weight is back.
From the Wakes to the Ball: The V-Type is stable enough from the wakes to the ball to make the skier feel comfortable moving forward approaching the apex. Simply put the ski feels comfortable before the ball.
Conclusion: Based on the 10 rides I had, the V-Type is the best HO since the A1.
New for 2015 is the D3 Helix 2. The team at D3 took last year’s Helix and tweaked the bevels and rocker line to create a smoother turning and more consistent ski. With the right skier inputs, the H2 draws a very smooth path wide of the ball and back across to the other side.
The H2 comes with the R45 Rockerblock. D3’s Rockerblock technology allows the skier to change the rocker of the tail of the ski and turning radius by choosing one of three rocker specific fin blocks. Read more about the Rockerblock here.
Off Side: If there is one feature about the H2 that stands out, it is that the Off Side turn is extremely dependable and forgiving. You can move the fin and bindings almost anywhere without radically changing the Off Side turn. You can approach the apex in far less than perfect position and the ski just gets it done. The H2 is going to take a lot of angle at the exit of the Off Side turn - you can just depend on it. With the fin and bindings close to the stock settings, the turn is a smooth and controlled arc setting up the skier for a calm and controlled trip to the wakes.
On Side: Skiers with better than average rope control and who approach On Side turns with their center of mass forward will find that the H2 arcs around On Side smoothly and carries a lot of speed back to the inside. Skiers at shorter line lengths who let the handle out too fast or who ride the center or the back of the ski, may find that the ski arcs back to the center slower than they might prefer.
Ball to the wakes: The H2 generates exceptional angle from the finish of the turn to the wakes. As with many modern skis, the H2 performs better when the skier applies just enough strength from the ball to the wakes. If the skier works hard enough to hold the angle created at the ball and does not apply too much extra load, the ski will create more speed and will flow out wide on the other side of the course. Excess load may lead to frantic skiing.
Wakes to the ball: From the edge change to the ball the H2 is very comfortable. It is stable enough to allow the skier to correct from a previous mistake and get ready for the next turn. The H2 achieves width relatively easily but to follow an optimal path this ski requires more rope tension than some ultra -fast skis. A skier who maintains a little extra tension on the line outbound will find a very smooth path out to apex and then back to the inside.
Conclusion: Where so many high end skis can be finicky at Off Side and practically automatic at On Side, the H2 is the just the opposite. If you are a skier who yearns for an Off Side that just can’t go wrong, this may be the ski you have been waiting for.
The G5 is O’Brien’s flagship ski for their 50th anniversary in the water ski business. The green and black graphics pay tribute to the great O’Brien skis of the 60s and 70s. The difference is that the O’Brien skis from past decades were never nearly this fast or generated this much angle.
The G5 is best suited to a skier who approaches slalom skiing with more finesse than muscle. A skier who strives to exert less physical effort and rides the center of the ski will find an extremely fast and smooth ski. A skier who is used to getting around 6 balls with aggression and strength will find more angle and load then they can practically manage.
Off Side Turns:
Off Side turns on the G5 are almost guaranteed to result in massive amounts of angle. Tempered and calm skiing will result in a fast but smooth change in direction and a controllable amount of angle. Abrupt or aggressive moves by the skier to initiate the finish of turn will result in a radical change in direction.
On Side Turns:
On Side Turns are on the G5 as good as any ski tested to date. With the skier’s shoulders high off the water and at least moderate front foot pressure, the G5 seems to automatically backside the ball every time. More than any ski tested to date, the G5 gives the feeling of apexing early, arcing to the ball, and then finishing the turn early. The G5 makes it easy to carry considerable speed back to the center of the course.
As with Off Side turns, calm technical skiing is handsomely rewarded, and clumsy skiing is poorly tolerated. Back foot heavy or impatient On Side turns will result in a stall with the tip high. The ski will still acquire more than enough angle, but the skier will find the resulting rope load to be challenging.
From the wakes to the ball
The G5 is almost guaranteed to draw a path wide and early in front of the ball. Slalom skiing fundamentals, like controlling rope tension from the wakes to the ball, are the key to better skiing, but the G5 will get out wide and early even when those skills are poorly executed. The G5 is legitimately a very fast ski.
From the ball to the wakes
The G5 needs a skier who can take the angle achieved in the turn and then resist the temptation be overly aggressive to the wakes. If the skier simply maintains their stack, the G5 will create more than enough speed to get wide on the other side. For the skier who cannot resist the temptation to be overly aggressive, the G5 may create more than optimal load, which makes the skier vulnerable to mistakes at the next ball.
Over the course of the review period, I rode the G5 up to my personal all time practice PB numerous times. In addition, I ran passes near my limit that were as smooth as any I have ever run. On days where I was not well rested or not skiing my best, I found the G5 to be challenging.
For the technical skier who can regulate their aggression, the G5 is one of the best skis available today. For the skier guilty of depending on brute strength to run the course, the G5 may work at longer line lengths but will require an attitude change past 35 off.
In 2007, German brothers Matthias and Philipp Auer announced the Warp. The Auer brothers combined their love for waterskiing with their experience in aerospace and in motorsport engineering to create what may be the most groundbreaking ski of our time. Because of the ski’s high price, limited availability, minimal promotion, and obscure origins, it has remained on the fringe of the sport.
The shape of the Warp does not look radically different, but under close inspection, it is unique. Compared to most skis, the tail is slightly narrower, and the middle is slightly wider. The widest place on the ski is farther forward than most other skis. This is all accentuated by the fact that bindings are mounted farther back than other skis of the same size. You can read more about the shape here.
The Warp has the unusual combination of being extremely forgiving and extremely fast. If “fast” means that the ski gets wide and early without the skier using much physical strength or technical skill, then the Warp is one of the fastest skis on the market. Technically errors always lead to a lower score, but typical errors are less costly on the Warp than expected. Simply put, the Warp is easy to ride.
For off side turns, the Warp will turn with weight over the skier’s back foot, but it will turn better and better as the skier adds weight to their front foot. This is not unusual among the current high end skis. What is noteworthy is that the skier can push forward harder and with less finesse without getting in trouble.
If the skier keeps their shoulders high off the water and presses forward, the Warp will maintain substantial speed and arc back to the center smoothly. If the skier allows their shoulders to lean in toward the center of the course too early, the ski will roll over and make a very sudden hard turn. Either way, the ski almost always generates more than enough angle at the off side turn.
On side turns are similar to the off side turn because the Warp does best with weight forward, but it is forgiving to imperfect weight distribution. On Side turns are basically foolproof.
Ball to Wakes
One of the secrets to skiing consistently on the Warp is not using more strength than is necessary. If pushed, the ski may create more angle and load than can be effectively handled. A calm and relaxed skier, who works just hard enough to hold angle, will be wide and early to the next ball.
Wakes to Ball
The Warp becomes increasingly stable as the skier presses forward on the ski approaching the ball. The Warp consistently gets wide and early even if the skier makes moderate errors.
More than any ski ridden to date, the secret to a big score on the Warp is to do less of everything. This ski wants the skier to take angle but load the rope only as much as is necessary. For turns on both sides, this ski works best if the skier presses their front foot forward but does not push the ski to turn. The more the skier stays tall and gives the ski less input, the better the ski works.
Quirks & Notes
The Warp is truly a unique boutique product. Unlike mass produced skis, the Warp has some idiosyncrasies. The ski does not have inserts so DualLock or some other adhesive system is needed to mount bindings on it. The fin box is not my favorite but not the worst I have ever used. There are reports of cosmetic issues as well as skis that get water inside of them. These quirks are easily dealt with and are completely overshadowed by the ski’s performance.
The design was licensed to another manufacturer between between 2010 and 2012, but now, the Auer brothers have taken the Warp back under their control.
The bulk of this review is based on a Warp with the following flex numbers 82 105 130 150 (156). I also had the opportunity to try a Warp with slightly softer flex. I found the softer ski to be not as forgiving, but when I was technically at my very best, the softer ski was even better. The softer ski requires more finesse at the off side turn but generates even more angle and speed. If I had to chose, I would take the stiffer of the two skis.
During the 7 weeks of the Warp review, I skied equal to my previous personal best a number of times on both skis and increased my personal best score by one ball on the softer ski.
Settings as tested 28.5 / 6.8230 / 2.500 / 0.814 slot / 9 degrees