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
The original Nano One was a truly groundbreaking ski. It was not a particularly fast ski, and it was perhaps not the ski of choice when trying to ski as smooth as possible. What the original Nano One did was that it forgave the skier for committing otherwise unforgivable mistakes at the ball. Once the skier got to the apex of the turn, the Nano One was practically magic. The result was not the prettiest passes possible but scores beyond what was expected.
The Nano OneXT has the same shape as the original Nano One with changes to the rocker and to the bevels. The result of these seemingly small changes is a substantial change in speed and in smoothness, along with the effort required to get wide. With the right inputs, the XT can provide extremely smooth and flowing passes.
Off Side Turn & On Side Turns: The XT turns unusually symmetrically. On both sides, the ski works best when the skier is in a neutral stance and with understated movements. With refined technique, the ski will carve a tight fast arc at the ball line. Perhaps the most remarkable thing about this ski is how much water speed can be maintained through the turn. With more aggressive/impatient skiing, the ski will change direction quickly but will lose water speed resulting in hard, frantic skiing.
From the ball to the wakes: This ski creates the right amount of cross course speed when the skier is centered and does not create extra load. Additional load is simply unnecessary, and with this ski, leads to less consistent results on the other side of the centerline. The skier needs to set angle, maintain stack and trust the ski. No more & no less.
From the wakes to the ball: To get the most from the XT, the skier must keep his or her shoulders level and weight centered when approaching the ball. If the skier can resist the temptation to move forward or backward of center on the way out of the ball, the ski will arc out and back with an amazing lack of drama.
Conclusion: More than any other ski reviewed to date, the XT holds speed from the wakes to the ball and back to the wakes. The result is less effort spent accelerating and decelerating. The possible downside is that excess speed created in a moment of panic is harder to bleed off. In terms of set up and skiing technique, the XT is finicky, but if you give this ski exactly what it requires, it is fantastic.
I recently have had the honor of being sponsored by CAMARO. Joining a team that produces some of the most prestigious wetsuits on the market has been a huge honor. Before becoming part of the team, I had heard from others about the amazing quality and performance of these suits. This seemed unrealistic, taking into account how thin the wetsuit material is. However, when I finally got the opportunity to try them out for myself, I was awe-struck.
The Modetec Titanium wetsuits are among some of the products that I received from CAMARO. The first thing I noticed about this suit was how warm I stayed even after my initial jump into the water. A lot of wetsuits take a while to provide warmth because the water seeps in and then you have to wait for your body to heat it up. This is not the case with the Modetec. Wearing this suit is like armor against the cold water. Though the Modetec suits are tight fitting, they are by no means restricting. Like a second skin, they allow you to breathe. Not only are these wetsuits phenomenal at retaining heat while allowing flexibility, they also stand out in appearance. Because of the sleek, silver neoprene look, my Modetecs have been pegged as my "super" suits.
The Radar Vapor is the 4th completely new ski from Radar Skis since the company was founded by Herb O’Brien in 2007. The color and graphic design cues for the Vapor invoke the image of a Lamborghini super car, which after considerable thought I believe is misguided. The cars built by Lamborghini are known as overly aggressive machines with excessive horse power best driven by only the most skilled pilots. On the other hand the Vapor is one of the most refined and user friendly skis on the market.
The Vapor is an all new shape but the best elements of past Radars can be found in the ski. The consistency and speed of the Strada; the astounding on side turn of the RS-1; and the angle of the MPD can all be felt in the Vapor.
The widest spot of the Vapor’s silhouette is farther forward than previous Radar’s making it appear wider, but this is an illusion. The new shape results in additional support under foot as the skier approaches the ball. As a result the skier feels comfortable moving their weight forward as they approach the apex.
From the wake to the ball
If the Vapor had to be described by only one attribute, it would be that the ski consistently puts the skier on a path that is wide and early. Poor handle control or other unfortunate technique by the skier is inexplicably forgiven on the way to the ball line. Somehow the ski just gets the skier in front of the ball.
The Vapor is a fast ski but the path to the ball line does not feel stressful or frantic as it might be on ski whose stability had been compromised for speed. To the contrary, the Vapor offers ample stability affording the skier a feeling of calm that is generally only found in slower, deeper riding skis.
From the Ball to the Wake
The Vapor takes and holds a lot of angle from the ball to the wake. Should the skier do something silly at the ball, the Vapor can easily be repointed across the lake.
For a skier who applies ample front foot pressure before the apex of the turn, the Vapor carves an aggressive but controlled off side turn. The radius is short but not so fast as to put the skier out of position. In this mode, the skier will exit the ball with substantial water speed and angle. The Vapor’s off side turns are not only the key to a big score, they are also pure slalom fun.
At longer line lengths or at slower speeds, skiers will find that they can ski with a more neutral weight distribution and still benefit from most of this skis off side attributes.
The design of this ski (and the settings used for this review) requires that the skier not approach the ball with a combination of low roll angle* and insufficient front foot pressure followed by an attempt to drive forward and turn all at once. This will cause the ski to stall. In other words, to turn off side smoothly on the Vapor the skier needs to drive forward and arc in early. The dynamics of short line skiing are such that this behavior is only a problem when the skier is early and drawing a path parallel to the boat.
On side turns on the Vapor are incredibly dependable. The turn radius is tight and the rotation smooth. One way or another, the ski will exit the on side with buckets of angle. A wise and skilled skier will easily take substantial speed and angle back to the wakes. With less tact and more aggression, the Vapor can easily be made to turn very hard and point seemingly straight across the lake. It is pretty much idiot proof.
Provided that a skier is comfortable engaging the front of the ski early approaching the off side turn, the Vapor is perhaps the smoothest and most refined ski on the market today. It does not do anything particularly radical. It is not the fastest, nor the hardest turning, nor the most unforgiving or the most forgiving ski ever, but the Vapor simply makes it easy for the skier to link fast turns back and forth across the lake and around a great many balls.
This review is based on my experience skiing on a 67” Vapor with bindings at 29 15/16 and the fin set at 2.47 /6.885 (tips)/ 0.765 (head of caliper)/ wing 8 degrees. I also took a few rides with the fin set at 2.451/6.895./ .730. This second setting eliminated the need to be as technical at the off side, but then on side was not as automatic. If I was to ski on Vapor for another few months I would certainly explore these alternative settings further.
*Low roll angle = ski riding flatter in the water and less of edge
The HO A3 is the third generation of HO's "Angle" series. The original theme of the "A" skis emphasized angle over speed. The A3 breaks with this theme by generating substantial speed and angle. The result is the most aggressive slalom ski to ever come from HO. Skiers at all levels may find success on this ski, but those with an extra measure of technical skill will be rewarded with something more.
The A3 is one the best ski tested to date in terms of getting a few more balls after a major skier mistake. When the skier has thrown caution to the wind in pursuit of one or two more balls, the A3 does not disappoint.
The A3 delivers an explosive Off Side turn. More than most skis on the market today, the A3 requires that the skier move their weight forward of center early in the pre turn and that they keep their shoulders level. Skiers who can do this will find that the A3 initiates the arc back to the inside early and then finishes the turn quickly with amazing angle. Skiers who approach the off side with less front foot pressure will find the ski changes direction more abruptly.
On side turns on the A3 are not as distinct as the off side turns. Skiers who approach the on side with weight forward will find smooth and fast turns. Skiers who have ride farther back into on side will find a smooth but less radical on side turn.
From the wake to the ball
Through the edge change and out to the ball line, A3 is comfortable underfoot. The ski is stable enough to impart confidence and allow the skier to adjust their stance approaching the ball. Width is achieved without exceptional technique or effort.
Personally, I only run 38 off occasionally. I ran more 38s on the A3 than any other ski ever reviewed but I also found my skiing to be not as smooth and consistent as I would prefer. To ride this ski smoothly requires a calm and skilled skier. Once you reach your hardest pass, the A3 may be the ticket to the one or two that balls you usually can't reach.
For skiers working at less demanding passes the A3 is much more user friendly. I loaned the test A3 to a friend who had only run 28 off once in this life. He ran 28 his first ride on the A3. The aggressive nature of the A3 may give skiers at 15 to 28 off the kind of angle that is generally not experienced until 32 off or shorter.
The 2014 A3 is very sensitive ski in terms of fin and binding set up.
The metal flake in the red looks awesome in the sunlight.
The above photo is 6 ball at 38 off at Banana Lakes
The first two generations of the Connelly Prophecy were fun to ride and a joy to review because they were unique. The first generation ski was a challenging ski to master with radical tendencies. The second generation ski was substantially more user friendly but still not to the tastes of many shortline skiers. The 2013 ski is the third generation Prophecy, it is the best ski Connelly has produced in 20 years, and one of the very best skis I have ever reviewed.
The Prophecy flows from ball to ball on easy passes and then displays remarkable forgiveness for skier mistakes at the limit. There are some skis on the market today that feel great for easy passes, but do not deliver when things get hectic. There are also skis that feel awkward on easy passes, and then come to life when the skier nears their limit. The Connelly Prophecy feels good underfoot from your first pass to your last. This ski gives the skier everything they need to reset their expectations.
Many modern skis get additional stability by being wider. The Prophecy is a more traditional shape and archives stability by sitting deeper in the water. A byproduct of this stability is that the skis attitude, or tip height, is constant throughout the course.
Toe Side (Off Side) Turn
If there is one attribute that defines this ski, it is the way it turns the off side. When you reach apex and begin to move to the inside, the ski simply changes direction. With some skill and patience it will carve a smooth tight arc to the inside. If pushed, it will snap around at a remarkable rate. Either way will result in massive angle back to the wakes. Skiers who excel at keeping their shoulders level will be rewarded with addition angle and control.
The off side turn is fast and the angle is acute but the turn is not sliding or unstable. The Prophecy delivers a nearly foolproof off side turn.
Heel Side (On Side) Turn
The on side turns are somewhat rounder and more flowing than the off side turns and are still fast and the result is massive angle. The Prophecy can be made to turn on side without a lot of front foot pressure, but the ski tends to lose water speed if you do so. With at least moderate front foot pressure approaching the apex, the ski will flow back to the inside with ample water speed.
In a field of skis that all look and perform similar, the O'Brien Conquer stands out like Metallica at a jazz festival. The silhouette of the Conquer is made up of bold straight lines. The forebody is broad and straight. The tip is angular. The Conquer is blissfully different. The Conquer’s width and flat rocker equates to an unusually stable ski that produces crazy width and speed. Perhaps no other ski can get a skier from one side of the boat to the other as fast as the Conquer. The attitude of the ski is relatively flat and very consistent heading to the first wake. From the wakes to the ball, the Conquer gets wider and earlier in front of the ball than any other ski tested to date. The ski flows out and in front of the ball while maintaining extraordinary stability. The fact that the ski is so comfortable underfoot at this point allows the skier to be in better than normal position. Off Side turns on the Conquest are sharp and fast. The ski snaps around from wide as opposed to carving back. Sometimes the ski needs to be pushed a little to initiate the rotation and then it simply changes direction all at once. Pushing this ski too hard at Off Side will result in a radical turn and a frantic exit from the ball line.