As I write this Gallagher is driving 80 mph from Orlando to Baca Raton. My back is a little sore, and my hands look like hamburger. Final edits were made from Key Largo hotel balcony - beer in hand.
We landed in Orlando at 6 am EST = 3 am PST. We went to the hotel for a few precious hours of sleep, and then I went off to ski with Adam Cord on Lake Hancock (Gallagher went to work – no surprise there). The north course at Hancock is crazy easy. I skied a ball or two more than normal. The other guy in the boat commented something about me rotating my shoulders too early on my gate.
After a real night’s sleep, I drove back out to the Hancock area and hung out with Drew Ross. It was not a surprise that Drew is a genuinely nice guy and fantastic coach. What I did not know is that his ski school lake is perhaps the most amazing ski site I have ever skied at: http://www.drewross.ws/. I reset my practice PB there and was almost not excited because it was too easy. Drew’s tip for me was to not close my shoulders out of off side.
Drew took a ride after me. The fact that he did not complain about my driving is further proof of what a super nice guy he is. I was amazed how really light on the line he was. He ran 32 off through 38 off and I hardly felt him from the boat. Crazy!
After we skied, we went to lunch and talked about skiing, about the industry and about his place at O’Brien (on the way to lunch, Drew noticed a 5 foot gator on his lake). Recently, Drew became the O’Brien Pro Team manager and has a lot of passion about moving the brand forward. I got to look at some of what he is working on including the new Jr. Elite skis and the Elite bindings. I am excited about the possibly of getting my nieces to try the Jr. Elite, and of course, I am foaming at the mouth to try the new bindings. They look super-duper cool, and I like the design from a safety perspective.
After lunch, I packed up and drove through Orlando’s notorious traffic to see Billy Susi and @The_Wilson_Bros http://www.thewilsonbros.com . On the way to their lake, I stopped to get Billy an 18 pack of Corona to increase the chance that I would be welcome back in the future. When I arrived, Billy and Brooks Wilson were hanging out talking, and KC was at home, two houses away, doing something with his hair. We hung out and talked about skiing and such until Brooks had to get ready to do a promotional video for Nautique.
The lake where the Wilsons and Billy ski is a relatively big natural lake that Billy claims is gator free (yea sure). It was a little windy, and I was feeling a little beat from jet lag so I did not shorten past 35. Billy skied after me and to my amazement, like Drew, he did not complain about my driving.
Driving skiers at this level is something I just never do at home. When Billy is back there, you know it. Sometimes, you can feel his load on the boat well past the edge change. That is cool. Billy is an amazing skier, but to my disappointment, he skied without the headband.
On Friday morning, I punched the address to Matt Rini’s Orange County Ski Club into the GPS in the rental car. I know the site was 10 – 15 miles away, but the GPS was trying to send me to New Jersey. An hour later, I arrived at the lake: http://www.mattrini.com. I showed up in time to see Canadian Slalom Titan Jason McClintock trick. I did not really know that Jason tricked until I saw it for myself. His handle pass is the most effortless 6,000 points I have ever seen. Flips look like slow motion and transitions between tricks are seamless.
Matt and I sat around for at least a half hour talking about BallOfSpray, Radar Skis and the skiing world in general. Finally, it was time to ski. It was a little windy, but I still managed to run a few balls better than my normal score. Matt gave me some very interesting advice, and the short version is: don’t close my shoulders on exit of off side and control my shoulders better off the second wake in both directions (are you seeing a pattern here?).
About this time, I was getting a ton of text messages about a tech error on BallOfSpray so I ran back to the hotel to fix it. Forty-five minutes later, I was on my way back out to Hancock to ski with Adam again. Aidan Willers (Nicole Arthur’s husband) happened to be around to drive. With luck, Aidan and Nicole will be able to announce a ski school in 2012.
Adam skied first. For some reason, he was trying to see how deep he could run his fin. I believe he found the limit or I was laughing too hard to tell. I skied next, and perhaps to pay me back for laughing, Adam shortened the rope one more time than I thought. I was super frustrated when I thought I was missing 35s even though it was a bit windy. I guess I was almost running 38s in the wind and chop. I wish I skied like this at home. I blocked it out, but I am sure Adam said something about my shoulders.
Being a ski geek and recent employee of O’Brien, Adam wanted to try my Connelly Prophecy. Because there was no wing on the ski, Adam went out at 34 mph with my exact settings and bindings. It is always fun watching other skiers ride my gear. This was no exception. Adam carved smooth off side turns but could not get a feel for on side and kept going 90 degrees with the whole ski in the water at the ball. I was laughing pretty hard as he worked his way down the line: 32, 35, 38, and then 5 at 39. Joking aside, that is pretty darn good skiing on ski he had never ridden, at a speed he does not ski at and straight up the rope. The BigDawgs should be pretty happy that Cord is way too young to ski 34.
After a nutritious and greasy Denny’s breakfast, Gallagher and I packed up, checked out of the hotel and headed west. The last thing I had to do in Orlando was to go visit Phil Hughes in Clermont. Phil is the British record holder for his division and a great guy to get a ride with. My hands were raw and I probably had too many tumblers of scotch on Friday night, but I still managed to ski at or above my normal ball count. I love skiing in Florida.
Phil’s lake is very short so he has an 8 ball course. When you pull out for the gates, you have to ignore a LOT of extra balls. Once you get your head around it, it is great. Phil does not run a formal ski school, but if you are in the area and want to catch a ride with a true baller, look up Phil.
The only thing that went wrong with the trip is I only took my camera out once for BallOfSpray.