Chris Rossi has never won a pro tournament. But he's not worried — it's part of his plan to win them all.
He has the answers — and the questions. In our recent interview with Chris Rossi, who's coming off the best year of his pro career and aiming to win every tournament he enters, the 32-year-old skier did almost all the work for us. Like his competitors, we just got out of the way.
WaterSki: How's the early season going?
Chris Rossi: That's the perfect way to start this and I'll just roll with it and if you feel like I'm going sideways and you want to straighten out, just say, “OK, that's cool.” So I spend the winters in Alta, Utah. We had one of the most epic winters we've had since I've been snow skiing. I gotta be honest, thinking of water skiing wasn't even happening, and usually I am thinking about it every day by the beginning of March. The mountain was so good this year. People say…
Rossi: How does that work for you?
Rossi: You have to be able to step away on a day-to-day basis to re-evaluate where you are going with it. So unless I want to do the same thing every year and maybe get a quarter buoy better or stay the same, I release it all and don't even think about it. My mind is open to change. That's why people keep coming to me for coaching, because it's always changing. People ask me…
Rossi: How come I don't do an instructional DVD?
Rossi: Because it's all constantly evolving. It's always changing. The moment I make a DVD, five minutes later, I'd want to make a different one. What I was thinking about when I was coaching “new- school” slalom is what I'm thinking now; I just understand how to get there easier with so much less effort. I should probably sell the fact that I coach new school. Jamie [Beauchesne] and I, we don't coach “West Coast” and we don't coach “old school.” At Ski Tek [Rossi's Orlando ski school], in my circle of friends, we talk about not being in the box. As humans, we fall into this state of not wanting to change. So people ask…
Rossi: What are you doing differently this year to get that first big pro victory?
Rossi: To me, I'm reinventing myself every year, so I'm not doing anything different, yet I'm doing everything different. Every year I walk away for four months from water skiing to snow skiing. It's still there but you come back and look at yourself as a shell from the outside and don't get so caught up in your day-to-day deal.
WaterSki: So… what are you doing differently this year?
Rossi: I had the best year of my life last year. I came out of the box. I'm opening my mind to possibilities, like the biggest thing right now is how the boat's pull is always screaming down the lake, so why is it that the first thing we look for is the boat's pull? Last year I just started thinking about feeling the boat's pull and banking off that pull rather than pulling on that pull. This year I am looking at never getting that pull. So, fundamentally, now I feel like I'm 100 percent different than anybody who's ever skied. The most important thing is that concept would never have come to me had I not walked away. I feel bad for people who are skiing year-round, thinking they're getting better because they're actually practicing the wrong crap all the time.
WaterSki: How do you get feedback on your progress?
Rossi: I've never had a coach. Steve Schnitzer was technically my only true coach, and that was 1996 to '98. He really helped me to understand that I was a good enough skier to run more buoys than I was running. So your next question is…
Rossi: How do I figure this s*@t out?
Rossi: What you believe one year can change next year and the day you stop doing that, you stop becoming a better skier. If I can see it in my mind, it's possible to do it. People always tell me, “I'll never be able to run 38 off.” Then you can't, because you just put yourself in the box that says you can't. I can run 43 off. In my mind, I can run 43 off. The first time I ever tried it, I turned 1 and clipped 2. If I can do that the first time I tried it, give me a break, dude, I can run it! I mean…
Rossi: Why are all the pros stuck at 2 at 41?
Rossi: Because when we were young, 2 at 41 was, like, ridiculous. If you got there, you'd be psyched. Guess what? Everybody is there, and they're all psyched they're there and not doing anything to change it. But they do the exact same thing every day and expect a different result. I want to run the most buoys I can run in the most consistent way. I'm pretty sure my results last year stand out. I have no interest in winning a tournament then missing the cut the next weekend. Check out my performance — a second, a third, a fourth, every once in a while, a 12th. I think I only missed two cuts last year. The point is, my consistency is coming up. That's what I'm skiing for. My goal is to win every single tournament I ski. It's taking me longer, but I gotta go on my road. Some people look at me and say I'm weak because I haven't won. I don't care what anybody else thinks about what I'm doing, so…
Rossi: Who cares?
Chris Rossi is sponsored by Tigé, Radar, O'Neill and Performance Ski & Surf.