When your offside turn just isn't cutting it, be honest. You usually try to tune the fin to get your ski to finish the turn on that troublesome side of the slalom course. When the fin adjustment doesn't work, your growing impatience forces you to manhandle the ski to get it to turn. When this occurs, the infamous offside blowout is inevitable. You'll end up in the drink faster than you can say, “Damn it, I give up!” So how can you get your ski to turn and accelerate across the course on your off side without blowing the tail of the ski out of the water? Please let me try to be of assistance.
Why It Happens
An offside blowout is akin to a skid turn on snow or losing control of a car in a curve. The basic reason it happens is because we fail to accelerate through the turn, thereby losing control of the ski. This can happen for two reasons:
1. If you allow the boat to pull you out of position through the edge change, or if you lose power through the wakes, you will lose valuable outbound direction. This causes excessive down-course speed and the ski never releases out from under you. When you approach the buoy in this fashion, the instinctual tendency is to force the turn to make up time by rotating the upper body and pushing the tail of the ski. The ski can't handle the extreme pressure change. The tail breaks free and you're on your face.
2. You stay on the cutting edge too long, creating the same fast, direct approach to the buoy. This fast and direct approach creates the same situation as above — a forced turn that puts undue force on the tail of the ski.
How to Avoid It
Keep your ski moving in the direction you want to go. To accomplish this, three important things must happen:
1. Keep your entire body and ski traveling outbound from the wakes to the apex of the turn. Any loss in outbound direction tends to give you uncontrollable speed coming into the turn, such that the instinctual move at the buoy is to rotate and reach for the handle.
2. Bring the inside hip forward in the approach to the apex of the turn. This will position the inside hip over the inside leading edge of the ski so your center of mass can move through the turn in the desired direction of travel. This inhibits the instinctual body response to rotate through the turn.
3. Maintain your countered position through the finish of the turn, trusting your stance over the inside edge of the ski will create a carving, accelerating turn. By doing this, you use the design of the ski to create a carving turn rather than forcing the ski to turn by weighting the tip and sliding the tail.
Seth Stisher is the co-owner of H2Osmosis Sports and head instructor of the H2Oz Training Center at Oz in Charleston, South Carolina. To ski with him at Oz, at your place or at a site near you, go to h2osmosis.com or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
For a carving offside turn, it's important to keep your ski and body moving outbound off the second wake while moving your inside hip forward over the inside leading edge of the ski.
Technical Buzzwords to Know
Do you struggle to decipher the technical mumbo jumbo of a slalom instructional? Use this quick lingo reference to explain away your uncertainty.
CENTER OF MASS: The concentration of the mass of one's body. This point is always affected by any addition of outside force on the body. Typically, you would consider this point located near or around the hips and core of your body.
LEADING INSIDE EDGE OF THE SKI: The edge of the ski from the toes of the front foot going forward on the side of the ski that is in the water (and also in the direction you want to go).
APEX OF THE TURN: This is the point in the turn where you complete your outbound travel (away from the centerline of the course) and begin your inbound travel (toward the opposite side of the course). It can often be called the peak of the turn.
Rather than sliding or forcing the tail of the ski to complete the turn, just maintain your countered position through the finish without rotating your upper body.
Helpful Fin Facts for Combating the Blowout
If you're consistently blowing your ski out of the water, there's a good chance your fin dimensions are out of whack. Fin adjustments can be very complex, so these tips are specifically relative to finding a fin balance for a great carving turn.
DEPTH: With too little fin depth, your ski will slide through the finish of the turn too easily, which decreases control. On the other hand, a fin that is too deep causes too much resistance and forces you to overcompensate and push the ski through the turn.
LENGTH: A longer fin will give the ski some carving ability, but it will also limit your outbound trajectory off the second wake. It is important to find the perfect balance where the ski is free to carry outbound direction off the second wake, but not so much that it will not initiate early enough to create a carving turn.
DISTANCE FROM THE TAIL: This adjustment is often thought of as only affecting the onside turn, but I think it has great affect on the finish of both turns. When the fin is farther forward you will finish the turn sooner, but with less holding power and less ability to maintain speed through the finish of the turn. If the fin is far enough back, you will be able to maintain speed through the finish of the turn. Find a happy medium.