by Trent Finlayson
Falling while water skiing is an inevitable part of the learning process, but learning to avoid the big falls is possibly the most important lesson of all. Whether you’re putting it all on the line in pursuit of buoys, flips or distance off the ramp, we have compiled our best set of guidelines to help you remain injury-free and on the water.
The Fall: Your tip catches the wake, causing you to tumble and flip over the front of your ski.
How To Avoid It: This is a particularly nasty crash. You may be traveling upwards of 70 mph as you cross the wakes, so you definitely do not want to fall here. Your chief concern as you come around the buoy should be to finish the turn in a solid position. Instead of cranking a turn as quickly as possible, think about remaining balanced over your ski, turning all the way back to your ideal leverage position. It may make your turns feel slower, but it will ensure you’re in a strong, stable position once you get behind the boat.
The Fall: You’re coming into the buoy with excessive speed, on a path that does not allow you to apex early. You hit the ball while fully extended, leaving your face, ribs, and most importantly, your ankles, at the mercy of the water.
How To Avoid It: This is a hard one to escape, and it’s the most common cause of season-ending ankle injuries. This crash happens when you’re late in the course and feel compelled to cut too hard back into the wake. This may cause you to lose your direction off the wake and reach the apex of your turn late. It’s important to control your line tension into the first wake, so you’re able to hold an aggressive edge and maintain your outward direction through the second wake. This will allow you to run a wider line, and reach the outside of the buoy even if you’re late.
The Fall: After coming into the turn feeling slightly faster than ideal, you commit to a hard turn causing your tail to pop violently out of the water.
How To Avoid It: This brand of fall can wreak particular havoc on your ankles, so avoiding this one is paramount to your longevity. This fall is the result of attempting to finish the turn on a tighter arc than you entered it. To avoid it, you need to continue on a path similar to the one you took into the turn. It may feel like you’re coming too far down-course, but the result will be a maintainable angle through the wakes.
The Fall: You touch down on a spinning air trick prematurely and catch an edge faster than you can blink.
How To Avoid It: This is usually caused by not advancing toward the boat far enough to complete the trick. The result can be a blown eardrum or worse. To ensure you have enough space to fully complete your rotation, you must commit to moving with the boat throughout the trick. If you’re spinning to the right, think about advancing your left hip toward the front right corner of the boat as you advance up and through the wake. Your left hand and left hip should come together as you leave the crest of the wake.
The Fall: You come up short on an invert, catching the tip of your ski and slamming into the water.
How To Avoid It: This is one fall that tends to shy people away from flips. It’s important to remember that the majority of problems occur well before the actual flipping motion begins. Think about keeping your handle low as you approach the wakes. This will prevent you from sliding out before you fully leave the crest of the wake. Additionally, you need to ensure you’re very progressive through your edge. Your speed and the load on the rope need to be greater at the bottom of the wake than they are at the initiation of your cut. This will allow you to release cleanly off the very top of the wake.
The Fall: As you come to the front of your TO wrap-in, you slowly but surely timber out the back.
How To Avoid It: While this particular fall may not lead to physical injury, it can lead to a vicious stripping of confidence, because this trick is often used as an important transitional maneuver. To keep your weight centered throughout the trick, it’s important to keep your hands low and directly in front of you throughout the entire rotation. It’s equally important you have tension on the rope as you come to the front. To keep the line, you’ll need to pull all the way through the trick. Think about leading the rotation with your rope-knee as opposed to your shoulders to keep from pre-turning with your upper body.
The Fall: As your skis touch the ramp’s slippery surface, they slide out, causing you to strike the ramp with your body.
How To Avoid It: As a beginner jumper, the last thing you want to do is hit the ramp with anything except your skis. It’s incredibly important to keep your handle low as you approach the ramp. From this position, your goal is to remain as still as possible as you hit the jump. Any movement of the handle alters your balance point, so keep it low and still as you leave the ramp and begin your flight.
The Fall: As you leave the ramp, you bank hard to the left. You manage to keep your skis beneath you, but you land violently on the tails.
How To Avoid It: This is a typical scenario for many jumpers, you may land a few of these, but the wear and tear of these landings will eventually catch up to you. To stay square through your flight, you must maintain your direction through the ramp. Make sure you aren’t loading the rope too early in your cut, which will make it hard to stay aggressive into the bottom of the ramp. Remain tall in your turn until your skis have completely finished the turn. From here, relax your arms to keep the rope’s pressure on your left shoulder until you have cleared the wakes, hit the ramp, and reached the top of your flight.
The Fall: You know the jump is ill-fated From the moment you hit the ramp. Your upper body compresses, and your right ski completely falls behind you. You have officially gone ‘out the front.’
How To Avoid It: There are numerous causes for a fall like this, but the most common is ‘pre-kicking’ the ramp. A ‘pre-kick’ occurs when you begin to stand up at the base of the ramp before you’ve actually made contact with its surface. As a result, you come out of your strong cutting position prematurely, leaving you briefly vulnerable at the worst imaginable time. This entire predicament arises when you begin your cut slightly too early. By reaching the ramp a fraction of a second earlier than intended, you’re forced to stop your cut. If you find yourself arriving too early to the ramp, you’ll have to absorb the ramp with your legs instead of exploding upward to get your lift.