Analyze the techniques of the world’s best slalom skiers, and you’ll quickly realize the commonalities of their body position and movements on the water. The magic starts with their stance on the ski. Their head, hips, and feet are all in alignment, and if they stray from this position they’re quick to regain their balance. Let’s take a look at Nate Smith, Will Asher, Regina Jaquess, and Whitney McClintock from various tournaments throughout the year, and see what we can learn to fine-tune our technique and enjoy the swerve a little more.
A stacked body position from your very first cut is goal number one. Take a look at Nate Smith’s vertical alignment before he turns in for the gate at 32 off. He’s standing tall on the ski, and his head, hips, and feet are perfectly stacked. Imagine a line going right through his head, down the middle of his body and into his feet. Smith has the right combination of speed and width, and he’s ready to initiate the turn-in for the course early, and with minimal line tension.
Balanced and free from the pull of the boat, Nate’s ready to attack. The majority of 15-28 off skiers don’t get wide enough on their gate.
This photo of Regina Jaquess’ Masters course record pass of 3 at 39 1/2 off is another example of how the best skiers get into the course early with minimal load on the rope. She already has the ski turned and moving across course as the nose of the boat enters the gates.
Another example of Nate’s early turn-in for the gates. This was his 41 off pass at the MasterCraft Pro Water Ski Shoot Out in Calgary.
Moments before Nate releases the ski into the turn, his upper body is poised and relaxed, and he has a low anchor point with the handle. It’s important not to rush the next movement. Let the ski release outbound naturally while maintaining a still upper body. The closer your elbows are to your core during the edge change, the more width you’ll have before the buoy.
Nate skis one of the earliest lines you’ll see in a slalom course. He reaches the turn’s apex early and then directs his focus and energy in the desired direction of travel.
This is the ideal body position at the start of the edge change. Notice how well Nate keeps his elbows close to his body as the ski begins its arc off the second wake. This superior position is a result of a stacked and progressive pull out of the turn. If you go too hard too soon with your weight back, the boat will get the best of you during the edge change, and you’ll be pulled narrow into the buoy. Nine times out of ten, skiers are heavy on their back foot out of the turn.
One of Regina’s biggest assets in the course is her pulling position. Next time you cross the wake, remember this shot, and assume the position where you feel the strongest. You know it! Stand tall, hips up, low anchor point with the handle, and vertical head alignment.
Check out how still and balanced Nate’s upper-body remains as his ski advances into the turn. Most skiers at this point would have much more separation between their upper body and the handle. Once Nate’s ski lands in the white wash off the second wake, he slowly rises to stand tall on the ski with the majority of his weight on his front foot.
Will Asher rides the pendulum outbound into his toeside turn at this year’s Malibu Open in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Notice his level torso, low handle position, and exceptional balance on the ski. This is the point in the course where you want to be the strongest!
As the ski moves through the turn it’s important to maintain vertical alignment with your head. Drop your head to the inside of the turn and your balance will be compromised. This is Will’s 3 ball turn at 39 1/2 at the Malibu Open in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.
The more stacked and level you can be as the ski reaches the apex of the turn, the better you’ll be able to maintain your speed. A lot of skiers struggle with dropping their shoulder and head to the inside of the turn at this point, which sacrifices width and balance.
Will’s right on the money here! Increase your intensity and angle into the first wake in a balanced and progressive manner.
Whitney McClintock’s sweet toeside turn at this year’s Masters in Pine Mountain, Georgia. Notice her upright head position, and the way her hips are the driving force of the turn. It’s important not to rush this part of the turn. Just let the ski keep carving, and resist the urge to complete the turn with your upper body. Instead, think about letting your hips lead the way back to the handle.
Regina Jaquess’ text book alignment. Her head, hips, and feet are stacked and she’s letting the ski carve without forcing it. The majority of skiers have their hips behind their feet at this point. Try your best to keep everything in line.
Another great example of a stacked wake crossing. Regina’s shoulders are back, her arms are low and relaxed, and at this point she’s letting the boat create the momentum she’ll need to swing into the turn with perfect rhythm.
Keys for a good release: Still upper body, elbows close to your core, and instead of pushing the ski out in front of you, let it happen naturally.
One of the keys to a flowing, balanced turn is adequate speed off the second wake. If you feel vulnerable reaching to the boat with a full extension, analyze your approach from the previous turn. Are you building speed progressively into the first wake? Do you have a low anchor point with the handle? Are your elbows close to your body as you move off the second wake? Are you stacked?
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