Watch the top pro skiers and you'll see several different ways to run the entrance gates. But there are a few important techniques all top skiers have in common.
Even if you aren't a slalom course skier, you would be wise to pull out to the left of the tow boat and start your wake crossing just like the pros. By studying what the pros do you will improve your turns dramatically.
All the pros have nice posture on the ski during the pull-out to the side of the boat prior to the coast or glide. The body is erect, the hips are forward, and the handle is extended down the body and ends up on the upper thigh.
During the coast, you should stand tall on the ski with your weight on your front foot, not the back foot – which is what 95 percent of the skiing public does. The benefit of this stance is that more ski will be in the water as you turn for the entrance buoys and you will be able to carve a better turn.
The water should break near the front of the front binding as you start to lean in. This will let you get your ski out in front at the wakes, bouncing less and helping your edge change.
Not all pros do this, but I believe it helps most skiers if they reach a little toward the boat during the lean-in and show the top of the ski to the observer in the boat. This puts the ski on edge (with a lot of ski in the water). Note that if you are going too slowly here, you will feel like you're sinking.
As you approach the wakes, bring your arms in slowly and lock your down arm and elbow (right arm and elbow) to your vest. Your arms should be extended when you hit the first wake. Important: When you are bringing your arms in, you should have a slight elbow bend, not locked arms. This gets your elbow in to your vest sooner, and your arms in general will be closer to your vest in the leverage position.
The best skiers get the ski in front of them as a result of the above techniques. They will get a better edge change and carry the handle longer into the pre-turn. They don't have any work to do in the turns because they've already done the work. They just wait for the ski to come around, and they are off to another perfect slalom pass.
Gordon Rathbun has won six national slalom titles and is the current Men's 4 national champion. He owns Ski Paradise
Water Ski Vacations in Acapulco, Mexico, and gives lessons at his U.S. site near South Lake Tahoe. Call him at 408-730-9929.