How do you know when to turn in for your gates?
-When the bow hits the left-hand gate ball.
-When the bow light hits the right-hand gate.
-When the left-hand gate lines up with three ball.
-When the driver’s sunglasses line up with the Starbuck’s sign across the street.
The truth is, the exact moment you turn in for the gates will not look precisely the same from person to person, or even from pass to pass, for that matter. Relying heavily on a specific visual reference to time your turn in will be at the detriment of a possible great gate setup. Instead, start judging your gate timing a few hundred feet sooner.
Find consistency through constants
It is unlikely you will reach the exact same width on every gate pull out. As such, your angle in relation to the gates will vary slightly, altering your visuals. Your view of the pre-gate, however, is constant from pass to pass. By paying particular attention to where you are in relation to the pre-gate, you will be able to start your gate setup in precisely the same spot every time. This is where you should make your major timing decisions.
Your actual turn in is where you make small timing adjustments. Through consistent timing of your pullout you can begin to rely more on feel and less on a specific visual trigger for the turn in. Concentrate on making the duration and intensity of every pullout the same. This will ensure consistent speed, making the flow of each gate setup more predictable.
But really, what are you looking at?
OK, no matter how much attention you devote to the timing of your pullout, and no matter how in-tune you are with your speed and flow, you will need to look at something to ensure your are hitting your gate in the ideal location. Attempting to judge your turn by a single precise moment (when the bow of the boat hits the gates) will disrupt the flow of your entire setup. This start-stop-start approach to your gates will assuredly kill your forward speed. Conversely, you should attempt to ride your turn onto a favored path through the gates. As you begin your turn in, visualize the line you wish to take through the gates. Then, simply adjust the length of your turn to ride that ideal line.
Whether you use a one-handed gate or the traditional two, your pullout, not your turn in, should dictate your gate’s timing. Therefore, pay absolute attention to your location in regards to the pre-gates on every pullout. The result will be a faster, lighter, more consistent gate and a subsequent better line through your entire pass.
There are a few factors to keep in mind when deciding the timing of your pullout.
1. Speed – With each incremental speed increase you will start your pullout a few feet earlier. The timing adjustment will be the exact same for each speed increase.
2. Line length – With each line shortening you will need to adjust your pullout a few feet later (closer to the pre-gates).
3. Wind – Because your goal is a pullout consistent in both its intensity and duration, you will need to only adjust the location of your start. Remember, pull out earlier in a tail wind (wind at your back) and later or closer to the pre-gates when you are skiing into a head wind.