Addicted To Skiing - Waterski Video | Waterski Summer Camp

Addicted To Skiing

A Lifetime of Experience and Wisdom With Ski Paradise's, Gordon Rathbun



Spend a week, or even just a day, with Gordon Rathbun at his resort, Ski Paradise, in Acapulco, Mexico, and some wisdom — hard-won from 24 seasons of hosting visiting skiers and 35 years in the slalom course — is going to rub off on you. Rathbun constantly looks for ways to better the experiences he creates for the guests he houses, entertains and coaches week after week. The six-time U.S. national champion and former senior world champion lives and breathes water skiing, and has the stories to tell to prove it. WATERSKI paid him a visit this past winter, and we took notes for your benefit. Kick back and learn — and travel down memory lane with one of our favorite kings of the course.

“A DAY AT THE LAKE can certainly have its share of funny moments. One time a student asked me, ‘Is it your front foot that goes forward?’ Another gem from a guest: ‘What’s the elevation of Acapulco?’ Well, that would be sea level.”

“THERE REALLY ISN’T a huge difference between traditional slalom and west coast, or new-school, slalom. Ninety-nine percent of the masses would love to do either style, and they’d be totally satisfied.”

“MY PET PEEVE is when coaches tell skiers to edge through the wakes with their shoulders level. There isn’t one pro skier who crosses the wakes with their shoulders level. I think it’s important to have your shoulders relatively level at the buoys, but crossing the wakes, you’ll see the pros with their shoulders down about 20 to 40 degrees. Once a skier passes through the wakes, the shoulders naturally rise and become more level. I think it’s more important to have your arms extended and glued to your vest when you’re crossing the wakes.”

Kris LaPoint powers through the wakes at the lagoon.

“I AM PARTICULARLY PROUD of all the long-lasting friendships Ski Paradise has had a hand in making. When you go on a ski vacation, you don’t go based on meeting other people. You go because of the reputation, the quality of the skiing, coaching, food and accommodations. However, meeting other skiers from around the world is a big bonus.”

“MY LATEST METHOD of studying slalom is using any of the new digital cameras with a fairly large screen. Getting feedback between sets or even during your ride can be a big help. Lately, I’ve been studying left-foot-forward skier Seth Stisher, who has perfect form, in my opinion. I have digital prints of Seth at my ski site on my workbench. I show them to my guests and study them myself. I’m making progress on my gates because I’m copying the way Seth holds his head up on the gates. It works!”

“THE BETTER YOUR TECHNIQUE, the longer your body will last. My best slalom scores at 34 mph took place 10 years ago, when I was 52, but I think I could perfect my form a bit more and repeat those scores today.”

Acapulco Bay

“MY NUMBER ONE piece of health advice is to get eight hours of sleep each night. This is especially good when you’re sleeping next to someone you really love.”

“COACHING WITH PRECISE WORDS can accomplish magic with a skier, but I’ve realized over the years that people learn in many different ways. The more questions you ask your student, the more you discover the way they’re interpreting your instruction. One thing I know for sure — there’s no perfect coach.”

“YOU CAN SMOKE CIGARETTES, eat crappy food and ski well. But it’s not possible to have longevity in this sport if you don’t take care of yourself.”

“IT’S A BLAST TEACHING someone to ski. I think we have the best way to get rookies out of the water at Ski Paradise, and we don’t teach them on two skis. Ninety-nine out of 100 times, we get them right up on one with the help of a coach right next to them in the water. We call it the Mexican deepwater start.”

Stephanie Warren demonstrates the Mexican deepwater start with Coney.

“PLEASE DON’T HAVE THE IDEA that you’re not ready for a ski school, just because you’re a rookie skier. It’s a huge advantage to learn the right fundamentals from the start, and you can avoid the mistakes that longtime skiers continue to make.”

“ON JULY 4, 1997, I skied 49 tournament ski lakes to raise money for disabled skiers, the Junior Development Program and the U.S. water ski team. It was a Guinness World Record for the most lakes skied in a single day.”

Ski Paradise guest Anthony Warren cuts through the lagoon

“MEXICO, AND ESPECIALLY ACAPULCO, has a long history of water skiing. I have a friend here in Acapulco who was in the Acapulco Ski Show when he was 9 years old. He has a photo of President Eisenhower with his arm around him, calling him the best little skier in the world. Cypress Gardens skiers came to Acapulco to introduce water skiing to the celebrities and the masses. In turn, Acapulco skiers went to work for Cypress Gardens and became world champions. Acapulco native Alfredo Mendoza went on to win five world titles.”

“ON SOME OF MY ROAD TRIPS to Acapulco, I would stop off at the only man-made lake in Mexico, Aqua Ski in Tequesquitengo, and give lessons. One young skier I coached was Arturo Nelson, who now has a ski site and coaching business in Miami, Florida. Arturo was visiting me about 18 years ago in Acapulco, and one day I asked him, ‘Arturo, do you know of any beautiful, single, rich gals here in Mexico that like to water ski?’ Arturo thought for a moment and said, ‘Yes, I do.’ I said, ‘Let’s give her a call.’ About two minutes later, I was speaking with my future wife, Gabriela Ricaud.”

Ski Paradise hosts

“LEARN HOW TO STAND balanced on your ski with your back arched and your hips forward while skiing straight down the lake without cutting. This was drill No. 1 in my first instructional video, 12 Slalom Drills, and I believe it’s skiing’s most important fundamental. I’m proud to have reached many skiers through my instructional videos and personal coaching through the years.”

“WHEN EXPLAINING SLALOM SKIING to others, I often use the high jump or pole vault for a comparison. In those sports, the athlete can start at any height he or she wants, and the person that goes over the highest bar wins. In slalom, you can start at any speed and rope length you want (basically), and the skier who gets around the most buoys at the maximum allowed speed with the shortest rope is the winner. Courses are the same in China and Russia as they are in the United States. Skiers can compare themselves to other skiers around the world.”

Eric Kolb makes good use of Rathbun

“FOR 99 PERCENT OF SKIERS, a two-handed gate is all you need to worry about (or, for free skiers: a two-handed start). But if you’re a shortline skier, I certainly recommend experimenting with the one-handed gate, as some skiers like Marcus Brown and Thomas Degasperi do it well and love it. I think the fact that top skiers like Nate Smith and Will Asher use the two-handed gate is good enough evidence that either gate works, but using a particular gate is not necessary to ski well.”

Edited & Photos by Todd Ristorcelli