Water-ski trick legend Cory Pickos now resides in Santa Rosa Beach, Florida, where he pretty much coaches year-round at his world-renowned ski school, Cory Pickos Water Ski and Wakeboard. He coaches the best of the best, including slalom world record holder and world overall champion Regina Jaquess, European slalom champion Daniel Odvarko and world overall champion Felipe Miranda. He is also there to coach anyone else who shows a passion for water skiing, and he strives to bring the best out of his students on the water. Pickos joined forces with Nautique at the beginning of the year, so students now have the opportunity to ski behind the 3-event record breaking machine known at the the Nautique 200. In a brief interview, Pickos lays some of his knowledge on the table.
What are the elements that make a great skier?
A lot of it is the natural talent. So much of it is the desire. It seems like everybody’s built a little bit to suit the event that they are in; it makes a big difference too. Some skiers just have that special quality of killer instinct and being able to handle and do so well under pressure — sometimes almost skiing better in tournaments then they actually do in practice. That helps with consistency so much — just to be mentally strong.
Can you work on becoming mentally strong?
Yes, I think you can work on that through confidence and consistency in practice. It just seems like some people mentally can just handle situations better than others. Everybody’s approach is a little bit different because everybody’s so different.
Regina and Nate Smith have been ahead of the pack especially in the 2013 season. What do they have that others don’t?
I know so much more about Regina than Nate. Regina has always from day one been so natural, so strong, and has such good timing and feeling. This sport suits her, or she suits slalom — she’s just so natural and technically sound. She has the power, strength, and she works so hard. She has the instincts to put it together in major events. She has so many components that go together that make her as good as she is.
I’ve skied with Nate a little bit. Not enough to really put a handle on why he’s doing so well; he’s consistently doing so well at such a high level and so young. It’s really pretty amazing.
What’s the best way to get back into the groove of skiing after the off-season?
I think, first of all, you can ski yourself into shape. You definitely don’t have to run down the line or get super intense. I think you can spend a couple of weeks running easier passes. Getting rhythm and timing. Then, depending on what time of the season you’re in, you can change that up.
******Do you think there’s an advantage to skiing in cold water?**
I really think it does help. I think you can get used to dealing with the speed. If you’re not skiing in super cold water all the time, you might not get that kind of practice, but yeah, I think it probably could do something.
What do you love about coaching, and how did you get started?
It was pretty natural for me. I enjoyed it right from the start because I had that love for the sport where I liked to do it, be around it and be around the athletes. It’s also great if someone does a really good gate or does something new or breaks a barrier, and that twinkle in the eye, that smile and the confidence they gain — you can see that on a daily basis. It’s also fun when you go with the top athletes and go to these major events. Maybe they’re top seed, and they go out and hit one out of the park — it can be a lot of fun. It can be quite a rush!
Are there major differences trainingwise between the three events: slalom, trick and jump?
I think you can definitely train a little bit less in jumping or wait till you’re a little older. I don’t think you need to start quite as young as you do in tricks. Tricks definitely take more time. This past year, Regina won the Worlds in overall, and she really tried to focus on two sets a day in tricks because her slalom and jump are so solid. Tricks in the past couple Worlds kind of let her down. We knew if we could bring her in and out of there with a great trick score then we’d be right in the middle of it. So each skier is going to have a better and worse event too. But I always try to prioritize your best event and then for your worst event. Sometimes, it just depends where you are. You might just have to spend more time with it.
How about your skiing?
I just ski for fun and for the exercise, and that’s great. I don’t foresee in doing any more tournaments.