The first step to improving your course run? Stay in the course. I know there are a lot of free-skiing disciples out there who will disagree with me, but in my opinion there is simply no substitute for the course. If you want to make your course skiing smoother, lengthen the line or slow the boat — don’t remove the indicators that let you know when you’ve made a mistake.
I personally prefer lengthening the rope to slowing the boat, because the speed decrease tends to upset my timing. In this drill, ski a set of back-to-backs — skiing two passes through the course without stopping or resting — at a longer line length than your toughest pass. Don’t take it easy, though. If your PB is 4 at 38, running back-to-back 28 offs isn’t likely to teach you a whole lot. Now, I realize that with a PB of 4 at 38 you may miss a few buoys at 32 off, but you’ll take away more from running half your buoys at 32 off than you will running all six at 28 off.
Slow It Down
While it’s not my preferred training technique, I have seen many skiers struggling to run 28 off who slow the boat down 1 mph, run the pass, then bump the speed back up and run the pass again. Sometimes we are physically and technically capable of running the next pass, but we aim for the wrong thing, like taking too much angle out of the ball or not loading enough off the second wake. Slowing the boat lets you recover from these mistakes, and often it is only after we recover from a mistake that our bodies realize what the mistake actually was.
Maintain Your Spray
Big spray is only good if you can maintain it. When there is a break in the spray, typically it is caused by an overturning of the ski, which requires the skier to soften the legs as the ski resets at less of an angle. This occurs so fast that to the skier it feels like they haven’t lost much ground at all, but the spray tells a different story. In this drill, try to ski as hard, fast and wide as you can without allowing a break in your spray. Aim to build continuous walls of water, with only your edge change creating a break in the spray. This will make each pass much more difficult and can be the source of much frustration, but learning to maintain a wall of water when you’re skiing harder than usual will make maintaining a nice, controlled rhythm through the course much easier when you’re skiing under normal circumstances.