Help! Advise needed for experienced slalom skier who suddenly can't get out of the water.

PHXBuffPHXBuff Posts: 2 New Baller
I've been slalom skiing for 30 years and it's as natural and second nature to me as walking. For the second time in two years, however, I've suddenly "forgotten" how to slalom start and cannot get out of the water to save my soul.

Two years ago, I took a nasty fall on a new slalom ski in open water. Afterward, I took a couple week break before skiing again. When I next tried, I was unable to slalom start, the handle flying out of my hands on every attempt. Over a two month period, I tried again and again, each time with the same discouraging end result. During that period, we invested in a new, "grippier" rope handle and Radar gloves in attempt to address the possible problem with equipment upgrades. These efforts didn't work either. Then one day, out of the blue, I made yet another attempt and popped right out and have been fine ever since. Until a week ago.

My skiing this summer has once again been without issue. I've skied anywhere from one to five times a week all summer, usually a couple of pulls at a time, with absolutely no trouble. I skied twice again last Thursday, then twice again Friday, getting out of the water easily on each of the four attempts spread over the two day period. On Saturday morning, it was as if it was two years ago all over again. Three separate attempts to get out, not one success. Two more attempts on Sunday failed. At this point, my forearms started to ache, so I elected to sit out for a few days to let them rest. I tried three times again Tuesday and four times this afternoon, all with the same discouraging result.

I have no idea what the issue is or how to address it and thought I'd post here to see if anyone else had (and conquered) a similar problem or has any suggestions as to how I can re-approach a slalom start in hopes of something kicking in and getting me out of the water again.

I sit here looking at a glassy smooth lake here in suburban Minneapolis and this is killing me. If anyone has any advise of any kind, it would be much appreciated.


  • lpskierlpskier Posts: 3,581 ★★★Triple Panda Award Recipient ★★★
    Sounds to me like maybe your shorts are filling up with water and acting like a big parachute. Try different shorts or maybe a wetsuit or something that fits tight on your legs and won’t fill up.
    John Wilkins- Si non pro sanguine quem ludus ne. #iskiconnelly
  • igkyaigkya Posts: 804 Crazy Baller
    Not sure what kind of boat (ski boat vs. runabout vs. HP) you're using but you may need to have the driver feather the throttle a bit. This will be easier on your back, arms and help overall in your starts. Also, if in double boots, make sure to squeeze your knees together as this can create a lot of drag if you don't.
  • JimboJimbo Posts: 24 Baller
    edited August 2018
    Not sure its actually the case here, nor can I claim to be any kind of expert, but as I read your story I immediately thought about the Yips in baseball: when a catcher can suddenly no longer do the most mundane task of throwing the ball back to the pitcher. I guess the newer terminology is "misplaced focus," but it sure sounds like the slalom equivalent of the yips. Lots of thoughts out there how to fix it but a lot of the thought seems to be that the underlying cause is focusing on the simple task in too much detail to the point that failure becomes inevitable. Some of the approaches are relaxation\letting the mind drift and so forth.

    Might be worth a google and a read on a few sites on yips to see if it fits your situation and if any of the approaches might help.
  • DangerBoyDangerBoy Posts: 464 Crazy Baller
    edited August 2018
    @PHXBuff I don't know if this will be helpful or not but it has helped me get a lot more consistent at deep water starts than I once was. I'm assuming you've got double boots and not a RTP and starting with one foot out.

    I ski on a HO Monza which is a fairly narrow ski and a bit harder to get up on than many of the wider skis they make today and this works well for me. What I do is just before the start, when the boat is trolling me at idle speed, I suck the knee of my front leg in as close to my chest as possible. The back leg is tucked in as much as possible too. I guess you could say I'm getting into the lowest crouch I can get into. Then all I focus on mentally is telling myself to push down as hard as I can with both legs after the boat starts to pull and tell the driver to hit it. As soon as I feel the boat start to pull my upper body forward, I push hard down with both legs (originally I was taught just to push down hard with the back leg) and this helps me to pop right up quite easily. I also don't have to pull as hard with my arms to get my shoulders out because my legs are doing most of the work.

    I think another thing to mention here is that starting is not just a physical/strength game, it's a mental game as well. It's kind of like golf in that way. When you think you can hit a good shot and know you won't mess up, you will hit a good shot. When you're a little bit psyched and not feeling confident, you're way more likely to hit the bad shot or in this case, not get out of the water. So maybe part of this is that it's gotten into your head so maybe what you need to do is what good golfers do which is be consistent in your routine before a start and focus only on doing that routine and block everything else out. That's part of why my method is working for me.

    Lastly, I will say this. I don't know what kind of ski you're on but if it's a narrower one like my HO Monza, they are more work and harder to get up on. My ski buddy just bought an '18 Radar Senate this year and I'd say it's about 3/4" or a little more wider underfoot than my Monza. That may not seem like a lot of difference but I tried his ski once this year and was absolutely amazed at how much easier that little bit of extra width made doing starts. It felt waaaay easier and maybe took half the work to get up on his ski than mine. Both his and my ski are the same length so it was just the extra width that made all the difference and it was remarkable how much difference it made. So if you continue to have these problems and are on a narrower ski, going to a wider one could be a the answer for you.
    I can take anything apart
  • Zoro957Zoro957 Posts: 66 Baller
    I agree with lpskier about the shorts. I had a new pair a couple of weeks ago and even the driver could feel the extra pull to get me up! Needless to say those shirts are now for swimming only
  • Chef23Chef23 Posts: 6,066 Mega Baller
    What are wearing for a vest? If it isn’t a USCGA vest wear one until you find your rhythm again.
    Mark Shaffer
  • BraceMakerBraceMaker Posts: 5,032 Mega Baller
    Driver situation?

    Ive had family with that issue. They get in their own head pull after pull. The driver gets anxious more pull less pull. Wait or throttle it. Etc etc.

    Sometimes its best to get pulls with more people. Then the next thing is someone to watch. Hard to give deep water start tips to someone with out watching. My usual go to is to stop letting people in your catagory say hit it. Instead you sit and I decide based on how you look.
  • B_SB_S Posts: 300 Crazy Baller
    I was going to say the same thing @Chef23 said. If you're using a tournament style, non USCGA vest, switch back to a USCGA vest. Last year, after going probably close to 30 years without missing a deep water start, I missed a few over a couple week period. I had been using an Eagle, which had worked ok for most of the summer, but then I got a new ski, and the combination of the 2 gave me fits! I finally swallowed my pride (instead of water) and went back to my old vest with better flotation, and I haven't missed a start since.
  • vernonreevevernonreeve Posts: 94 Baller
    I've found that it's best for me to keep me legs slightly extended. Then when the boat starts, I absorb the pull with my legs by letting my legs get compressed slightly and very briefly, then push back with both feet away from the boat and stand up. Not the norm, but it's been working great for me. Barely get my face wet. I'm 6'2, 205lbs and have long legs compared to my body and ski on a 69" 2018 Graphite Radar Senate. Just ran 34mph, 15off a few weeks ago for the 1st time. This new Senate is a huge improvement over the 2016 Alloy Senate I was on previously. Easier deep water starts and faster.
  • scorban2scorban2 Posts: 107 Baller
    The shorts may not be a silver bullet but they sure will help. I've got some cheap ones from Walmart that are the 4 way stretch fabric, and I'll never go back!
  • scorban2scorban2 Posts: 107 Baller
    The shorts may not be a silver bullet but they sure will help. I've got some cheap ones from Walmart that are the 4 way stretch fabric, and I'll never go back!
  • gregygregy Posts: 2,590 Mega Baller
    Thumbs up for 4 way stretch board shorts. Made a big difference for me. Knees bent, arms straight. Knees pretty much against your chest at start. Have driver ease into pull and not hammer it. Make sure the ski is not too small.
  • OldboyIIOldboyII Posts: 710 Crazy Baller
    edited August 2018
    Hmm never considered a "parachute effect" could be comparable/noticeable to forces during water start.
    Nevertheless, I have old-schools shorts made of really tough waterproof fabrics. Will give them a try today - just out of curiosity. Will report later ))

    Did two sets
    - first (just to make experiment as clean as possible) in swimming jammers.
    - second in the above mentioned shorts of heavy nylon fabrics (water hardly goes through).
    Did not notice any difference in resistance - I am sensitive for it because my hands are not very strong.
    But noticed another effect of that shorts - they make water streams (or water channels) inside itself.
    If knees are not close - water hits... guess where ))
    If knees are tight together - water goes up through belt area under back of the west, then when Im up, water goes out from the west ... strange feeling...
    May be there could be some "parachute effect", but in fact this effect is a function of square which is resisting to movement. The little square added by shots is less than a fraction of percent comparing to sum of squares of ski, lower body, upper body, hands etc. - may be noticed only on psychological level.... IMO
  • SivotaSivota Posts: 140 Baller
    If you can, ditch the shorts and use a short wetsuit/wetsuit shorts [RipCurl ones have a neoprene edge at the bottom of the legs which is great for not taking on water!].
    As @vernonreeve suggests use a slightly wider ski, really buoyant vest, straight arms and keep the handle low [on the ski] until you are up. Good luck, we are all cheering for you.
  • JmoskiJmoski Posts: 427 Crazy Baller
    If the handle is getting pulled out of your hands, that tells me your too far back on the ski and fighting the boat.

    Assuming you have both feet in the bindings, just as the boat goes pull your rear foot up under your butt and push forward with the front foot just enough to keep the ski at a 30 degree angle to the surface.

    Keep your butt down and just hold that position until the ski planes.
  • lpskierlpskier Posts: 3,581 ★★★Triple Panda Award Recipient ★★★
    @PHXBuff So what did you try and what did it didn’t work?
    John Wilkins- Si non pro sanguine quem ludus ne. #iskiconnelly
  • j2nhj2nh Posts: 63 Baller
    I am in the camp that says see if you can find a flat bottom wide ski or something like a Connelly Big Daddy and try with that. A large surface area will make the pull easier and allow you to concentrate on your form.

    Don't beat yourself up. We all have slumps, this will pass.
  • PHXBuffPHXBuff Posts: 2 New Baller
    Hey everybody. Sorry for the delay in getting back here. We've had company in town the last couple of weeks and I haven't had the chance to post.

    First, thanks to everyone here who took the time to reply. Really appreciate the ideas and thoughtful suggestions.

    Second, I wanted to report what's transpired since I left the original post a couple of weeks ago. As it turns out, I have a buddy downlake who happens to have spent time show/performance skiing and has a 7-year old daughter who's already slaloming. He happened by one night as we were sitting on the dock and offered to help.

    The next day, we took his boat out and he gave me a couple important pointers. First, look at the horizon or back of the boat, not at the ski. Second, hold and keep the rope low to my feet and lastly, make sure my weight was evenly balanced between the front and back of the ski.

    On my first attempt, fail. Second time, got up. Third time, fail. I was ready to stop after the third fail because, as someone mentioned here, I felt strongly that my core issue was being "in my head" and thought if i failed again, I'd be done. He insisted that I end on a high note, so I tried a fourth time but I adjusted my grip which is normally both palms down to left down, right up. In addition, he shared one other trick which was to tilt my ski slightly to the right. Once I was ready to go, he'd also slightly steer the boat to the right, presumably using the wake somehow to help my exit out of the water. And Bingo.

    I've been three times since and have successfully got out on the first time, each time. I think it's premature to say I've figured this out because I'm essentially re-learning my exit from the water. Historically, I'd say I've been very compact and come out as a "ball", then stand up once the ski planed. This new way feels much more like the ski and my lower body is coming out first and my upper body just follows. Very strange, but new so something I feel I need to perfect before I can say I've got this behind me.

    I'll be doing more skiing through the month and will let you know how I do if y'all would like. This has been the strangest thing and, should I return to poor form, won't hesitate to incorporate any and/or all of the other suggestions regarding change of equipment, suit, etc. offered up here.

    Really can't thank y'all enough for your feedback. Hopefully I'm back on track again and can spend another good month or so getting some good skiing in before I hang it up the end of September.
  • OldSkoolSkierOldSkoolSkier Posts: 5 Baller
    I was wondering why no one asked what foot forward and which side of the ski your rope was on. If you’re left foot forward like me, the rope needs to be on the right edge of the ski and if you are right foot forward put the rope on the left side. I can’t get up if I reverse these or at least it’s almost impossible.

    If the rope is correct and that’s not the problem then you probably are not getting the ski moving forward and rising before you push with your legs. Push with your legs and the ski is to perpendicular to the surface.
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