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Beginner slalom skier looking for advice on line length and boat speed

xraydocxraydoc Posts: 10 New Baller
edited July 2019 in Technique & Theory
I decided last year to take up Slalom skiing at age 45 after a few tries behind a friends boat.

Loved it so much I went all in and bought a Radar Katana ski and a Malibu Response Txi. I can now consistently get up with a deep water start and can cut back and forth across the wake decently.

30 second video showing current skill level -

My goal is to learn proper form, mainly for freeskiing, but would eventually like to try and run a course.

I am seeking advice on what rope length and speed I should be practicing at as well as direction to any resources that would be helpful. Also wondering if I have the best ski for my current skill level. Right now I am skiing long line at 24 mph but feel like the wake with this setup is pretty big.

Also looking for advice on rope length and speed to ski my 9 year old (60 lbs) daughter who is currently skiing about like I do.


  • escmanazeescmanaze Posts: 890 ★★★Triple Panda Award Recipient ★★★
    If you're looking to get better at freeskiing then the direction to head will be toward a skinnier ski, and with a little more speed, and probably with a little shorter rope. You might even just shorten the rope right away as many folk who are in a position that they should know advise that skiing with 75 foot rope is really just learning bad habits.

    If I were in your shoes, I would shorten the rope immediately to 15 off and get a little feel for it to make sure I like it. Then I would speed the boat up to 26 or 28 and again get used to it and make sure you like it, then once you're at 26 or 28, you could switch skis just one step up the radar line to try out their union. From there you can just play with different rope lengths to see what you like and don't like. If you're at 28 mph, you may very well find a very friendly small wake right around 28 or 32 off.

    Then if you keep getting better and better you can keep progressing up in speeds and skinnier in skis (to a senate and then a vapor). At each speed, you can just play with rope lengths to find where you hit the softest wake freeskiing and/or what length gives you the feel that you like the most out on the turns.

    From there, if you ever do try a course, you'll have to take a few steps backwards in all of these steps as you first get into it. You'll have to go back to your fatter skis and your longer lines and your slower speeds just to be able to make it through. As you improve though, you will then work your way up the exact same chain of skinnier skis, faster speeds, and shorter ropes.

    As for your daughter, if she's 9 and already skiing like you in the video above, that's awesome!!! You have a future ripper on your hands!! What ski is she on? Got video? Here is my 10 year old son that just started slaloming a few weeks ago so I still have him down at 18 mph in the course or 20 mph when freeskiing.

    He's on a 63" freeride, but as he gets better and better, the progression will be just the same as mentioned above. Faster speeds, skinnier skis, and shorter ropes. It's important that the speeds and the ski widths coincide roughly. When freeskiing, the rope length doesn't matter as much if it matches. It just matters if you like it.
  • JetsetrJetsetr Posts: 476 ★★★Triple Panda Award Recipient ★★★
    The Katana is good up to about 32mph...
    Pick the boat sped up to 28/30mph or so and as suggested take 15 off the rope (down to 60 ft from the standard 75).

    You will see a noticeably flatter wake crossing which will make that a bit easier.

    When you work into the course I would slow down to 26 and start there. Form and technique become very important when running the will come...

    Most importantly HAVE FUN!!!
  • 2Valve2Valve Posts: 387 Crazy Baller
    get with folks on your lake that ski. I skiied for years and years and never progressed until I started skiing with the guys that "threw down big spray". That was 15 years ago and today I'm lucky to ski with the same guys, and a few of their wives.

  • Chef23Chef23 Posts: 6,066 Mega Baller
    I couldn't disagree more with @escmanaze on changing your ski. That Katana is great for where you are at right now and will help you improve.

    There are some papers on here about fundamental body position. I would find and try to read those. Seth Stisher has some videos on fundamentals including the whip drill which is really good for body position and working through the wakes.

    @2Valve is absolutely right if you can find some good skiers find them and introduce yourself and try to ski with them.

    I would definitely recommend getting coaching and going to a camp with your daughter would be awesome. When my kids were the age of your daughter we went to Coble's Ski School a bunch of times where there are kids the same age as your kids and they all had a blast.

    Time on water with some good coaching is the key.
    Mark Shaffer
  • xraydocxraydoc Posts: 10 New Baller
    @escmanaze - thanks for the feedback - We skied today at 15 off and it took a bit to get used to but starting to feel good.

    My daughter's ski is a Radar TRA.

    Here is a video of her current skill level -

    @2Valve - I will definitely try to connect with some other skiers and I am lucky to have a ski club\lake about 30 minutes from my house as well. Definitely plan to connect with them.

    @Cjef23 - I will check out the papers and videos.

    Any other good online resources\videos I should check out?
  • 2Valve2Valve Posts: 387 Crazy Baller
    Great video of your daughter skiing. Definitely try and sign up for ski school. Seth Stisher helped me the most.
  • escmanazeescmanaze Posts: 890 ★★★Triple Panda Award Recipient ★★★
    @xraydoc Look at that little girl go!!!! So awesome. As I understand it, a TRA is essentially kind of a mini-senate, so if she's already on that, you can probably go a long time before upgrading her to anything different. For her weight, that's already a pretty big ski, so I would hesitate before you start skiing her too fast on that thing. As far as rope length goes - again, with freeskiing, it's all personal preference anyway, so just let her try some other lengths if she wants or if she's happy, just let her keep skiing. As she gets bigger and heavier, eventually she will have to go faster just to keep that ski on top of the water, but likely, that progression will just happen naturally and organically as she will also simultaneously be getting better and wanting to go faster for that reason.

    Funny enough, I actually pretty much agree with @Chef23 as he disagrees with me. RIGHT NOW that Katana is totally fine, and probably even better than fine; optimal. I love this video of Horton really rallying a Katana.

    35 off at 30 mph sets a pretty darn high ceiling for that ski.

    Nevertheless, the point still stands, that there will come a certain day and a certain level of skiing where a union will suit you better. And then there will come a day beyond that where a senate will suit you better if you keep progressing, and potentially a day beyond that when a vapor might fit you best if you really get hardcore.
  • vtmechengvtmecheng Posts: 838 Crazy Baller
    Ski schools are worth it if you want to do more than have fun every now and then. Many skiers are quick to give advice from the boat but a good coach knows what to focus on.
  • ToddLToddL Posts: 2,859 Mega Baller
    @Than_Bogan I thought the same thing. I love seeing kids off to a great start.

    @xraydoc - Welcome!!! I just wanted to welcome you to this fun sport!!! Keep in mind skiers range from chill to intense and the responses to any question can follow that context, too.

    The speed and rope are not out of the norm for a beginner. However, I prefer to use -15 for rope length, 28 mph for adult men, and adjust speed to suit the skier and goals of the set (slowing down for first attempts at buoys).

    Speed wise, you want a speed that: fast enough that you can glide as you ski straight ahead without a ton of load on your body from the boat fast enough to support you so that you don't feel deep/dragging/sinking during the turns fast enough that the wakes are not too large and cause you to react to them slow enough that you feel in control and confident when crossing the wakes slow enough that you want to accelerate to cross the wakes

    Also be aware that ski size and skier weight both also effect how deep the ski rides across the water which can allow the above to be met at different speeds give those factors.

    With open water skiing, you typically have more room to experiment. So, get up, ski a little, motion to the boat to raise the speed up, ski some more, repeat. Keep track of the speed or have your observer indicate it back to you. Eventually, it will be too fast. Drop the speed down one or two steps and enjoy. Find that mid point speed where the above attributes are within reach.

    However... Right now, you want to focus on skiing taller. There have been some recent threads about "stacked" position, but standing and skiing taller is the primary focus for you. Go back an look at how your daughter moves across the wakes while maintaining a taller posture, and compare that to your own video. Now, you will understand @Than_Bogan and my initial comment above.

    -- The future of skiing depends upon welcoming novice skiers regardless of age to our sport.
  • BraceMakerBraceMaker Posts: 4,653 Mega Baller
    IMO I like to use 28' 26mph but that is just where the wakes are cherry for learning wake crossings. From there mini course, whips whatever till you have solid wake crossings then I like to go faster and then 15 off.

    If your boat is quiet at 28 they can hear you pretty good.
  • 2Valve2Valve Posts: 387 Crazy Baller
    I got some coaching from Nate Smith recently and he had me getting in the proper body position at my pre-turns. My previous approach was to come around the ball, then start to move my hips forward and get into a stacked position. AFTER the turn. Nate says this all takes time and you don't have enough, let alone while the boat is cranking you across the wakes.

    So it's something I started working on this weekend and wow, am I early to the balls now.

    No fin changes, working on technique.
  • xraydocxraydoc Posts: 10 New Baller
    Wanted to thank everyone for all the helpful advice!

    I have been practicing at 28' off @26mph and think I found the soft spot in the wake behind my Response TXi. Still struggling to keep a "taller" or "stacked" position coming over the wake but feeling some improvement with practice.

    Below is a video from this morning. I would welcome any feedback.

  • BraceMakerBraceMaker Posts: 4,653 Mega Baller
    Something that I think you will find fun - don't be scared of starting out wider. Instead of pulling out from the center of the wakes move to the outside of the boat froth and pull outwards from there. And don't worry about turning right away work on your glide then turn in
  • escmanazeescmanaze Posts: 890 ★★★Triple Panda Award Recipient ★★★
    To me it's fairly obvious that the #1 thing that would make your skiing better skiing is going across the wakes faster and in a more stacked position.

    However, if you've only been slaloming for a year, then that may very well not even be a realistic expectation. You might still be in the beginner mode of skiing where you just don't have the balance and stability on a ski to do something that sounds so crazy.

    So then my main reply would be "just keep skiing man". I totally understand that the wake is kind of a scary thing right now, and if you're not ready to hit it going 40 mph just yet, that's cool. Just keep skiing. Keep enjoying the skiing. Keep pushing yourself just a little harder each day to be a little less scared of the wake and to attack it a little more aggressively each time you go out. Soon enough you'll look up and feel so stable on your ski that you aren't 1 lick scared of the wake and you're attacking it with all the vengeance you've got. Then that's the point where you'll start really working on getting stacked up etc. so that you can get across it even faster than you previously could.

    Back in my day, before wakeboarding existed all we had was a ski and we hardly even knew what a course was cause we "was" just some country folk from Idaho Falls cowboy startin off the floating docks of Ririe reservoir because otherwise the 90 HP motor on the 16 foot tri-hull '76 Reinell might take 2 full to minutes to get us out of the water and up to speed. Yeah, back in those good ol days, you knew somebody was a good skier if they could dock start, throw a big spray, and then "jump the wake." Shoot man, I'm pretty sure that from ages 10-16 my number one goal in waterskiing was to jump the wake. Maybe that taught me some bad habits, but it also took a young timid skier who wasn't very stable and after thousands of wake crossings getting air across the whole thing, at least one thing was for sure - I wasn't scared of that stupid wake anymore. I knew that it couldn't throw anything at me that was make me going to crash because I had hit that dang thing so hard and so fast so many times that it just couldn't phase me anymore. So actually I believe that was a good first step. With the fear totally gone, now I could focus on proper body position etc. If you actually stack up properly, you are FLYING across the wakes. There is no room for even an ounce of fear or instability at that point.

    So really, I think that your next step could easily just be to just keep skiing and getting more and more comfortable and stable and less and less scared of the wake.
  • xraydocxraydoc Posts: 10 New Baller
    @BraceMaker I tried the glide thing you suggested. At first it felt unstable but after some practice I feel like it really helps me get my weight forward on the skin and initiate a nice turn.

    @escmanaze - you are dead on - still a bit scared of crossing the wake at speed and keep finding myself easing up after my turn . Every set I get a little more confident so hopefully with time I will be able to stay in the cut and attack it.

  • Kwoody51Kwoody51 Posts: 125 Baller
    Have nothing to offer on skiing outside of what’s been said. More skiing = more comfort and you’ll be attacking that wake in no time!

    What are you using for to capture videos? Looks pretty good!
  • xraydocxraydoc Posts: 10 New Baller
    I am using the Ski-doc tube style mount

    with their recommended Kodak playport zx5 camera that I picked up off ebay. It gets a nice stable image but resolution is not so great with the low light of sunrise and sunset.

    I also recently purchased this old school mount off of ebay to try with my DSLR. I'll let you know how it works once I get to play with it.
  • georgea0731georgea0731 Posts: 34 Baller
    First and foremost have fun and don't get "hurt". There are clips on here from Gordon Rathbun 12 drills of slalom, pull outs. I see you doing a lot of turning and I'd suggest you do pull outs, drift back (do not cross the wake) and pull out some more. I've skied 35+ years and your body position in the pull will get you across the wake. I still need to get my butt up and shoulders back on my weak side when crossing the wake. Some skiers and coaches forget what it's like skiing at this level.
  • BraceMakerBraceMaker Posts: 4,653 Mega Baller
    edited August 2019
    @georgea0731 A bit of a drill I like at that level is where you pull out wide eyes on the rope at the pylon and start to turn in towards the wakes but you wait until you see the rope crossing the rear corner of the hull to start your pull. It does a few things, but at this level the main one is to teach where the work zone is and isn't and to get into a good wake crossing position. Too often people try to learn by getting into a pull from really wide then letting off at the wakes.

  • BrennanKMNBrennanKMN Posts: 543 Crazy Baller
    Forget turning and do some wake crossing drills like @BraceMaker mentioned. If you can't cross the wake in a good, strong, confident position turning doesn't matter.

    Just cut back and forth concentrating on initiating the turn with your hips and letting your ski come under you. Once you get it right you'll rocket across the wake and feel crazy fast and out of control, but in reality you're much more stable and in control. Do that until it is second nature. Then you can start connecting the cuts.
  • quinnequinne Posts: 70 Baller
    edited August 2019
    @xraydoc I love that you've got the bug. And it looks like you have a combination of factors working in your favor to support it! You've got a boat driver, a boat with great wake, smooth water, a daughter to have fun and share your passion with you, and it seems you have the ability to get on the water frequently. Most importantly, you're having fun while working on progressing. You're set up for success!

    I would ski every day if I could but our place is 1.5 hours away and if I'm lucky enough to get there on Friday before sunset I have the joy of taking my 7 year old daughter out to ski but no one to pull me. It isn't until the next morning that I'm likely to have a fellow skier/driver along and then we're battling the wake boats and jet skis. My philosophy has become this... even on the choppiest water I am on a ski on a lake enjoying time with people I love!

    Keep us updated!
  • quinnequinne Posts: 70 Baller
    @xraydoc also subscribe to They email articles that are often pretty good. One of my favorite tips was when you're frustrated and can't seem to get anything right "just go back and forth back and forth".
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