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Tournament 101

swc5150swc5150 Posts: 2,516 ★★★Triple Panda Award Recipient ★★★
edited May 2012 in Rules/Politics/Issues
Could you guys give us potential tournament newbies a 101 on what to expect? You'll really have to dumb it down for us who've never attended one! Examples, what speeds/rope lengths do you start at? Are skiers seeded based on points / past performances? What are the age brackets? Can one just slalom ski, and skip trick and jump? What group do you need to be member of to compete, AWSA, or USA Waterski? Etc...
Scott Calderwood


  • boarditupboarditup Posts: 585 Crazy Baller
    I suggest you hook up with a local skier as a mentor for this process. USA WS and AWSA has so many convoluted rules that you will end up bald trying to understand it before you ski in your first tournament. Contact the organizer of the tournament you are considering skiing in and ask for a few names of people who could guide you. You will enjoy your first tournament that way.

    In general, you need to have a USA Waterski membership. Download the rule book so you know what division you are in, by age. Some tournaments also have an ability based division, so you are not skiing against a 39.5-off skier your first tournament. My state, MI, and Ohio have a great program. Your opening pass must be at least 16mph to count. Your opening pass should be one that you are confident it. Don't be disappointed if you fall on your first pass at the 1-ball. The stress and anxiety you will likely feel makes it tough until you get over the first pull.

    You can enter any discipline. Most tournaments are slalom-only. So, do what you want to do.

    One more time - get someone ahead of time to mentor you. You will have a much better time.

    If you go to the INT first, you will be in company with a lot of beginners. It is a great way to get going and they are set up to make a beginner feel welcome. AWSA events are more localized, so you have an established local culture that may be different from one event to another.

    Good luck and have fun. It is a great sport and there are a lot of skiers that will be very supportive of you. If in MI - contact me.
    Karl DeLooff - Powered by the wind
  • Than_BoganThan_Bogan Posts: 6,913 Mega Baller
    1) Expect to meet a lot of cool people and HAVE FUN!
    2) Expect to be unreasonably nervous, even though you "know" you don't really care what you run in your first tournament.
    3) Expect to help -- your first assignment won't require any special skill though.

    Start at something very easy for you, and make sure you've practiced that pass at home. In "Class C" AWSA tournaments, each age division has a minimum starting speed. If I recall correctly, Men II is 30 mph and Men III/IV/V are 28 mph, but they may have changed that. At my first tournament, I started at the minimum and ran a couple of passes -- and had a blast doing it!

    Don't forget that everyone started where you are. Most of us remember our first tournament pretty well. Definitely tell people it's your first tournament -- they won't assume that just because they don't recognize you.

    1) Bring your own handle (and of course ski, vest, gloves, etc.)
    2) Most tournaments don't seed much or at all, but they'll post the running order so you know when you'll be going.
    3) Age groupings don't matter a whole lot except for top speed. Men under 35, top speed is 36 mph. Most everybody else is 34 mph for top speed, although there are 32 mph divisions at the ends of the age ranges.
    4) Ski whatever events you want.
    5) You have to join USA Waterski, but can list your division as AWSA. (At least I think they still do it that way.)
    Nathaniel Bogan -- GUT Padawan
  • 94009400 Posts: 646 Crazy Baller
    That could be a long explanation, it might be easier if you told us how old you are and what you typically ski.
    Most tournaments are slalom only (I assume we're talking about AWSA tournaments, or are you talking about INT?)
    Seeding usually based on past performance, if you don't have past performance, you'll probably end up first in your division. A running order is generally posted on site in several places.
    Most skiers will have a general "target score" they're trying to achieve and will start somewhere around around 3 or 4 passes (speed increases or shortenings) prior to that "target score" they are shooting for. Most skiers I know are slalom only, but there are lots of trickers and jumpers as well.
    If you're going to ski USAwaterski tournaments, you have to be a usawaterski active member.
  • swc5150swc5150 Posts: 2,516 ★★★Triple Panda Award Recipient ★★★
    I'm 39, and have a PB of -35 @34mph. Now that is not in tournament conditions, with the added anxiety associated. I'm typically a deep -32 guy. After alpine ski racing for 20 years of my life, I always wanted to stay out of waterski competition, as I didn't want it to become work. Now that I'm older, I think it would be fun to have a little friendly competition, and hang out with other ballers, and learn from them. I don't have dellusional desires to run -41 someday, but wouldn't mind being pushed by others to improve either. I know we have a local tournament here in Chippewa Falls, WI, and MS's site isn't that far from me, so I think it would be fun to get involved.
    Scott Calderwood
  • lagdawglagdawg Posts: 44 Baller
    edited May 2012
    Being 39 you would be in the Men's 3 division. Men's 2 goes from 25-34, Men's 3 from 35-44 and Men's 4 from 45-52 The max speed is 34mph. In AWSA/USAWS tournaments the minimum speed is 15.5 for all divisions.

    How a tournament running order is constructed is up to the event organizer and I have seen many different ways to do it. Some seed within divisions, some seed everyone based on score, some do completely random order, some do some other sort of grouping based on drivers/judges/scorers needed. Typically the running order is posted before the event so you know when you will ski. The best way to figure this out is to contact the tournament director as each tournament could be different. -- Edited: The scores used to seed are typically pulled from the USA waterski ranking list which can be found at If you don't have have any scores you may be seeded as a zero score or the event organizer may ask you for your typical practice score and seed you that way.

    AWSA is a grouping within USAWS so you just need to be a member of USAWS and you would select AWSA as your discipline or sport group.

    As far as starting speed/line length I have seen it all over the board everything from 15.5 for W1 skiers on trick skis, 28off @ 30mph (for a M4 skier), 32off 34mph for a M2 skier going 36mph. Typical though is 15Off if less than max speed. If at max speed then whatever you are comfortable with. The idea is to select a line length and speed that you are comfortable running every time out no matter the conditions. I think most people tend to pick a line length that is 3-4 passes below their expected average score. So if you normally get into 32 you might start at 15off so that you would be skiing your 32 off as your 4th pass.

    The other thing I can suggest is that tournaments can become very boring if you are just waiting around for your next time to ski. In the mean time ask questions of the officials and other skiers, as how you can help and become involved. It helps pass the time while you are waiting between rounds.

  • ktm300ktm300 Posts: 432 Solid Baller
    Just about everyone you meet there will honestly wish you well and will be willing to bend over backwards to help you. Tell them it is your first tournament and let the boat driver know that as well. Skiers are superior human beings.

  • RichardDoaneRichardDoane Posts: 4,592 Mega Baller
    i recommend giving a hand on the starting dock, swapping handles/ropes, it's easy and helps you meet everyone, and totally agree with @ktm300 about what great people are involved with our sport
    BallOfSpray Pacific Northwest Vice President of Event Management, aka "Zappy"
  • The_MSThe_MS Posts: 6,160 Member of the BallOfSpray Hall Of Fame
    Come on over, we will set you up. Novice get min 4 passes at our event. We can explain it all.
    Shut up and ski
  • swc5150swc5150 Posts: 2,516 ★★★Triple Panda Award Recipient ★★★
    That sounds good, thanks...
    Scott Calderwood
  • RogerRoger Posts: 1,592 Mega Baller
    One thing that surprises a lot of first time tournament skiers is that the boat does not come back for you if you fall. You must swim in...
    Roger B. Clark - Okeeheelee skier. Senior driver, Senior Judge
  • 501Brandon501Brandon Posts: 144 Baller
    Roger is right It surprised me for a minute... Actually I was confused since all the other times I was left in the water like that was shortly after being rude/criticizing the driver (wife)...
    Brandon Atkinson
  • lakeaustinskierlakeaustinskier Posts: 380 Solid Baller
    Don't expect to ski your practice PB. My nerves kill me in tournaments and I've recently started participating simply to conquer my nerves. Maybe you'll not do as well as you'd hoped, however, lots of people will support your efforts. Tournaments can burn up an entire day sometimes. To pass the time throw yourself into helping at the tournament. Ask the Chief Judge for an application and start working on your Assistant Judge rating. They'll probably place you on the starting dock then move you to other areas. Good luck!
    Ted Thomson, Austin Texas, Aquaplex
  • jlittlejlittle Posts: 261 Baller
    edited May 2012
    When it comes time for your divison to ski you have more time than you think. Unless you're one of the first 3 off the dock in your division you have a little bit of time. This doesn't mean you shouldn't be ready because the people running the tourney will demand it but... if standing on the starting dock is going to turn you into a basket case before you ski, you can get your gear down there and ready, but you can stay away if you are down the list aways. 5 skiers is roughly a 1/2 hour if conditions are good and everyone is skiing their 3-4 passes. So, if your 8th off the dock out of 10 skiers in your divison, you have some time.
  • GAJ0004GAJ0004 Posts: 1,095 Baller
    Don't let your nerves get the better of you. I entered my first two tournaments in over a decade last year. I was able to run my average practice score [email protected] off 5 out of six rounds. Always start with a pass you know you can do in your sleep and keep going. It will help you get a feel for the boat, driver, and site. Borrowing from the movie Major League.. Give Jobu cigar and rum to take fear from skis...
    Gary Janzig Streetsboro Ohio, skis at Lake Latonka, Mercer Pennsylvania slalom,trick,kneeboard,barefoot
  • 6balls6balls Posts: 5,711 Mega Baller
    If running 32 off is a great pass for you...start at 15 and run it, then 22, then 28 and take your shot at 32 on your 4th pass. If you run it great take your poke at 35. If you have not run 15 in years and feel like you have a pretty legit chance at out the end gates at 32, start at 22 and then 28, 32 and take your poke at 35.

    Don't let anyone discussing wind direction get in your head at the starting dock about starting length based on wind etc...just go out and do what you do. Think of it not as a tourney but a chance to ski 3 rounds behind a nice boat, a great driver, on a perfect surveyed course in (hopefully) great conditions.

    Make yourself available to help out if you can...great way to meet great people.

    Dave Ross--die cancer die
  • swc5150swc5150 Posts: 2,516 ★★★Triple Panda Award Recipient ★★★
    Thanks for the heads up. That would've surprised me!

    You've all given great advice!

    Good call on the -15's! I should start practicing them before entering a tourny. Being that we're not currently using speed control, having gone from an '08 to a '91 boat, that will also be a disadvantage. But oh well, I just want to do it for fun and to meet fellow ballers. I played a concert in front of 22,000 people once, and took a shot of Jose to calm the nerves. I definitely won't be able to go that route skiing:)
    Scott Calderwood
  • jlittlejlittle Posts: 261 Baller
    Yeah, Pendleton might be a better choice.
  • lpskierlpskier Posts: 3,172 ★★★Triple Panda Award Recipient ★★★
    @Than forgot one important piece of advice: Don't forget to pick up your handle before you leave for home. And if you do, don't feel bad, we all have done it at least once.
    John Wilkins- Si non pro sanguine quem ludus ne. #iskiconnelly
    [Deleted User]
  • HortonHorton Posts: 30,608 Administrator
    It is like our first day of school. Just go get it out of the way. You will make new friends and then the next day will be not so stressfull.... Unless like @MS you choke when ever I am on site.

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  • swc5150swc5150 Posts: 2,516 ★★★Triple Panda Award Recipient ★★★
    Thanks all... I'm looking foward to getting involved.
    Scott Calderwood
  • Chef23Chef23 Posts: 6,066 Mega Baller
    @swc5150 I ski about the same as you and I start at 32 mph 22 off. I find I prefer that to 34/15. Good luck and have fun.
    Mark Shaffer
  • ralral Posts: 1,851 Mega Baller
    @chef23, you would not be able to start at that speed/line lenght in a IWSF tournament.
    Rodrigo Andai
    [Deleted User]
  • Chef23Chef23 Posts: 6,066 Mega Baller
    @ral in the US it is fairly common. From a credit perspective it is the same as running 32 mph long line. IWSF doesn't run long line do they?
    Mark Shaffer
  • ralral Posts: 1,851 Mega Baller
    Yes, they do. But you cannot run a speed slower than the max speed with a rope shorter than 18.25.
    Rodrigo Andai
    [Deleted User]
  • Mrs_MSMrs_MS Posts: 340 Crazy Baller
    Looking forward to meeting you.
    You will have fun.
    You will be hooked.
    We will pencil you in for next year:)
    I ski for fun, just the wife!
    [Deleted User]
  • swc5150swc5150 Posts: 2,516 ★★★Triple Panda Award Recipient ★★★
    I'm going to try to get over June 24th for the afternoon. I have a show that weekend, so I won't be able to compete, but I'd like to at least hang out for a few hours, and help out any way I can. Of course, I'll bring my ski just in case:)
    Scott Calderwood
  • ForrestGumpForrestGump Posts: 6,224
    @ral Where do you see that in the rules? I'm looking at the IWWF 2012 tounament rule book and I see nothing limiting your line length vs starting speed.
    Shane "Crash" Hill

  • ralral Posts: 1,851 Mega Baller
    @shaneH, rule 14.01.
    Rodrigo Andai
    [Deleted User]
  • MarcoMarco Posts: 1,430 Crazy Baller
    @swc5150- Dream big and go for it! My first tourney was in 07. Didn't know anyone there. Was hoping just to run my opener both rounds. 1st round went ok. Ran my opener (28), and ended up with 4 @ 35, which was a good practice score for me. My next round I scored 1.5 @ 38. That was after a re-ride at 32 from a goose in the course at 6 ball. Couldn't believe I tied my practice PB in my first ever tourney. Best part- I met a lot of great people. Worst part-its been all downhill from there:) (not really, just a few surgeries have gotten in the way:(
  • Texas6Texas6 Posts: 2,197
    @Marco, you opened at 28 in your first tourney ever? Wow, that's solid right there. I think I was 15 off at 32 in my first tourney. Fell at two ball in the first round because I was nervous. Ha
    Daryn Dean - Lakes of Katy, TX
    ***Robbed out of Hundreds of Panda Worthy Posts***
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