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What I (may have) learned today about very short line

Than_BoganThan_Bogan Posts: 6,586 Mega Baller
edited July 2012 in Technique & Theory
Got a chance to ski with Jamie (Beauchesne) this morning. I learned all sorts of stuff, some of which I'm not sure I grasp yet. However, I think I *did* grasp one thing, and at the risk of totally butchering it, it seems worth trying to share. I can tell this tip worked because I went from barely outside 2 @ -38 to a solid 5 (which I shouldda run but I kinda ran outta power). 5 @ -38 is also my lifetime practice best for the month of July.

In a sentence, you need to allow the ski to follow the natural path of the handle.

This might sound like "how could you possibly NOT do that?" because you're holding the handle, right? But in fact there are all sorts of off-balance out-of-control paths that one can force through a slalom course.

And at -38 and in, as we've often discussed here, the geometry itself becomes a challenge. And those of us in the big "-35 is easy; -38 is impossible" crowd almost always find ourselves fighting with it, instead of working with it.

What NOT to do: In my case, I have been "trying" (not really intentionally) to hold as steep of an angle as I could through the wakes and beyond. But as early as the centerline, this steep angle is trying to ski away from where the handle must go (which is to swing up on the boat and toward the buoy). The handle, of course, will pull you onto "its" path, but now the ski must go away from the handle, and that famous "connection" is lost. Other bad things then cascade, including a tendency to "fall in" because the rope is pulling you off balance. In the end, this effort to go wider has actually resulted in feeling fast and narrow!

What TO do: Point the ski in the direction you are actually going to go, which in this case is quite a bit more toward the ball after crossing the centerline. Because you're not forcibly separating your ski from the handle, you can now do things like handle control, maintaining the connection, and riding the outbound arc -- all the buzzwords that result in the idea speed, width, and control.

It's sort of crazy how this results in doing much less work, feeling slower, and -- most unintuitively of all -- feeling wider at the buoy.

Important: I'm not talking about easing up -- if anything this lets you have a "pull" type feeling longer. But by skiing in the direction that the handle wants to swing, any effort you put in is productive, instead of just breaking your connection.

Interestingly, Jamie noted that his instinct is sometimes to jump onto the turning edge and ski *inside* of the handle's natural path. Obviously, that isn't what you want either -- you want to stay "at the end" of that handle, but not try to fight with its path.

Easier said than done, but as advanced techniques go, this one seemed relatively easy to pick up -- at least a little. As a starting point, he had me just try to point a touch more toward the ball starting at the centerline. And right away some things were better.

We also spent some time talking about staying "behind" the handle, but I don't think I can explain that yet. Maybe after practicing with it some.

Boy do I hope this makes one iota of sense!
Nathaniel Bogan -- GUT Padawan


  • RichRich Posts: 262 Solid Baller
    Good stuff, and I agree. All the top skiers do seem to stay behind the handle. As you go outbound off the 2nd wake I'm working on keeping my outside arm straight, however allow my body to move up on the ski.
    I do the same thing as I lean out for the gate, much easier to feel at the "0" ball than in the course.
  • Than_BoganThan_Bogan Posts: 6,586 Mega Baller
    Bah -- can't sleep. My tiny brain is working overtime to comprehend some of what I learned today.

    Getting smarter hurts...
    Nathaniel Bogan -- GUT Padawan
  • Razorskier1Razorskier1 Posts: 3,425 Mega Baller
    @Than Bogan -- I think that is a key difference in the feel between shortline and longer lines. At longer lines we all feel like we are going "out" to the buoy, and we kind of are, since we never climb up the side of the boat. At shorter lines, I believe we are not really going out, but "up". In order to get to the width we want, we need to climb up the side of the boat, following the handle. Some of my easier 38s have been where I generate good speed before the first wake, change to the inside edge quickly at the second wake, and then simply ride with the handle up the side of the boat on the inside edge of the ski. Sounds odd, but it works. I find myself wider, earlier, and slower than I would be had I tried to maintain "outbound" after the second wake. It is more like "upbound" at shortline.
    Jim Ross
  • DragoDrago Posts: 1,588 Mega Baller
    Not at all odd. Pulling long is bad. Speed is good. That's what you see with the pic of Seth. He is changing edges through the wake while maintaining pressure on the rope. Your mind, soul, and ski need to be dedicated to this.
    SR SL Judge & Driver (“a driver who is super late on the wheel and is out of sync”)
  • DanEDanE Posts: 902 Crazy Baller
    @Razorskier1 That may have been the best explanation I´ve ever seen regarding the difference between longer vs shorter line lenghts.
    Will definately think about this next time I try purple.
  • 6balls6balls Posts: 5,327 ★★★Triple Panda Award Recipient ★★★
    ...and if you pull too long at shortline you will ride up too high. Then you have XS speed and when you turn are turning directly at the side of the boat creating slack, an over-rotation, and then a hit from the boat. Pass over.
    Early edge change, ride the handle outbound until it does want to come up the boat, now separate for your extra width...wait too long and no swing, too early and come up course. The separation point is critical and where the timing of 38 comes into play.
    A number of us battling this regularly, hoping it falls with consistency for all soon. Let's keep sharing tips.
    Dave Ross--die cancer die
  • TriplettTriplett Posts: 209 Open or 55K Rated Skier
    All I have to say is, to get width at 39 and 41 you hold on to the handle forever.
    Brent Triplett - Michigan
  • sunvalleylawsunvalleylaw Posts: 1,259 Mega Baller
    Thanks again guys for sharing your thoughts. Though I am nowhere near where you guys are, you are giving me a lot to consider as I re-attack this thing.
  • GaryWilkinsonGaryWilkinson Posts: 342 Solid Baller
    This brings up an internal debate I've been having with myself for a while now. At longer line lengths, which I am currently due to a neck injury a few years ago, (28, 32off) I find myself pulling long and hard past the 2nd wake to get wide enuf for the buoy obviously resulting in slack line, cranking turn and severe hit from the boat.

    I, on a previous thread talked about where the water is on your ski and found I was further back than I should be so I'm working on that too. But the debate is in where to pull and for how long. When I ski at 34 with 32 off sometimes it feels like I use LESS pull on the handle because the ski is going faster and more out of the water, less drag etc. but where I'm skiing currently, 28 off at 32, it feels like I'm pulling like a crazy man to get to the buoy early enough for a less than crazy outta-control turn.

    The debate is whether to abandon 32 mph and longer lengths, or to practice always at 34 mph and just work technique at 22 and 28 off?
    The skiing technique is so different at the higher skier speeds caused by boat speed and shorter lines than slower (32 mph) and longer line lengths. Andy told me last year that the boat is weakest when you are at your widest point. True but if I think of the geometry, the boat is weakest or at least weaker, when you are widest at short line lengths (32 off and shorter) but at 28 and 22 you are not very "wide" in relation to the boat. Or as put above, not up to the side of the boat.

    I think that if I stop my pull/lean anywhere short of beyond the 2 nd wake. I'm not going to carry enuf speed to get the next buoy.

    So should I go for at 34 or "drag it out" at 32 trying to work technique that gets me to 34 , 28 . The skiing techniques seem so different!?
    I need to ski back to the handle obviously.
  • pjirsapjirsa Posts: 29
    What about slightly shorter lines? Would this apply? I typically have no trouble with -22 at 36mph. Then -28 feels like -43 for me. Guessing I must be giving up the handle early and losing my outbound direction.
  • ForrestGumpForrestGump Posts: 6,097
    @GaryWilkinson I use 32mph as a training tool. I think it's great and do not agree that the skiing technique is any different at the higher speeds. I can work on technique at 35 off, when I can't work on technique at 35 off at 34mph. I'm just holding on there and trying to get to the other end. It will teach you handle control, direction control, and course maintenance. If you are not feeling like you can keep the speed up, then you are not controlling the handle properly and the ski is getting behind you and bleeding off all of it's velocity. You are most likely letting the handle come away from the core early. I can stop pulling at the centerline and let the ski start it's transition and as long as I keep the handle in and my elbows to my ribcage, the boat continues to pull me outbound and I'm wide and early. When you get this at 32mph, 34mph suddenly becomes a LOT easier.
    Shane "Crash" Hill

  • GaryWilkinsonGaryWilkinson Posts: 342 Solid Baller
    @ShaneH. Shane can you help me understand better what "the ski getting behind" me would be? Behind me as in I've lost angle and cutting power behind the boat and my body is not in line anymore, possibly broken at the waist , standing up too much? (I'm a little water-logged today I guess)

    I need to ski back to the handle obviously.
  • ForrestGumpForrestGump Posts: 6,097
    edited July 2012
    Gary, a better way to phrase what I meant would be to say that if you don't control the handle correctly and let it get away from your core behind the boat or in the transition zone going outbound, the ski then falls behind the handle and either a)turns back down course or b)loses it's forward momentum. It can do both, also. This is a little bit different discussion than what Than started, but I feel in line with Than's original post on the ski following the natural path of the handle. You have a velocity component going in the direction the ski is point. The second the handle moves in front of the core mass, the ski's velocity and direction will change.
    Shane "Crash" Hill

  • Than_BoganThan_Bogan Posts: 6,586 Mega Baller
    edited July 2012
    So I tried to focus on this last night in my first practice session since Jamie overstuffed my brain with awesome information. Basically all I was doing was allowing the ski to point more toward the buoy after the centerline, but not altering my intensity. (Well, that's what I was TRYING to do anyhow.)

    Although at times I under- or overdid it, with predictably poor results, the overall impression was excellent. I got to 5 again at -38, and even after a few mistakes along the way. That is (again) the furthest I've ever gotten at this time of the season, and in a weird way I count it more because it was always in the back of my mind that Jamie's dad (the driver) was somehow helping me to make the instruction seem successful. Getting to 5 on my regular site with my regular driver is clearly comparable to previous results.

    So, bottom line, this works.

    My biggest problem right now is to trust it. Psychologically, I feel like I'm setting myself on a narrow path, which leads to all sorts of wrong instinctive reactions. When I truly believe that it's going to work, it works brilliantly. Hopefully it will become second nature after a while.

    I can even claim a sort of pseudo personal best last night. I gave -39 a try, mostly because my new understanding from Jamie tells me all of my previous attempts at -39 were done *completely* wrong. I had never previously managed to get the ski outside the 2 ball.

    In a word: Wow. I was so shocked by the slowness and control into and out of 1 that I kinda lost concentation, but nevertheless I rounded two with enough room to spare that I thought maybe I could get to 3, but I overturned a bit and was in the drink.

    It's gonna take some time to master even this little tidbit, and then I need to try to add in the related trailing arm pressure component, but this is cool stuff.

    Never before has -39 seemed like a pass I could ever run in my life. I'm not saying it is now, but the feeling of "clear impossibility" is gone.
    Nathaniel Bogan -- GUT Padawan
  • jimbrakejimbrake Posts: 1,347 Mega Baller
    Hey Than. Good update. Do you think if you saw video of you or Jamie from the boat skiing in this manner that your "taking less angle" would be readily visible? I'm betting it would not. Not saying this isn't a valid approach and I will give this thought a go myself tonight. I just have a feeling that this is mainly another way of saying to yourself any one of the following:

    1) be patient in the turn
    2) ski back to the handle
    3) close slowly (see #1 and #2)
    4) maintain speed through the turn

    I'm sure this feels very different and good, but I'm doubting that it's radically different in appearance from how you were skiing before this other than your skiing probably looks "smoother" now. I think Jamie is explaining one or all of the above four thoughts in a different way. I agree with all of it.

    "...all of the basic fun banter"
  • WBLskierWBLskier Posts: 469 Baller
    Any thoughts on how this applies at say 32 off and 35 off? I'm in the 32 is pretty consistent and 35 is 1 in 10 stage.
  • Than_BoganThan_Bogan Posts: 6,586 Mega Baller
    @jimbrake I think I disagree. I am not focusing on any of those 4 things, and -- at least to the way my brain works -- those are unrelated to the ski's direction and the resulting attempt to overpull and aim for an impossible path.

    But of course, all of these are ultimately related in some way, as each feeds into the next in a big cycle. So connect it with other things in your mind however makes sense to you!

    I don't know if you or I could see the difference, but I don't have much doubt that Jamie could. It was the very first thing he focused in on -- and when I changed it I immediately had better results. So he's clearly not making stuff up. In fact, he said for skiers around my level he initially doesn't even look at the skier, but at the SKI, because the most common mistakes relate to the ski's direction.

    And a trained eye should be able to tell if you are any of a) off balance, b) getting separated from the handle, or c) decelerating prematurely. Since this error causes all 3 of those, it might actually be pretty easy to spot with some practice?

    Had some video of me taken last night while I was trying to do this. It'll be interesting to see if I can see anything related to it now that I am looking for it. But I don't have that video in my possession yet.
    Nathaniel Bogan -- GUT Padawan
  • Than_BoganThan_Bogan Posts: 6,586 Mega Baller
    @WBLskier I initially thought this didn't even start to apply until -38, but Jamie told me I should practice it a little at all the line lengths to begin to train myself. I actually expected this to make -28 and -32 feel harder, but that wasn't the case. Of course, you have to do it slightly differently at those line lengths, because following the natural arc of the rope is not quite as abrupt a change in direction.

    The real surprise, however, was the way that trying to do this made -35 seem Crazy Easy. On one attempt I got so early at 1 that I choked and missed the handle completely on the re-grab, but the other 3 attempts on the evening felt like Mike had accidentally put on the green loop.

    So I'd say it does seem to apply at every line length, but the degree of it is different. And I also "worry" that it's not the most important thing for someone to think about when struggling at -35, because the idea doesn't really work unless you can build a lot of speed and angle off the buoy -- i.e. doing the right things before the centerline.

    But I'd say: TRY IT! And report back.
    Nathaniel Bogan -- GUT Padawan
  • matthewbrownmatthewbrown Posts: 462 Open or 55K Rated Skier
    edited July 2012
    @than having skied with Jamie and of course Marcus, this is a concept we have worked on for years...unfortunately, until Nate Smith came along we thought we were doing it correctly.....and also there is another component to this that you have not mentioned that plays a major role when discussing this technique, your body position on top of the ski. First, you have to be balanced, you can't have the ski out in front of you(on your back foot through the wakes making it impossible to stay behind the handle which is what Jamie was referring to) and you also can't have the ski too far behind you(leading with your shoulders through the wakes) and lastly, the shoulders need to be tangent to the load--These sound like givens but most of us struggle in this area, and if not done correctly the upper body will be closer to the boat than the hips which will not preserve the natural arc of the handle....

    Handle control in my opinion is bullshit

    I could be barely leaning through my gates and have great handle control but still ski inside one ball, or I could have all kinds of angle/speed through the gates and hold the handle in as tightly as possible and still ski inside one ball or at least be really narrow(pulling in with arms which keeps handle close, but also brings my upper body up out of the lean) shouldn't be called Handle Control, it should be called--"just make sure that your hips are closer to the boat than your shoulders for as long as possible" this preserves the natural arc of the handle. Watch Chad Scott or Rossi, they have mastered that particular technique
    @than of course as you stated before, things need to be done right in the first place! "the idea doesn't really work unless you can build a lot of speed and angle off the buoy -- i.e. doing the right things before the centerline"
  • Than_BoganThan_Bogan Posts: 6,586 Mega Baller
    edited July 2012
    @matthewbrown Thanks for the added insight; extremely interesting.

    I have a ton to learn here, so I'm initially trying to bite off the smallest possible piece of this that might actually do something. "Walk before you run" and all that. So far so good.

    I *think* I'm actually doing decently on a lot of the balance factors that you mention -- or more specifically I'm doing other things more wrong, so I don't think I'll be focusing on those elements in the near future. I do hope to come back to them, though.

    I see what you're saying about handle control, but I think it goes too far to call the concept bullshit. I fully agree that if you tell a beginning slalom skier to focus on the handle, it will totally screw them up. But a guy who is struggling to learn -35 or -38 is often doing enough other things right that focusing on keeping the handle with them longer and closer can be an easy mental cue to achieve some of what you're talking about.

    In my mind, last season's focus on handle control is what has brought me to the point where I can actually understand and begin to integrate some of what Jamie told me.

    For those of us who are mediocre athletes, we have to learn really small chunks at a time, so slightly trivializing a concept can be beneficial.

    A hard-core mathematician sees what most folks call multiplication as a trivial example of a far more general concept from group theory. But most people are gonna need to learn and master basic arithmetic long before they can hope to understand any group theory. Still, I'm a big believer in introducing the "bigger" concepts early, even though they may not be understood at first. I think the same can apply in slalom, so I was very happy that Jamie was telling me everything he knew, even though much of it went over my head -- FOR NOW.
    Nathaniel Bogan -- GUT Padawan
  • Than_BoganThan_Bogan Posts: 6,586 Mega Baller
    Oh also, what do you mean about Nate Smith? Not following that comment.
    Nathaniel Bogan -- GUT Padawan
  • matthewbrownmatthewbrown Posts: 462 Open or 55K Rated Skier
    I only called BS b/c keeping your handle close to your body "handle control" doesn't give you any real insight into the physics behind what your body is actually trying to do......Nate is the gold standard for riding the natural arc of the handle out, he is a 10 out of 10 in that category.....prior to watching him ski, some of us thought we were the gold standard but after watching him ski quickly figured out that we were just a bag of dirt clawds
  • matthewbrownmatthewbrown Posts: 462 Open or 55K Rated Skier
    In other words, you can't get the so called "handle control" by trying to control the handle, rather you get it by understanding and focusing on your body mechanics.
  • Than_BoganThan_Bogan Posts: 6,586 Mega Baller
    @matthewbrown Got it (I think). Thank you.

    I got confused because I was thinking you meant that Nate was doing something *different*, but you mean he was doing exactly what you were advocating, only better. Makes complete sense now.
    Nathaniel Bogan -- GUT Padawan
  • Than_BoganThan_Bogan Posts: 6,586 Mega Baller
    Btw, @matthewbrown and others, as soon as I have some video in my possession, I'll be posting it. This will be from my first attempt to use about 1% of what Jamie taught me, and I'll welcome all comments.

    However, I'm not quite sure when this video will get delivered to me.
    Nathaniel Bogan -- GUT Padawan
  • matthewbrownmatthewbrown Posts: 462 Open or 55K Rated Skier
    @than looking forward to seeing it!
  • Than_BoganThan_Bogan Posts: 6,586 Mega Baller
    Yeah, so am I! This'll be my first look at video of me in quite a while. I expect some contorted looks on my face and maybe some reflexive eye-closing when I am confronted with the grim reality! :)

    Still, 4.5 @ -38 is actually the best score I've ever run on tape, so this will certainly be a fair representation of where I currently am.

    And the silver lining of looking like crap is always the same: That means I can get better!!
    Nathaniel Bogan -- GUT Padawan
  • sunvalleylawsunvalleylaw Posts: 1,259 Mega Baller
    I'll look forward to the vid. I love this thread, and the other short line and advanced threads, but I have decided I am going to read them for what they are, and forget them for my skiing, and focus more on the position stuff in your article, Than. Once that is more dialed and once I can get some more time in a course and hopefully hold on to those fundamentals, then I can think about some of this other stuff. I guess that means completing 28 off and getting into shorter than 28 off regularly before that reallyhappens.
  • acmxacmx Posts: 239 Baller
    @matthewbrown, couldn't agree more. Yesterday, I gave 100% effort to keeping handle in and down thru edge change, I actually felt more narrow than usual. I was trying to fix a problem of my feet swinging thru edge change too fast causing my shoulders to come to the inside. Keeping the handle in didn't really help that at all. I taped the set so I know I was successfull at keeping the handle. So....the million dollar question for me is, what's a good technique to keep the shoulders away. And, what do you mean "staying behind the handle"? I'm at 34mph with a tourny PB of [email protected]
  • jimbrakejimbrake Posts: 1,347 Mega Baller
    @acmx - I like where you are going with this because I'm working on exactly the same thing and having a similar issue. I know when I keep a tight line through and beyond the edge change that 35 becomes very easy. Problem is that I have a difficult time feeling the tight line consistently and I know it has something to do with my position over the ski through the center line and the edge change, but I'm not sure exactly what it is that causes me to lose this tight line feeling. So I'm hoping Matt will respond with some wisdom on this.

    Another question I have is that if you "stay behind the handle", which to me equates to facing the edge of the ski that's not in the water (or being "open" to the boat), exactly when and how do you begin facing the other edge? It has to be a dynamic move through the edge change like a changing of lead shoulder. Would like to hear Matt's or Rich's or anyone else's thoughts on that.
    "...all of the basic fun banter"
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