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Rubber Bindings v. Hardshells (including all non-rubber boot setups)

jimbrakejimbrake Posts: 1,283 Mega Baller
I know this is a tired topic, but I would like to get feedback on a specific question related to rubber v. hardshells, which is: who out there that has spent a lot of time on rubber bindings (Wileys, D3s, other) and skied well on them (into 38 and beyond), then switched to hardshells and really experienced a marked improvement in their performance (like you actually gained a few buoys or got very consistent at a difficult pass that you only ran occasionally previously).

By all rights I should be a hardshell user - I come from a ski racing background and I love buckling into stiff plastic, but every time I've tried them on my slalom they've made my ski feel sluggish, short, too deep in the water, and were generally too much of a change for me to stick with. I ski with a lot of edge in the water, even on my onside, as I'm trained to always be driving forward on skis. This is to my detriment and I'm working to change this, but I think it's the main reason I struggle with hardshells. I really want to be one of the cool guys with a Reflex front at least, but I just haven't been able to make it work.

Also, I think the safety factor in rubber is pretty darn good and I hate the idea of pre-releasing from my ski (in fairness though I did really jack my front ankle pretty good in a fall in rubber one time, so not totally safe).

So, if you were already good in rubber, was it really worth the switch to hardshells performance-wise?
"...all of the basic fun banter"


  • jipster43jipster43 Posts: 1,423 Crazy Baller
    I'm a hack, but my Radar's release at least as well as rubber and keep my feet comfy and warm in the cold Montana spring/fall water. Friends who have recently switched from rubber to Stradas have found it an easy and positive change. I don't know if Stradas are considered a true hardshell though.
  • KcSwerverKcSwerver Posts: 389 Baller
    I'm on reflex right now. My initial change to hard shells was from Connelly high wrap, RTP to double powershells and the change over was tough, but you have to stick with it if it is something you want to do. Now I am on a reflex front and RTP and I love it. I find that it gives me a better feel for what the ski is doing. And I feel like I am skiing better, partly because of the edge control and because of the increased sense of safety it gives me. (Sorry I'm not in your preferred skill level, but I am a huge advocate for hardshells)
  • The_MSThe_MS Posts: 5,213 Mega Baller
    I have been on Wileys or Approaches since day one and have tried Stradas, Goodes, Reflex and FM. I should like them due to Hockey and roller blades but I cant get them to work.
    Chuck Norris is tied to his ski with a shoe string and Nate uses rubber bindings.
    Shut up and ski
  • jimbrakejimbrake Posts: 1,283 Mega Baller
    Thanks, all. Yeah, I think I'm fine in my D3 Leverages.
    "...all of the basic fun banter"
  • kreipekreipe Posts: 17 Baller
    I am WAY underneath your target skill set but thought I'd add to benefit those at lower level with my input.

    I've struggled to find soft shells that let my back heel ride about an inch high - my anatomical defect (back leg .5in shorter). Was most recently on Connoly's - but they didn't seem to last as long for me with way I let heel raise.

    This spring I switched to EXO Form's. Took me a LONG time to get back to my previous skiing level - but control is incredibly better to my mind. I even took Form's off couple of weekends ago and put old bindings back on- difference felt tangible to me even at my lower skiing level. Aside from the additional control, the bindings are so much more comfortable and warmer.

    I think many skiers on this forum have commented that most bindings will not reliably release in an OTF. So not sure if that should be a criteria - although would sure be nice.

    By the way, on the Forms I went with low ankle on back, thinking that would help heal rise issues with back foot. This last weekend I crashed and back foot simply slid out - exactly what I didn't want to happen. I've yet to crash hard enough to get binding bar to release - would like to hear if anyone has experience with that.

    At my level, it was not worth the switch.
  • jimbrakejimbrake Posts: 1,283 Mega Baller
    thanks @kreipe
    "...all of the basic fun banter"
  • DeanoskiDeanoski Posts: 824 Crazy Baller
    Jim I also come from a snow skiing racing back ground, I love my reflex front loose willy rear I have been on them for 5 yrs now, the reflex boot the classic works great if you cut the boots in the right places. the new white cuff has all the cuts already done. but I like the blk cuff it fits my leg better. I can run my fb as tight as I want and then set My release where I want it to come out. I ski at a 7 DIN on the 404 heel. It took me 4-5 sets to get use to the stiffer boot was on double Animals before that for 10 plus yrs.

    The first few times out I just free skied to get use to the feel now I would not ski with any thing else. well maybe a fm with the cuff release. but you need to cut the lower shell on those also to get them to work right.

    step up and get a reflex slalom shell most of my ski buddy;s also use reflex systems, My wife even uses them and she is just a 15- 32 mph skier she loves the control and comfort.


  • 2tracmind2tracmind Posts: 49 Baller
    You asked some good questions, re - increasing buoy count with a binding switch to hard shells. When CP beat Andy's world record (on soft boots) he was on Wiley's, 1.5 at 43, i believe. We now have a pending with Nate at 2.0 at 43 with soft boots. There is a lack of evidence at the highest levels that a hard boot results in greater performances, not only that, with the dominance of the the men's division, 4 of 5 are on RTP's !
    There appears to be a growing Preference for hard boots, but that is not evidence.

    I have a snow ski racing background also. Lateral stiffness is great but we need to be able to flex the boot and if you have experienced a great boot fitting then we/you know what a huge difference it makes.

    On the safety side there is also little evidence or tracking of waterski binding safety and the release mechanisms we currently have in water-skiing are truly systems for the early 1970's of the snow skiing world.
  • jimbrakejimbrake Posts: 1,283 Mega Baller
    @Deanoski - did you ever notice buckles dragging in the water on your onside turn? That was another thing that bugged me about hardshells. I actually had to remount my buckles off the side to up on top of my foot to get them out of the water.

    @2tracmind - that was kind of the basis of my question. If I got a resounding "yes, hardshells upped my buoy count" then I'd think more about switching.
    "...all of the basic fun banter"
  • DeanoskiDeanoski Posts: 824 Crazy Baller
    Jim, have you watched the you tube vid of Andy Mapples set up? I take the toe buckle off and just use the strap then I cut down the instep buckle. ( make it smaller)

    when I was on animals I was running -32 80% of the time ran a few -35 1 or 2 a season. Now I run -32 in my sleep and run -35 50% it depends on who is driving. I would say the hard shell has made my more constant.

    2trac, I hear ya with a well fitted snow ski boot. I work for head skis so I get the head race techs do My boots. I have also learned to be a pretty good boot fitter by watching and doing some of the boot fitting at Mt hood.

  • 6balls6balls Posts: 5,058 ★★★Triple Panda Award Recipient ★★★
    I'm on D3 leverage, couldn't make the strada binding work and lost buoys and consistency so back on D3
    Dave Ross--die cancer die
  • jimbrakejimbrake Posts: 1,283 Mega Baller
    Deano - maybe Head should get into the water ski boot/binding/ski business.
    "...all of the basic fun banter"
  • WaternutWaternut Posts: 1,511 Crazy Baller
    I truly believe you can learn to ski any ski/binding system. Some may work for you personally a little better than other but we can obviously adapt. I'm certainly not a -38off so maybe I shouldn't say this but I feel my opinion is not based on skiing ability...

    For me, buoy count was less important than comfort and I'm talking both physical and mental comfort. First, my feet would start to cramp up after 6-7 passes with rubber boots so there was obviously a physical comfort issue. Second, after being injured with rubber boots due improperly tightening, my confidence was low that I wouldn't get hurt which meant I was skiing much more conservatively. When I started skiing scared, it just wasn't as fun. The only way for me to get back to having fun was to get a boot that I felt confident would keep me safe. I know the safety aspect can be debated but *knock on wood* After many sets and many falls, the Reflex binding has not proven me wrong on the mental or the physical comfort yet.
  • jimbrakejimbrake Posts: 1,283 Mega Baller
    With a releasable binding I would ski scared - scared of a pre-release of my front foot only. One of the scariest feelings on snow is when you are hauling a-- (like in a Super G or downhill) and one of your bindings releases. Skiing one-footed at 60 mph is not a good feeling. I'm afraid a pre-release on the water would almost for sure result in some sort of injury.

    Anyway, I didn't start this thread based mainly on safety of binding systems, but on buoy count.
    "...all of the basic fun banter"
  • WaternutWaternut Posts: 1,511 Crazy Baller
    I didn't mean to sway the post into safety. There are countless threads on that already. My point of view was on confidence in your setup. Is picking up a few buoys worth you skiing scared and fearing your setup on every pass? Ignore what others think is or isn't safe. If you're comfortable, you can focus on your skiing and not your equipment.
  • DeanoskiDeanoski Posts: 824 Crazy Baller
    I have never had a prerelease on my reflex system or have I ever seen someone prerelease. But the people I ski with we make sure the system is set up correctly.

    the dock check is the best way to make sure your Din setting is set right.

    I should make a video on how I set up and where we cut the shells to make them work.

    Jim if prerelease is on your brain then go with a FM with the cuff release. I have seen a few top skiers here in the NW that use them they cut the lower cuff so the boot has enough flex.

    Head making waterski stuff will not happen the market is to small to tool up for and marketing. we will stick with making the fastest snow ski on the planet.

  • jimbrakejimbrake Posts: 1,283 Mega Baller
    @Waternut - good point about being confidence in setup. @Deanoski - yeah I was kidding about Head. Would be cool though. I would like to see you video on the Reflex setup.

    Hey another question, Deano - do you cant your front boot? I cant mine (LFF) with a primitive washer setup under the right side of the plate to get my shin and knee a few degrees left of vertical. Otherwise my ski rolls super hard to the right and doesn't want to roll over on the left edge. Works really well. I would think the boot fitter in you would've messed with that a bit.
    "...all of the basic fun banter"
  • lundberglundberg Posts: 101 Baller
    @kreipe - I've been on EXO's since they came out and let me assure you they can (and do) release in an OTF. I've "tested" them many times with many entertained observers. I have the double cuff version and there is no way a foot could come out unless the top buckle was not fastened. Like anything they have their quirks but I wouldn't go back to rubber and have not had an injury since I switched from wileys.
  • kreipekreipe Posts: 17 Baller
    @lundberg - thanks for comments, good to hear the experience and the lack of injuries! I'm wishing I'd have gone with double cuff at this point. Now that I've acclimated, I do not want to go back - and only will if I get more concerned about safety of the setup than I am now.
  • danspencedanspence Posts: 66 Baller
    @jimbrake. I have only tried hard shells once and they were the FM ones. I thought they were really heavy and could not get used to them. I am now on a D3 T-Factor and a Wiley on the back. I am very happy with this set up, and like it has been said Nate is on a T-Factor, so must be working for him. I keep thinking about trying a reflex but at the moment I am happy with what I am on so why chance, if you really want to change then you can make it work but I wouldn't change for the sake of it.
    'Gotta Risk It, To Get The Biscuit'
  • WaternutWaternut Posts: 1,511 Crazy Baller
    @kreipe @lundberg I had the exo forms with double boots and I never was able to get them to release reliably. Every time I took a hard crash, I'd be sitting in the water with the ski still attached and my head pounding and legs aching. I kept lowering the settings until it was WAY below what was recommended and even then, I just wasn't releasing like I thought I should. The problem I found was that in an OTF fall, the front of the ski is pulling on the water but the back of the ski is pushing you forward at the release point and therefore you can't release. Then once you hit the water, there is so little surface area on the back of the ski to actually drag the ski and force the release. To each there own but after taking a few days off after each of my big crashes when I didn't release, I lost all confidence in those bindings to keep me safe and sold them.
  • JordanJordan Posts: 1,150 ★★★Triple Panda Award Recipient ★★★
    Hard shell bindings undoubtedly transfer movement to the ski more precisely and give more direct feedback from the ski to the skier.

    Another reason that a lot of skiers like them is that they are more comfortable than tight rubber bindings. No cramping, no pressure points.

    I am in the camp that does believe fully in any solution completely.
  • jimbrakejimbrake Posts: 1,283 Mega Baller
    @Jordan - that last sentence - it means something. Doesn't it?
    "...all of the basic fun banter"
  • JordanJordan Posts: 1,150 ★★★Triple Panda Award Recipient ★★★

    Yes it does. Seems that the market for waterskiing is just too small to attract the amount of R&D required to develop a superior system.

    As a result we adapt equipment from other sports. Rollerade boots, ski touring bindings, Velcro etc. it's going to take a while to get to an optimal solution.

    It's ironic that while we have gone nuts on skis, employing the best materials that we have seen much of a change in bindings in years.
  • ralral Posts: 1,708 Mega Baller
    @jimbrake, front Reflex, back D3 for me. Front foot is always comfy, exceptional control. Back foot is cold in winter, and kind of tight and cramped in summer. I use it loose and with a cut overlay. Did not adapt well to R-system (that works great for most).

    Almost all pre-releases I have seen in Reflex are because either the binding was ill mounted or it was not properly closed. Din factor is not huge unless it is really low or high.
    Rodrigo Andai
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