July 15, 2013

Summer Ski Tips

Waterskiing, that is. Ironically of course when I lived in Arizona, I was out on the water all the time, but now that I live two miles from the Pacific Ocean, I basically never get wet. So I felt more than a little rusty getting pulled on a slalom ski. To be honest, I'm not sure there's a sport that inspires more anxiety in me. Some of the worst falls I've ever taken involve crossing the wake while slalom skiing.

I remember one fall in particular detail: I accelerated out of a turn, hit the wake, and speared the tip of the ski, sending me headfirst into the water at probably somewhere between fifty and sixty miles per hour. My body instantly folded like a wallet, and my knees slammed into my shoulders. The crunch of it made me think initially I'd broken my neck. I'm still cautious about crossing the wake ever since that day. Some things you never forget.

Other than getting creamed, waterskiing is a blast, and I was happy to get out this summer for a few pulls. Sure, it's maybe not the best sport for aging weekend warriors to take a resurgent interest in, but so long as you can get up and you're cautious, what's to worry about? Actually, I'm kind of anxious about getting up, also.

It doesn't help that my brother uses a competition slalom ski, with a narrow base. I was joking that we needed to find a geriatric ski—something big and fat and easy to get up on. To this day, I still say "Hit It!" with some trepidation, wondering if I'm going to blow the start and have to suffer the indignity of watching the boat curl back around with my brother eyeing me, in exaggerated disbelief, dude, what happened?

Once, in cold water, I actually couldn't get up. I tried over and over, and each time it was that same everything-moving-in-opposite-directions hopelessness that seems to strike without warning, compounded by the sense each time that your arms are being increasingly pulled from their sockets. Beer may have been involved, too—I can't remember.

This trip I actually used that newfangled internet (unavailable in my prime) to see if there were any obvious tips I could pick up for easier starts. Turns out it helps if you hold your ski at a 45° angle, instead of dead vertical, and it really helps (if you're starting with one foot out) if you keep your knees together. Keeping your hands low in the water seems to help also. In any case, yes, I did get up, with only a few blown tries. Next year, I'm shooting for 100%...

(video: my brother in Face Canyon, Lake Powell)

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About SierraDescents

When there is snow, SierraDescents is Andy Lewicky's California backcountry skiing and mountaineering website. Without snow, sierradescents becomes an ill-tempered hiking and climbing blog.

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