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May 24, 2005 - REWRITE OF CLUES6/24/2004
While skiing or when watching others ski, I’m always looking for clues which identify improper ski set-up.Here are some of the things that stand out;
PROBLEM #1 The tip of the ski diving in on the on-side turn.
PROBLEM #2Running over the rope.(this happens only on the on-side turn)
PROBLEM #3Falling over after the buoy.
PROBLEM #4The ski is hopping off the wake going to the on side turn.
PROBLEM #5Falling back on the boat while in the glide prior to the gates.
PROBLEM #6Overshooting the turn in point for the gates.
PROBLEM #7The ski not turning early enough on the off-side turn.
PROBLEM #8The ski turning too early on the off-side turn.
PROBLEM #9The ski stopping on the off-side turn.
PROBLEM #10 The tail of the ski lifting and/or blowing out on the off-side turn.
PROBLEM #11 The ski is porposing into the off-side turn.
PROBLEM #12 The ski is porposing out of the off-side turn.
PROBLEM #13 The ski not turning the off-side.
PROBLEM #14 The inability to get wide.
PROBLEM #15 The ski hunting while waiting to turn in for the gates.
PROBLEM #16 Other things that just don’t make any sense!
Here are some corrections of the corrections I use.You can accomplish these by doing one of the following at a time and evaluating each move.I’ll start with the move that will affect the problematic area the greatest and have the least affect on anything else.When testing, ask yourself if the change is better or worse.If worse go in the opposite direction.If this does not fix the problem, look at another area of the ski or fin or wing.
PROBLEM #1;If the tip of the ski is diving in on the on-side turn;This indicates the front or tip of the ski is riding too low and needs to be relieved or raised;
Lightly soften the top edge of the ski in the tail area, from the rear of the rear boot back on the right side for right foot forward skiers and the opposite for left with 320-400 grit, wet or dry sandpaper.
If your rear boot is turned, make it straighter.
Move the back boot back.
Mount your wing lower and/or back further on your fin.
Move both boots back.
Raise the front of the fin.
Move the fin forward.
PROBLEM #2;Running over the rope.(this happens only on the on-side turn);This means the ski is turning too slowly which comes from the front of the ski riding too low.
Follow the tuning instructions for PROBLEM #1
PROBLEM #3;Falling over after the buoy;
If this is happening on the on-side, follow the tuning instructions for PROBLEM #1.
If this is happening on the off-side;
Move the front binding forward
Add wing angle
PROBLEM #4;The ski is hopping off the wake going to the on side turn; This means you need more tip somehow.
Move your front boot slightly forward
Increase wing angle
PROBLEM #5;Falling back on the boat while in the glide prior to the gates;This means the ski is too slow.
Decrease the wing angle.
Decrease the wing size.
Move the fin forward
PROBLEM #6;Overshooting the turn in point for the gates;This means the ski is too fast.
Move the fin back.
Increase wing angle.
Increase wing size.
PROBLEM #7;The ski does not turn early enough on the off-side turn; This means you need more tip somehow.
Move the front binding forward .
Increase wing angle
Move the fin back.
The ski turning too early on the off-side turn. This means you have too much tip.
Move the front binding back.
Decrease wing angle
Decrease wing size
Increase fin depth.
Move the fin forward.
PROBLEM #9The ski stopping on the off-side turn. This means the ski is too slow.Follow the instructions for number 8.
PROBLEM #10 The tail of the ski lifting and/or blowing out on the off-side turn. This means you have too much tip.Follow the instructions for number 8.
PROBLEM #11 The ski is porposing into the off-side turn. This means you need more tip.Follow the instructions for number 7.
PROBLEM #12 The ski is porposing out of the off-side turn. This means you need more tip.Follow the instructions for number 7.
PROBLEM #13 The ski not turning the off-side. This means you need more tip.Follow the instructions for number 7.
PROBLEM #14 The inability to get wide. This means you have too much tip.Follow the instructions for number 8.
PROBLEM #15 The ski hunting while waiting to turn in for the gates. This means you need more tip.Follow the instructions for number 7.
PROBLEM #16 Other things that just don’t make any sense!Check your equipment.Look for loose or broken bindings, fins, wings.Look for cracks or breaks in your ski.Check the driving and speed control set-up.Think about what you have changed lately or what has changed like the water temperature.Have you had a big rainfall?Did you replace your prop or ding it?Think hard about what has changed and perform tests to isolate and confirm the culprit.
SKI CONSTRUCTION 101
One of the most important aspects of skiing is of course the ski itself.Understanding ski construction can help understand skiing just like understanding competition ski boat driving can give you new insights into your skiing.Lets work from the inside out, the way a ski is built.
The Core;All of today’s slalom skis have a foam core.Foam meaning a polyurethane or PVC foam core.A polyurethane core is made in the ski factories by combining Part A and part B polyurethane mixing agents in a mold slightly smaller than the ski itself.Slightly smaller meaning that the thickness of the layers of carbon, fiberglass, graphics, etc., on the top, bottom and sides of the ski must be calculated and the core be that much smaller after sanding or etching.In other words, if the laminates on the top of the ski are 20/1000ths and the bottom are 20/1000ths, the core must be 40/1000ths thinner after sanding or etching which takes away approximately 10/1000ths on each surface depending on the process.The weight and density of the core are also important.Foams come in a variety of different weights and densities.A foam that expands a lot is a low density, low weight foam.When I was building skis, I tested many different weights and densities of cores and found that a 3 pound core skied better than a 2 or 4 pound core.Another factor in building a core is binding retention.Most of the big manufacturers are molding a piece of phenolic or plastic material about 1” square and 100/1000ths thick in the exact place where the binding inserts will be installed.This gives the ski great screw retention.
Goode skis on the other hand use a pre-expanded PVC foam core which requires a totally different method.Pre-expanded foam comes in sheets of various thicknesses and costs about 10 times that of a poured polyurethane core that the other factories use not including labor.A Goode core is cut out of the sheet to match the outline of the ski.Then it is placed in a heated mold and compressed at a temperature where the core becomes soft and re-formable until it is the exact size and shape as a Goode ski.The mold is then cooled so the core retains it's shape and it's ready for the next stage, lay-up!
The lay-up refers to the LAYers of composite that the core of the ski is covered with.The standard materials used in the lay-up are uni-directional, bi-directional, mat and a “sock”.The fibers in uni-directional materials run in one direction, usually from tip to tail but also can run diagonally across the ski in one or both directions.The fibers in bi-directional materials run both tip to tail and across the ski or can be oriented so that they all run diagonally across the ski in both directions.The fibers in mat are about 2” in length and run in all directions.A “sock” looks like an endless sock made out of fiberglass.The fibers in a sock run diagonally.The fibers that run from the tip to the tail provide the overall stiffening.If a ski had fibers only running across the ski from side to side, the ski would break very easily.To reinforce a ski torsionally or keep it from twisting, some fibers need to run diagonally.This is why some companies use the “sock”.Mat has very little structural properties and can be used to enclose the layers of composites against the core and provide a barrier, insulating the lines of the fibers beneath from what is called “print through”.I have used mat as a filler, to replace a reinforcing layer with a layer that does little to stiffen or affect the ski torsionally.To build a great ski, some fibers need to run from tip to tail giving the desired stiffness in the desired areas.Some skis are built not only with tip to tail layers but also with diagonal layers as well.By specifying the desired flex and torsional rates in specific areas, you can design the perfect flexfor your skiing style and level.This is of course if the thickness of the ski remains the same.By changing the thickness, you can also change the flex even with the exact same amount of materials.When you double the thickness, you increase the stiffness by a factor of about 8.That means if you have a ½” thick tail that flex’s out at 50 pounds on a flex machine and you change it to a 1” thick tail with the same materials, your new tail flex would be approximately 400 pounds!
ROUND TAILS VS SQUARE TAILS
BUILDING A PRESS
BUILDING CORES AND CORE MOLDS
The difference between a properly setup slalom ski and one that's not is like the difference between a stock Ford Escort and a Formula 1 racecar. If you are trying a new ski for the first time, the first step is to go out and ride it. The rule of thumb is to ride the ski at a speed 4 to 6 MPH slower than normal. THIS IS VERY IMPORTANT! Most people refuse to adhere to this principal. The purpose of this is two-fold. First, it allows you more time to make more mistakes and still make the pass and secondly, it helps prevent injuries. Many times in this book you will read "In order to advance, you must change". If the new ski you are riding skis the same, it offers no advantage! If it skis differently, it has the potential to ski better! If it skis differently and you start out slowly, you can feel the changes and adapt your style within a few passes to be able to ride it. Once you have ridden the new ski, ask yourself, "what do I need the ski to do differently?" Is the ski stopping on the offside turn, breaking you at the waist? Are you falling over on the on-side turn? Is the ski getting you wide and early enough on both sides? Certain things will stand out that may be better than your regular ski and some things will stand out that will be worse. Only after trying to correct the problematic areas of the ski can you actually determine whether it's better or not. If your ski would do everything you want it to do, you would run out of rope. The normal definition of a great ski is "one that skis great when you do things right". My definition of a great ski is "one that keeps going even when you're no longer thinking". Great skis do, they just keep going in spite of all your mistakes. You can turn them as hard as you want on either side. You can get on the front or back. You can come off of a buoy really late and be back in rhythm at the next one. Great skis rarely happen, they are made into great skis through dedicated and committed testing.
THE PROGRAMMED SKI
Man in all his/her infinite wisdom has created the computer, a device that once programmed, repeats that task over and over, flawlessly without deviation. A properly tuned and set-up water-ski will react in the exact same manner. A properly tuned ski will; • Turn on a predetermined radius on each side. • Generate a predetermined amount of angle out of each buoy. • Stay as wide and early as programmed after the wake. • Generate a predetermined amount of speed and angle through the gates. • Glide a predetermined amount in the pullout. Programming your ski involves fin and wing tuning, proper fit and placement of each binding, the correct ski flex, materials, size, shape, weight, and of course, programming the ski for different water densities.
THE TUNING CIRCLE
When setting up skis, I normally follow what I call, “The Tuning Circle”. On skis that I am very familiar with like the Goode's, the first thing I do is set the fin and wing up to exact numbers using my calipers. Every dimension is set to the thousandth, period. There is no tolerance. If it's not right, it's wrong! On skis that I am not familiar with, I follow the factory's recommendations. The problem with factory recommendations is that none of the ski companies other than Goode have taken the time to develop fin and wing settings to the thousandth. With the Goode, you set depth to 2.449. With any of the other companies, they're just guessing. It's evidenced by all of their recommendations ending in an even number like 2.500. The depth on the Goode ends in 2.449 because after setting up and testing hundreds of skiers with these exact settings, 2.449 not 2.45 or 2.450, it was determined these were absolutely the best numbers, period! Jeff Rodgers was once overheard walking around a tournament site repeating “a half or one, a half or one, over and over. Jeff was questioning whether he should move his fin a half or one thousandth from where he had it. This is the importance that the World Record Holder places on one half of one thousandth! After measuring the skier’s old ski and/or questioning the skier about their preferences (bindings forward or back) and/or binding location dimensions and spacing, I'll mount the bindings on the ski. If the skier always rides the ski with their bindings forward, I'll usually set up the ski with the bindings in a neutral position. In order to avoid drilling extra holes on skis that must be drilled, if someone likes the bindings back, put the screws in the ski, 1 hole from the rear and visa versa if they like them forward. The purpose here is so the boots can be moved more in the direction that the skier is typically more comfortable with. In the case of skiers who like their bindings 2 or 3 inches forward of factory settings, I will set up the bindings at neutral and put the screws in the very front holes which will only allow forward movement. I'll usually discuss the possibility of having to make a second set of holes with the skier prior to mounting the ski to determine if this is what the skier wants to do. After the fin, wing and bindings are on the ski, I'll wash the bottom, sides, fin and wing with a dishwashing detergent using either my hand or the palm of a ski glove to remove any surface oil, wax or grease. At this point, the ski is ready for testing. When testing a new ski, I strongly suggest that you start 2 to 4 MPH slower than usual and be extremely cautious. The next pass should be faster, slower, the same or not at all depending on how the ski feels. If the ski feels safe, pick up the speed by 1 or 2 MPH each pass until you're at maximum speed. The purpose of going slow at first is multifaceted. First of all, it's safer. Secondly, it gives you more time to survive the mistakes you will make riding this new and different ski. Third, it allows your body and mind to figure out how to ride it. If this new ski feels exactly the same as your old ski, there is zero benefit. It must be different to have a benefit! If this is a ski that I know the exact fin and wing settings for, the next step in tuning it to fit the skier is to move the bindings. The front foot controls the off-side turn and the rear foot controls the on-side turn. Years ago we thought we needed our feet really close together. Now-a-days, it's OK to have an inch or more between your feet. Jeff Rodgers with size 9 ½ to 10 feet has 1 ¼” between his feet! If the ski won't turn on the off-side and/or is hopping coming into the buoy, I'll move the front binding only forward. If the ski is stopping on the off-side, I'll move the front binding only back. If the ski won't turn on the on-side and/or falls over and/or hooks up all of a sudden and too hard at the end of the turn, I'll move the rear binding back. If it turns too fast, I'll move it forward. Other rear binding combinations are also available. If the ski turns too hard on the of side and on the onside, try turning your rear boot clockwise for left foot forward and counterclockwise for right foot forward skiers. This turning of the rear boot can also be combined with moving the front and/or rear boot to obtain the desired effect. Once I cannot squeeze any more performance out of the bindings, if necessary, I'll go to the wing. By increasing the wing angle, the ski will decelerate more, both in the glide prior to the gates and on the approach to the buoy. If the glide prior to the gates is decreased, the skier will be narrower when it's time to go in. This can be compensated for by moving up 1 point (see “Points to Great Gates” ). Once I cannot squeeze any more performance out of the wing, it's now time to either start over by testing new fin only settings. Once you verify your settings, go back to the bindings and try again to optimize them and then move on to the wing. After optimizing all of these areas of your ski, the next things to try are new fin and/or wing shapes and/or new bindings. Again, once having tested these new variables, you can then move on to what I call “destructive or non-reversible testing”. This is an area reserved for those who either have a water ski factory sending them test equipment or those few who can afford to destroy a lot of skis on the path to obtaining the knowledge necessary to become proficient at this skill.
DESTRUCTIVE OR NON-REVERSIBLE TESTING
This testing involves modifying the actual ski either with sandpaper, a file, paint or in any way that causes it to be different from that which is normal. Some methods are shortening, narrowing, sanding or filing the edges, sanding or cross-hatching the bottom, changing the texture, stiffening, softening, widening, narrowing, etc., etc.
Once you have determined the absolute best fin, wing and binding placement as outlined in the previous chapters, you're now ready to do a little edge tuning. The most important thing to know about edge tuning is that soft is slow and hard is fast. What I mean by this is if you soften an edge, it will create suction, pulling the ski down into the water. Sharpening an edge will break the suction and cause lift. Dave Saucier wrote an article years ago for AWSA outlining ski tuning. Here is my take on the subject. There are three edges on a ski, the area where the top of the ski and the side meet I call the top edge. The area where the side of the ski and the bottom of the ski meet is the bottom edge and the edge in between the two is the side edge. Some skis do not have pronounced side and/or bottom edges, just a rounding effect. Years ago when I skied with Rusty Carter, back in the heavy duty edge tuning days, I was using a rough file on my ski, changing the edges. Rusty saw what I was doing and told me that all I needed to do was rub the selected area of my ski with Scotchbrite as that would change the ski noticeably enough. Under Rusty's guidance, we would use Scotchbrite on my ski in selected areas and I would go out and ski on it. I could definitely feel the difference. Little by little we worked on the ski until it was doing what I was looking for. From this experience, I will never use Scotchbrite on my or anyone else's ski to clean or prepare it unless I am tuning it! SCOTCHBRITE IS A SKI TUNING TOOL, NOT A CLEANING-CONDITIONING TOOL! The area I work on most is the top edge. Years ago I took a ski I had been skiing on and put a deep 45-degree bevel on the top. It must have been about 1/8" from one side of the cut to the other. On my very next set on this ski, I was accusing the same driver of wrong siding me on my offside turns. I could not get out to the buoys! I learned on this set that by softening the top edge of my ski, I would create more, lots more deceleration at the cost of width. If I would soften the top edge a little, I would get a little deceleration! Now I use this edge exclusively to fine tune skis. If you look down the side of your ski from tip to tail you will see a pivot point around the heel of the front foot. Pivot point meaning that if you placed the ski on its side on a flat surface and rocked it; the pivot point would be the area that always stays in contact with that surface. When you ski, the ski acts in much the same way, pivoting on this point. When you climb on the front of the ski, you pivot up the tail. Pressure the tail and you pull up the front. A problem associated with this pivot point is tail slide. When you have too much weight on the front of the ski, you have pivoted the tail up causing it to slide. There are 2 edge solutions (try remedying this first by changing your fin ratio and/or binding placement. Usually this tail slide is an indication that you either have too much tip or not enough depth (decreasing tip or adding depth will decrease the amount of lift in the tail). To remedy this situation via the edges, the first thing I do is soften the top edge beginning at the back of the rear binding and work my way back, off the tail of the ski. I use a 180 grit sandpaper to do this. Make sure to sand in a continuous stroke from the binding area back. Count each stroke. Three strokes will create a noticeable change! If 3 strokes do not fix the problem, try 3 more. If after about 9 strokes the problem is not corrected, sand the area 6 to 8 inches ahead and behind of the pivot point beginning 6-8 inches ahead and with a continuous stroke, exit the stroke 6-8 inches behind. Again, try 3 strokes and evaluate it on the water. More strokes will make the ski sit deeper in the water! This technique can be used anywhere on the top edge. The biggest thing to remember is that a hard or sharp edge will create lift and/or speed; a soft edge will create suction and sit deeper!
THE TOP SHELF SKI
The top shelf ski refers to a ski that is working great, so great in fact that you're afraid to touch it, yet it could still be better. When you have a ski like this, what would you do if it suddenly disappeared due to theft, negligence or some other unforeseen occurrence? The best way to approach this problem is to have a second ski. Once you have a second ski, your job becomes making this new ski work as well as your number one "Top Shelf Ski". Start by getting the same size, shape, model and flex. Install the same wing and fin set to the EXACT measurements. EXACT meaning each measurement should be to the THOUSANDTH! Set the bindings in the exact same locations. If your bindings are offset on your top shelf ski, do the same on your new ski. Set up the new ski exactly the same as the "top shelf ski". Work on this new ski until it is at least as good as your "top shelf ski" and then keep going, trying to make it better. Once it's better, put it up on the shelf and incorporate the new changes into your former "top shelf ski". By constantly having a great "control ski" and striving to keep making your second ski better than the "top shelf ski" and rotating these skis, trying new ideas, flex's, fins, wings, bindings, edges, textures, etc., you will continually "Climb the Ladder of Slalom Success!
THE TIMING LIGHT
The timing light refers to a method of visual confirmations to set up a proper turning ski. When your free hand hits the handle, the ski should go. Any hesitation between when your hand hits the handle and when the ski goes will cause slack and wasted time. If the ski turns too hard before your free hand hits the handle, you will get caught with your arms out, away from your body which can cause breaking at the waist and will definitely prevent you from being in an efficient accelerating position. To correct these problems, try the following. Remember, try only one thing at a time and evaluate it. If necessary, try the next in the order below. Remember, any change you make will affect both side turns so be aware of the impact on each. If there is hesitation on the on-side turn and the off-side is fine, try moving the rear binding back, one hole at a time. 2) Decreasing depth of the tail of the fin. 3) Increasing tip. If there is hesitation on the off-side turn and the on-side is fine, try, 1) Moving your front binding forward. 2) Decreasing depth of the tail of the fin. 3) Adding tip. If the ski turns too hard before your free hand hits the handle on your on-side, and your off-side is fine, try; 1) Moving your rear binding back. 2) Decreasing tip. 3) Increasing depth. If the ski turns too hard before your free hand hits the handle on your off-side, and your on-side is fine, try; 1) Moving the front binding back. 2) Decreasing tip. 3) Increasing depth.
SETTING UP YOUR SKI
In my travels around the world and skiing at one site after another, I have found that different sites ski differently. In some places the difference is quite dramatic. Take for instance the time I moved from Orlando to West Palm Beach. Every time I came through the gates and approached 1 ball at short line lengths (38 and 39 off), I came up narrow. Taking out 8/1000ths tip solved this problem. At Carlos's place outside of Lisbon, I had to 1/1000th more tip and 3.5/1000th less depth. At Paul's place in Georgia, my fin settings were drastically different. I firmly believe that in order to optimize your skiing performance at a particular site, you need to ski 5 to 10 sets there trying different things, be they fin and/or wing changes, binding changes, edge or flex changes, etc., etc. Ideally it's best to video your sets and watch how you and the ski perform. Take into account the difference in the boat, driver, speed control and settings, the towrope, handle, the course, buoy height, etc., etc. What are the speed control's settings? Is it a floating or anchored course? Is it surveyed? Who installed it? What kind of anchoring system secures it? Who is driving practice? Who will be driving the tournament? There is no way possible to set your ski up to overcome bad driving. When making fin changes, remember to measure to the 1/000th of an inch and record your settings before making any changes. Make these changes in tiny increments like 1-2-3/1000th at a time. The same goes for binding location. First measure, then record and then move your bindings or fin. With bindings however, your moves are bigger. I am able to move my bindings 1/16” in any direction. Whenever testing any changes, have the same boat, driver, towrope, handle, lake, conditions, etc., etc. Here are some questions to ponder and possible solutions. Am I getting maximum angle through the wakes going into my on-side turn? Getting maximum angle involves coming out of the buoy properly and maintaining angle and position through the first wake. Getting sufficient angle out of the offside involves having the correct amount of tip, depth and forward back. To identify the maximum amount of angle you can handle out of the buoy and assuming your tip and depth are correct, try moving your fin forward or back, from 1/1000th to 3/1000th of an inch and ski a set. Keep doing this until you come close to or end up going out the front crossing the wakes into your on-side turn. Once you have reached this point, move the fin the opposite way, 1/000th. Some side effects of doing this are; if you go back with the fin, your glide in the pullout diminishes so that you fall back on the boat faster. Another side effect of going back is that you may experience a slower turn on your on-side and/or a much harder hook-up. You may also experience falling over on the on-side turn. To counter these on-side problems, try moving your rear boot back one hole, turning it toward your little toe or both. If you choose to move the rear binding back and turn it, do one set first with it back to determine the result and then turn it. Can I maintain my width approaching my on-side turn? Years ago I skied with my Ultra Mini Cut Back or UMCB fin. It turned great on both sides but after the wake going into my on-side turn, it would ski right at and/or inside the buoy at short line lengths no matter what. This fin had very little surface area and was quite far forward. It did not work for short line skiing. Another situation involved riding a slightly stiffer ski. Every time I rode a stiffer ski, as I came off the wake, the ski would go to or inside my on-side turn buoy. Having an incorrect tip setting will make you ski narrow into your on-side turn. This means either too much or too little tip can cause this problem. When in doubt, do something. Even if you go the wrong way, you're a set closer to the ski being set up right. Can I turn when I want to? If you are going down course too far before the ski hooks up and turns on a tight line, you need to get the ski to slow down earlier. This can be accomplished by; adding tip, moving the bindings forward and/or adding wing angle. Generally, if you go to a new site and you have excess speed problems, they occur on both sides. The above remedies should be tried and evaluated one at a time. Am I breaking at the waist on either side? Breaking at the waist is usually an off-side turn problem. This can have 2 causes; too much tip or too little tip. Let me explain. When you have too much tip or too much front of the ski in the water, your ski will stop at the end of the turn. A common occurrence of too much tip is that the skier is very inconsistent on the off-side turns. When they get on the front, the ski stops so they begin to fear the turn and stay back. When on the back of the ski, it won't turn. But every once in a while, it turns OK. When you have too little tip or ski in the water, you will have to jump on the front of the ski to get it to slow down and turn. This jumping on the front puts your body in a vulnerable position. Once the ski hits it's “critical speed”, (the stall speed or the speed where the ski does not have enough lift to support the amount of pressure being exerted upon it) it stops, either throwing you out the front or causing you to break at the waist. Breaking at the waist on the on-side turn is usually caused by too much tip or front of the ski riding too deep. When this happens, the ski begins to turn slowly and then, towards the end of the turn, it grabs way too much angle and almost stops which can cause breaking at the waist. To correct these situations, some of the cures are moving the bindings back, taking out tip or adding depth. Am I running over the rope? Running over the rope almost always occurs on the on-side turn. This is caused by the ski turning to slow. This can be one of a number of problems. A) This can be a fin surface area problem that means your fin probably has too much surface area. You should first try reducing depth. Reducing depth should speed up your turns on both sides. One of the drawbacks of reducing depth is a loss of width going into the off-side buoys. If depth does not work, try removing tip. A drawback of removing tip is that the ski will turn slower on the off-side. Lastly, try moving your fin forward. Some drawbacks of moving the fin forward are that your glide in the pullout will increase, your speed through the gates will increase and your angle out of your off-side buoys through he wakes will decrease. It can also mean your back binding is too far forward. Another solution would be to turn your rear boot clockwise for left foot forward skiers or counter clockwise for right foot forward skiers. Am I too fast through the entrance gates? If you are generating too much speed through the gates no matter what (this is assuming you are using speed control and it is set up correctly), you need to move your fin back. Am I bouncing crossing the wakes? Not enough tip causes bouncing crossing the wakes going into the on-side turn. To correct this, try moving your front binding forward, adding depth to the front of your fin or moving your fin back. Am I up on the boat in the glide before the gates? If you are not up on the boat in the glide phase of the gates, try moving your fin forward or taking out tip or making your fin deeper in the tail or decreasing your wing angle. Decreasing wing angle will decrease cross course angle! Does my ski seek an edge or hunt while waiting to turn in for the gates? This is a very difficult problem to solve. This usually happens on hyper parabolic bottomed skis. What is happening is that the width of the tunnel in the front of the ski is much greater than the width in the rear. Since water is incompressible, the excess must go somewhere so it starts going out the sides causing the hunting or instability. To correct this, I have moved bindings forward and back. I have added tip and taken tip away. I have added and decreased the depth of the tail of the fin. I have moved the fin forward and back. In other words, I don't have an exact fix for this problem. I can only tell you that it's a problem associated with tip pressure. A fix that we came up with the summer of 2001 was to use a thinner fin. Is the tail too loose? A loose tail or a tail that blows out on usually the off-side turns can have many causes. The first thing to check for is a bent fin or wing. Next, verify your fin and bindings are set correctly. If your bindings are too far forward, you'll blow the tail. If you have too much or too little depth or tip, you'll blow the tail. If the top edge (where the side and top of the ski meet) is too sharp, you'll blow the tail. If the tail of the ski is too stiff, you'll blow it. Your solutions are; 1) try moving your bindings back. 2) Try making the rear of the fin deeper. 3)Try decreasing the depth of the front of your fin. 4) Try softening the top edge of the ski from your rear heel back with 180 grit sandpaper. Do about 5 swipes from the rear boot to the tail in that direction only. 5 swipes will usually fix the problem. If not, try another 3, then 2 if necessary, then 1 and so on. If the tail is too stiff, get a new, softer tail ski. Another fix is to soften the top edge of the ski 4” ahead and behind the pivot point. This allows the ski to sit deeper in the water and effectively moves the pivot point forward which allows the skier to put more weight on the front of the ski without pivoting up the tail. Is the tip too high or low? The meaning of the tip riding too high is that there is too much back pressure on the up course side or high side of the fin. This can usually be fixed by shallowing the tail depth of the fin. Another option is to move the bindings back. When the tip is riding too low, you have too much underside pressure on the fin and need to try the following; 1) Move your bindings back. 2) Decrease tip (raise the front of the fin up into the ski). 3) Increase tail (lower the rear of the fin out of the ski). Is the tip biting too hard during the onside turn? 1) Try decreasing the depth of the rear of the fin first. 2) Try moving your rear binding back. 3) Try turning your rear binding, clockwise for left foot forward skiers and counter clockwise for right. 4) Reduce the surface area of the fin. Above are just a few of the questions to ask. Others will arise. Identifying the problems is a big job. Solving them is bigger.
When making changes to your ski, often times opposite reactions are needed on each side of the course. A ski that rides deeper will slow down faster, and decrease width on both sides of the course due to an increase of tip pressure. A deeper riding tip will cause the ski to turn and hook-up faster and harder on the off-side but will slow down the initiation of the turn on the on-side with an extremely hard hook-up. This can best be described as the ski wanting to go straight or down-course rather than turning causing slack or a hesitation on the on-side turn. In order to speed up the turn of the ski on both sides, it’s necessary to do opposite things on each side. In order to increase the depth that the front of the ski rides on one side and decrease it on the other, here are a few things to try. Some of these tests will not work. Some will do too much and some will not do enough. Keep in mind that these are just tests that will lead you to a properly set-up ski. 1. Turn your back boot; For a left foot forward skier, turn your back boot clockwise. This will speed up the on-side turn and slow down the off-side turn. Turn your boot counterclockwise for right foot forward. Photos 2. Turn your front boot; To understand this move, imagine that when your body leans in a turn, your feet and ankles ride through the water at a constant depth, for example 1” below the surface. When you move your front binding over to one side of the ski, your feet and ankles will remain at the exact same depth but the ski will ride higher on one side and deeper on the other. Therefore, if you move your front binding over to the right, the ski will ride shallower on right hand turns and deeper on left hand turns, a good move for right foot forward skiers. Photos 3. Shallow up the back of your fin; Shallowing up the back of the fin adds tip to the off-side turn and decreases surface area on the on-side turn. This will speed up the on-side turn and slow down the off-side turn. Cant your front boot. Canting or tipping over your front boot will cause the ski to ride deeper on one side than the other. Lets say you've shimmed up the left side of your binding plate 1/8". When riding flat, the left side of your ski will ride 1/8" deeper in the water. On your 1-3-5 turns, the ski will have more of an edge and be more aggressive. On 2-4-6 the ski will have less of an edge or lean and be less aggressive. I am currently using 2 degrees of cant under my front boot and none under the rear. After a lot of testing, I found that canting the rear boot was not beneficial.
FAST VS SLOW WATER
I am always perplexed by the terms fast or slow water. I really do not understand what people mean. My understanding of these terms is always established on my off-side turns, that is my 1-3-5 turns being that I am right foot forward. If I exit the wakes in good shape and end up narrow at my off-side buoys with the boat in the right place, I consider this slow water or water in which my ski slows down faster than that which I am accustomed to. When this happens, I generally take out tip or raise the front of the fin up, into my ski a fractional amount, usually somewhere between 5 and 11/1000s of an inch. When I skied in Orlando (7.119), I used 8/1000s more tip than in West Palm Beach (7.111). In Portugal (7.1055), I use 5.5/1000s less tip. In salt water in Greece (7.100), I use 11/1000s less tip and in cold water (7.130 x 2.573), I use 19/1000s more tip and 13/1000s more depth. Each place I ski has it's own particular settings that allow the ski to work at its best. My job is to be aware of what the ski is doing and what I would like it to do and then find out how to get this accomplished.
Brad was a ski company's worst nightmare. Being a former National Champion, Brad was accustomed to ski companies working with him, getting him the best possible ski to suit his skiing style. For years, Brad skied on the same ski, but always tried to find something better. Riding ski after ski (about 10 skis from his current manufacturer and countless others from other manufacturers) and sending them back, Brad's relationship with the ski company began to deteriorate. Finally Brad asked them to build him the exact same flex ski he was riding for all those years. The only way Brad could accomplish this was to flex a ski that he had recently received from the ski company using his new flex machine and then communicating the exact percentage differences he needed in each of the four measured areas to arrive at the desired flex for his new ski. With this information in hand, the ski company built and sent Brad the exact ski he was looking for. From the first set on, this new ski felt fantastic. Essentially Brad wasted not only his time and money, testing all of the skis that were no-where close to what he needed, Brad also wasted an enormous amount of the ski company's time, resources and money. The bottom line is this, if you have a ski that works well, you need to know the exact flex of it and then change one area of the ski at a time. Ride this new ski and see what one change does to the performance. Keep notes and keep trying new skis with new flex's. Whether the change is good or not is irrelevant. What is important is that you build a database that outlines the effect on your skiing that each change in the flex does. As your skiing improves, as you ski into new levels, you will always find new things that you require your ski to do. From this database you will be able to draw upon the testing of the past, whether negative or positive, to help you find the solution that projects your skiing up to the next, higher level.
EVER CHANGING CONDITIONS
A ski and skier are like a racecar and driver. On each racetrack and with each change in temperature, barometric pressure and countless other measurable and immeasurable factors, the racecar needs to be set-up differently. On the water, conditions are continually changing, things like water temperature, depth, total dissolved solids (TDS) etc., etc. As things change, we need to be aware of these changes and change with them. We had a lot of rain last week and our lake came up 2 feet. This changed the temperature, TDS, depth, texture and who knows how many other things. I know from past experience that water at different temperatures skis differently. I know from past experience that water with higher or lower TDS skis differently and I know from past experience that water at different depths skis differently. All of these minute changes altered the way my ski reacted. No, it wasn’t me that had changed. I know that when the tail of my ski is sliding, my ski’s not set-up correctly. I had to change my ski to match the change in the water conditions and change my technique to match the ever so slight changes to my ski. The point here is this; I hear it over and over “I ski great in the winter but when the water warms up” or “ the water has really changed since we had all that rain”. These skiers are right on the money. Instead of complaining about the problem, affect a solution. Figure out what changes you need to make to your equipment to make it perform at the level you are accustomed to. Only by doing this can you precede to the next level! Think like the racecar driver or team owner. If everyone else is testing and you’re not, you’ll soon be left behind and or be fired. An excellent example of someone who tests on a regular basis is Andy Mapple. Again, re-read my interview with Andy and read between the lines!
MORE CLUES 7/4/02
This year more than ever, I'm really in tune with my equipment and the effect that changing conditions have on my buoy count. In the past, I had 1 fin setting that I used year-round. When I started traveling around the globe and skiing for prolonged periods on foreign waters, I found the need to set-up my ski for each particular site. This year, with no Pro-Tour and a lot of the Pro's out and about doing clinics, I'm spending more time at home, skiing on the same water. I'll get skiing great, go away for a few days maybe to a tournament or family function and come back to find that my ski doesn't work right. How do I know it's the ski? Yesterday was day 2 of skiing after a road trip to Illinois, Kentucky, Georgia, Tennessee and Alabama. Generally, my first day back is just a warm-up day where I work on my "foundation" and getting my body used to the pressures of shortline slalom skiing. In other words, I don't ski well and know from experience not to expect much. I'm just getting re-started. So yesterday when crossing the wakes from my off-side to my on-side, my ski was hopping or bouncing off the wake at my shortline passes. When this happens, it means I need to add tip. So I added tip, 3/1000ths at a time until it stopped. Now, my job is to find out to the 1/1000th exactly where the tip needs to be. At a tournament last weekend, I noticed my tail sliding just ever-so-slightly. When this happens, I need to reduce tip and again, find out to the 1/1000th exactly how much. Being that it was slight and I would not have any chance to try the change, I took out 1.5/1000ths tip. This proved to be a really good move as it eliminated the tail slide and didn't lead to the bounce from too little tip. The entire point here is this, The water is constantly changing. One day it's cloudy, the next day clear. One day it's warm, the next it's cold. One day shallow, the next day deep. We need to be as fluid as the water, changing with it's change. We need to start looking for the clues and stop beating up ourselves for our "changed" performance in the "changed" waters!
TOO MUCH TIP? 7/6/02
Yesterday I confirmed what I thought for quite a while. I've never understood what people were talking about when they would say their ski was jetting or shooting out in front of them out of the buoy. So yesterday, after feeling myself going back out of the buoy and/or prior to the wakes, I decided to add more tip. I reasoned that by adding tip, I would cause the tip of the ski to ride deeper and eventually lead to breaking at the waist. If I break at the waist, there's no way the ski can be out in front of me as it's too far behind. So I added 3/1000ths tip and skied and it worked. The ski stopped jetting out ahead and my buoy count and consistency increased. Now what I need to find out is exactly how much tip I can add before I start getting tail slide. Once I determine this, I'll have established a range that I know the tip settings work at in these water conditions. Let's say for example my ski jets at 7.087 and slides at 7.107, a 20/1000ths difference. What I'll try at this point will be 7.097 as this will put me right in the middle of the range and allow the water to change in either direction without my ski lifting or jetting. Of course, the ideal fin settings will out perform these average settings but these average settings may be the ticket for ski set-up when going to competition at a site where you can't practice.
SETTING UP A GOODE 10/03/02
I've set-up hundreds, if not thousands of Goode skis. The most important thing about setting up a Goode is to set the fin to the exact factory specifications with "calibrated" calipers, measuring in the correct manner. I sell these "calibrated" calipers. The fin settings that I have confirmed work with my SLOT-FIN are 7.116 Long - 2.560 Deep and 7.932 Forward - Back or within 1/16" from the tail of the fin to the tail of the ski (set the rear of the fin at the beginning of the radius on the tail of the ski). The numbers for the Goode "Standard" fin are; 6.872 Long - 2.449 Deep and 8.248 Forward - Back or .703 distance from the rear of the fin to the rear of the ski. Again, unless you have "calibrated" calipers, you'll get close. With "calibrated" calipers, you'll get it dead-on and dead-on skis a heck of a lot better than close! Using an angle gauge on each side of the wing, set it at 9 degrees down or with the wings below the attachment screws. Once the fin is set-up right, move to the bindings. If you always like your bindings forward on everything you ski on, it's a safe bet that you'll like your bindings forward on the Goode. Let's say you always like your bindings back 2 holes or 5/8". I would set your front binding on the ski 5/8" back (always do the front binding first as once you have a rear high wrap on your ski, it's next to impossible to get an accurate measurement to the front boot). Install the rear boot also 5/8" back. If you traditionally like your boots turned, turn them. If you traditionally like a lot of space between your feet, do the same. Once the boots are set, it's time to hit the water. Once you're suited up and ready to make the plunge, gloves and vest on and all, wash the bottom and sides of the ski with a dishwashing detergent like Dawn or Joy. Yes, wash it with the palms of your gloves! This will get the bottom of the ski clean as well as the palms of your gloves. DO NOT USE ANY ABRASIVE CLEANERS OR SCOTCHBRITE as this will change the texture and edges of your ski! I go so far as to wash my handle at the same time assuring maximum grip. Once done, put your ski on and hop in the water. If you've never skied on a Goode before, start on your first pass 2 to 4 MPH slower than your normal speed. This accomplishes 3 things. It allows you more time between buoys so you can make mistakes and still keep going, it gives you time to get used to this new ski and 3, it's a lot safer in case of a hard fall due to a totally foreign ski. If the ski feels safe, increase the speed 1 MPH and keep doing this till you reach maximum speed. Then shorten the line. In this manner, you should ski your personal best right out of the box. If the ski does not feel right, move the front binding forward if the ski won't turn the off-side. Move the rear binding back and/or turn the rear binding (clockwise for left foot forward skiers and counter clock wise for right foot forward skiers) if the ski won't turn the on-side. DO NOT TOUCH THE FIN! The spacing between your feet is almost irrelevant. The front foot controls the off-side turns and the rear foot controls the on-side. Set each boot to maximize your skiing! Only touch the fin if you are less than 125 pounds. In this case, reduce the depth. In some cases, we've gone down into the high 2.300s range but again with light skiers. As for the wing, when using the SLOT-FIN, run 9 degrees. If you need more deceleration use a larger wing at 9 degrees. Less deceleration, use a smaller wing. If you are using the Goode Standard fin, I've seen people who like 15 degrees and those who like 7. Only through constant testing can you identify exactly what it is that works for you and your style. There is no magic wand!
ENHANCING THE FLEX OF YOUR SKI 5/8/03
I like soft skis. But what’s the sense of having a soft ski if the bindings stiffen it up? Years ago, when I skied with rubber bindings, I used to cut the plates into 4 or 5 parts so that the ski could flex in a more natural condition. I’m told Andy Mapple has the bottom of his front plate cut out so he stands on the top of the ski. He also mounts his rear toe piece directly to the ski without any plate what so ever! The only reason Andy would be doing this would be to “ENHANCE THE FLEX OF HIS SKI”. As for me, now a days I use hardshell boots. I use a modified version of Goode’s Powershells. My modification involves the use of 4 separate plates rather than the single plate supplied by Goode. My plates are narrower than Goode’s and have spaces between them to allow the ski to flex in a more natural state. During my initial testing of the stock Powershell system, I found the ski would not turn as well as I was accustomed to on my on-side turn. So I cut my plate in half. The front half held my front boot and the rear half held my rear boot. I made sure to leave a space in between. This alteration did not help. So I took another plate and cut it in thirds, the front of the plate was under the ball of my front foot, the middle of the plate held my front heel and my rear toe and the rear plate held my rear heel. This alteration did not help. So I finally cut 4 separate plates, the front plate was under the ball of my front foot, under my front heel was another plate, under the ball of my rear foot was another plate and under my rear heel was another. This system worked and to this day works great. I have since added a rear heel lift which allows me shift my weight further forward as it allows my rear heel to lift which in turn allows my rear knee to move further forward and down.
If you have rubber bindings and would like to cut them, make sure to make your cuts where there will be screws holding each plate section to the plastic hardware. On a Wiley front plate, I can make 4 cuts, on the rear plate 3. On HO front plates, I remove 2 sections, the section between the front attachment area and the center attachment area and also the section between the center attachment area and the rear attachment area. If you decide to cut your plates, be sure there are enough screws holding it to the plastic hardware so it remains safe.
Another thing to consider is screw tightening. Every day I see skiers tightening the screws that fasten their bindings to their skis as tight as they can. This makes absolutely no sense to me. A ski flexes as you ski on it. It needs to flex. It wants to flex. Tightening the screws prevents it from flexing. The flexing of the ski is what loosens them in the first place. While it’s not safe to ski with screws popping out, you might try checking your screws, rather than tightening them. Hold your manual screwdriver with three fingers; your thumb, pointer and middle finger only and then check your screws. This will prevent you from really wrenching down. If your screws keep getting loose, cut up some plastic tie wraps and stuff the pieces in the screw holes and reinstall the screws.
People who use a rear toe piece should only use the front attachment screw holes and the middle holes. By using the front and rear holes you are basically stiffening the ski from the front hole to the rear hole. By using the front and middle holes, you limit the damage.
“THE PANIC ZONE”
You’re in a tournament. You’ve just completed not your hardest pass, but the one that comes just before it. The boat crew shortens the line or increases the speed and the driver takes off. Your adrenaline is pumping. Your mind is racing, evaluating the water conditions, the driver, the feel of the boat, the wind, when to pullout, when to stop pulling out, when to turn in and you’re off. Heading through the gates, a little faster and later than ideal. Too much speed coming into #1 and you end up hooking it. Now you’re flying as you exit the wake approaching #2 and whamo, somehow you get the ski turned and you’re off to #3. This nonsense goes on for the next 3 buoys and somehow you manage to hang on as you exit the end gates. Everything that transpired during that pass is a total blur. You’re smiling, almost laughing at yourself for surviving that rodeo ride. This my friends is the panic zone. Not once during that wild ride did you think nor have time to think about all the little intricacies that you’ve so diligently been working on. Not once did you have time to assume that perfect body position. It was everything you could do to just hang on and turn. The point here is this, if you were on an improperly setup ski, you would have in the water a long time ago! If your ski works great when you can think and react, it’s not setup right. Your ski needs to keep going when your thought process goes out the window. Never setup your ski for your easy passes. Setup your ski for the times when you are scrambling, when you’re in the “PANIC ZONE”.