Arms Straight Knees Bent by Al Vickers

This article first appeared in Waterski Magazine Volume 12 Issue 5

What’s the first thing you get told to do when you learn how to ski? Keep your arms straight and knees bent, right? So why do we as skiers forget these golden two rules the second we get good enough to cut around? Every skier, no matter if it’s two skis or one, needs to do these two things.

I see so many slalom skiers going through the wake with their hands pulled into their hips, with all the strain in their biceps pulling their backside off like no other. This is the single worst thing you can do, as by pulling the handle, you fall back. Remember learning on two skis? When you pulled your arms in, your skis would accelerate out in front of you making you fall backwards. This still happens, but now you are more experienced and better balanced so you can cope with it. When this happens, you end up locking your front leg out straight breaking rule number two: “knees bent at all times”.

Lets look at the effects of pulling on the line to initiate a carve back in towards the wakes. If we yank, we fall back right? So if we pull on the line we will wheelie the ski, stopping it from carving back in towards the wakes, leaving no angle on our ski to create a clean wake crossing. We are best to keep our arms relaxed and straight in the turn. You don’t need to pull to carve, you don’t even need a rope to carve. Instead stay level in your shoulders and lean into the turn with your hips. To go left, take your left hip left, and vice versa to go right. Keep both knees pushed over your toes using your ankles so your hips still stay up over your feet. Don’t push through your legs to force the ski around – this will straighten them, making you lose balance and pull on the line as you need it back again to support you. Instead, keep your arm out and simply get yourself moving back in towards the wakes by staying balanced over your feet and level through your shoulders. Your ski will carve you back into the wakes where eventually your outside hip will meet the handle just as the pull meets you again. Don’t panic, your ski is supposed to feel like it carves slow and steady back in towards the wake and the better we do this the longer our carve will take us in, meaning the boat pull will come on later.

Now when edging through the wakes if we pull on the handle with our arms, we simply pull ourselves up out of our lean onto a flat ski. The more we can relax our arms (to the point that our elbows lock out) the easier it will be to stay soft through your legs and centered over both feet.
By doing this we allow ourselves to use our body weight as leverage, as we are not pulling ourselves back up towards the boat.

Ultimately pulling on the handle makes you go slower and makes it harder to keep the direction you created out of your previous carve. The straighter our arms stay, the less physical effort is involved. The more edge our ski holds through the wakes makes us travel faster, keep our direction and stops that awful ‘’slap out’’ when you hit the wakes.

Our knees need to stay slightly bent through the wakes; we want to stay tall in our legs so that our hips stay over our bindings through the wakes. If we bend our legs to the point we squat we are also flattening our ski off through the wakes, slowing ourselves down and making it hard to keep direction. If our legs lock out we lose control and feeling through the wakes leaving you a little crazy and off balanced as you exit them. Try and stay centered over both feet and this will make it easier to stay soft through the wakes.

As you can see both rules work hand in hand to make things easy for you. Don’t forget the basics that were drilled into you when you first learned. They are principles that are so important at any level on the water. Enjoy breaking those bad habits that should never have been formed!

Article by Al Vickers

 
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