Going over a water ski ramp for the first time can be a daunting prospect for someone of any age and ability. Here are five ideas to increase safety, confidence and success when coaching, driving or taking your first jump.
1) Ride the skis: I can’t emphasise this enough! The more time spent on jump skis the more control and balance the skier will obtain. This skill development on the water will then transfer into handling the abnormal sensation of going over a ramp. Some great drills include jumping the wakes (helps with air form and landings), the slalom course (helps with turning and cutting), craning (lifting a ski helps with balance and ski control) and taking the slack (when the skier is gliding out to the side have the observer smoothly pull in the rope and release, this will assist with balance and landing).
2) Jump off a chair: A common reason why a beginner is not able to ride a jump away is because of popping the handle after ‘butt checking’ the water. This is due to the skier having relaxed legs that aren’t prepared for landing. This results in a body collapse putting their bottom in the water which dramatically increases the resistance on landing. Jumping off a chair on dry land before a jump set allows the skier to familiarise themselves with a similar feeling of the preferred jump landing. Start by standing on a chair in a balanced stance holding a handle in front of your right thigh, jump down to the ground and land without letting your bottom drop below knee height. This can be progressed to a table depending on the age of the skier.
3) Lower the ramp: seems obvious but it’s rarely capitalised on, many ramps can lower past 5ft to 4.5ft and even 4ft. This not only makes the ramp look like less of a brick wall to the first time jumper but also results in a softer landing with a lot less slack rope.
4) Drift the boat left after the ramp: This is a driving technique that gives the jumper a straight pull after a landed jump to help them ski away. The amount the driver turns left will depend on the speed of the boat, but an eighth of a turn when the boat passes the ramp followed by straightening up is a good place to start.
5) Catch the landing: This is another driving technique that can take a bit of practice to perfect. Catching the skier refers to slowing the boat down as the skier lands to help them ski the jump away. This method begins by gradually bringing the boat up to speed so that the speed control is engaged without having the throttle all the way down. The timing to back off the throttle is determined when the driver can see the whole skier at the top of the ramp in the mirror. The key to an effective "catch" is to pull the throttle back a tiny amount, only enough to disengage the speed control and decelerate the boat slightly, this is followed by a slow and smooth acceleration to get the boat back to speed after the skier has landed.
Written by Patrick Crisp
Australian water skier
Crisp Water Sports