View Full Version : How do I start running the course?

08-07-2012, 12:58 PM

Skiyaker's post about running the course raised some questions that I have had for a while, but wasn't sure who to ask. I am an average slalom free-skier (never tried the course), but would like to try it at some point. I admit I know a lot more about wakeboarding, although I have been skiing for longer. My wife used to compete some in INT when she was younger, but is not a whole lot of help on the questions I have, and I don't know anyone else that skis, so I figured you all could help.

First, when will I know when I am ready to start running the course? And if I have never skiied it before, what line length should I start at? We never really ski at 75', so is it safe to start at 15' off? Or is it better to start at full length?

Also, how fast should I ski. I have skiied at around 32mph before, but I am pretty out of control. I have also gained weight since then, so I have gotten a wider ski so I could ski a little slower. I think last time I went out skiiing, I ran at 28mph. Is that still too fast to run the course the first time? How slow can it be run?

Related to the above, I have yet to figure out the scoring/run system for slalom skiing. Where does one start in a tournament and how does one move up? Is it 15 off @ 28, then 30, then 32, then 34 and then to 22 off and repeat the speed increases? Or do you run all the line lengths at 28mph, and then up the speed to 30 and run them again? That doesn't sound right since 43off at any speed would be very tough. I understand the bouy count I think, a bouy for everyone you round, and a half bouy if you make it back to the centerline of the boat path? Is that right?

I have the book "The Complete Guide to Waterskiing" or whatever it is called, and they talk about the mini-course and shadowing the bouys, but they don't get into speeds and line lengths.

Last questions is regarding the ski. My wife claims that unless a skier is elite and deep into shortline at higher speeds, that the wing on the fin hurts more that it helps. Have ya'll heard this? Do you have an opinion?

Thanks for the help!

08-07-2012, 09:14 PM
I will take a stab.

1. When are you ready?
Whenever you are on the water and a course is available you can take a shot at it. Don't go all-out, just get a feel for the width of the bouy line and the spacing. Don't worry about the gates at first. Preferably you should be able to link turns together without counter-cutting. Counter-cutting = If after you get outside the second wake you find yourself re-leaning away from the boat to get the momentum to turn you will have a very hard time in the course.

2. Line length.
Start at 15 off.

3. Speed
I think the minimum speed is the same for everyone, like 16 mph. That accomodates kids and adults and puts everyone in the same scoring system. Typically an teen/adult male will make his first attempts at 28mph. You might go as low as 26 but 28 seems pretty typical. I used to ski 38 off @ 34 mph in open water and had to dial it back to 15 off @ 28mph in the course. It is as more about form and timing than looking good.

4. Your weight.
Depending on where you are consider dropping some weight - it will be easier on your joints. I went from 230 to 180 and have much better results on the ski. Plus better endurance - which helps in the course.

5. Scoring
Check out section 10 of the AWSA rule book:
Basically you get a point for every bouy you turn. If you complete a pass successfully you get credit for all 'lower' passes. So when you complete 15off@28mph you get 42 (7 * 6 I think). Each division has a max speed. Women/girls are typically slower max then men/boys. Men max is 36, Women 34. When you get to mid 30's you drop down 2 mph, more still as you get older. You don't really get 'credit' for skiing short line at slow speed. In other words, you can run 38 off at 28 mph but you only get credit for the 28mph pass (sam as if you had gone long line or 15 off). Once you hit your max speed, say 36mph, then the shortening of the line give you bouys that you can not get any other way (i.e., at 15 off). A lot of the pros may start at max speed at 28 off as a warm up pass. If they make it the get credit for all passes up to that and can continue. If they fall at 3 ball they score 3, the same score as someone who started at longline at 16 mph and fell at 3 ball. So you 'really' want an opening pass that you can make.

6. Mini-course and shadowing.
I have never used either - there may be value in them to get used to timing. But I would recommend against getting too comfortable with them. It really is not as hard as it seems.

7. Wider ski - some intermediate skis can hinder you more than help. Talk with a pro on that one.

8. Half bouys - don't worry about them. You will measure your success by making full passes comfortably.

9. Wing / foil - people were sking in the course long before there were wings. I have certainly heard of coaches recommending removing them on a case-by-case basis. As a minimum make sure it is set correctly. I think 8-9 degrees is typical.

10. What will really help? I wish someone had told me this a long time ago.
Get some coaching by a professional coach. Does not need to be a Pro skier, but someone who makes their living (or a reasonable attempt at it) training people how to slalom. The nice part is that they will have a course so you won't need to buy one. I skied for decades and developed some very bad habits that I thought were really good skiing. I had no one around to tell me I was wrong. A big spray meant I must be doing something right. It costs some $$ but if you really love skiing you will never regret it. You don't need to go every week. But if you can spend a couple days in a row once ore twice a year with a coach, say 2-3 set a day for 2 days, you will progress faster than you think and have a lot of fun in the process.

Hope this helps.

And the most important:

Relax and Have Fun

08-08-2012, 12:11 AM
if you have an outback DD and access to a course- the time to try it is now! just be prepared- it can be incredibly addictive. The thing that keeps amazing me most about skiing the course is how much a tiny technique adjustment can make a huge difference in success. I went out tonight and on my first pass couldn't do diddly poo; refocused and made a small correction for my second pass then felt like I could run it a million times.

Dave did an awesome job at answering your questions-only thing I have to add is regarding your wife being correct about the wing. I took mine off this year and it's made a world of difference. great discussion about this here


08-08-2012, 01:28 AM
Wow. What a write up. This should be push pinned somewhere. I am going to give it a go myself on Thursday and Friday as my buddy and I are staying at his lake house on Lake Hartwell and going to ski behind the his 89 Pro Star. After all these years that old Ford 351 still cranks up and purrs like a kitten. Can't wait.

08-08-2012, 01:32 AM
Interesting article - not sure I am ready to take of the wing just yet. I am running an A2 at 32/34

08-08-2012, 01:51 PM
Awesome write up, Benson! Thanks for the rulebook too, I love reading stuff like that. Might print that out and make bathroom reading of that.

Thanks so much for all the info and advice. I am itching to try it now. I can link turns, but I think I do counter-cut some. I may work on that for a bit first before I try the course.

Our favorite local lake (Hyco) has a course permanently mounted in it, that my wife has used a couple of times. Which brings up another question. What are the rules for slalom course use etiquette? I don't know whose course it is, would they be upset if we use it? Should I try to find out who it belongs to and aske them? Thoughts?

08-08-2012, 02:16 PM
I can't think of any course owner on a public lake being upset about somebody who wants to genuinely learn the sport- If you use it a lot it might be a good idea to figure out who owns it and simply ask who maintains it and whether they want you to replace any buoys you might damage. At least in Indiana, if a course is on a public lake then it is open to the general public to use- so whomever owns it probably realizes anyone can use it but might appreciate the gesture plus you might make some really good friends who can teach you a lot about skiing the course.

google is an amazing thing- I googled "lake hyco slalom course" and this came up


When the water is calm and the traffic is light Hyco makes for the perfect training place with its long season of warm water. Randy’s prior INT accomplishments include National Champion 2005 & 2006 Wide Ride Super Slalom and 3rd place 2005 Advanced Open. Jacob placed 3rd nationally in 2005 at the age of 5 in kneeboard.
For more information, please contact Randy Budzinski:
919 637-5640

If Randy is still involved with your course I bet he'd be a great resource

08-08-2012, 02:32 PM
Wow. What a write up. This should be push pinned somewhere.

Ask and ye shall receive.

08-08-2012, 07:06 PM
Course etiquette
1. Finding the owner. If the Google search did not deliver the right name, just go out to the course between sunrise and 9AM - Sat/Sun or an hour before sunset almost any night but Fri/Sat. You will eventually run into them.
2. Approaching the course. When you drive over to talk to them avoid throwing rollers down the course. Try to drvie in a path parallel with the course. Come to a stop BEFORE you change direction to avoid turn rollers. Wait at one end of the course, maybe 500 - 800 feet before the course and wait for them to stop.
3. Driving by the course. If you have to drive by the course go by at idle or as fast as you can. Going at 1/4 throttle may seem respectful but totally hoses the water.
4. Volunteer. If you are going to use the course a lot, plan on buying some bouys (not milk jugs or detergent bottles). Ask to be shown their way of repairing the course.
5. Understanding what you see. Keep in mind that a lot of course skiers 'drop' at the end of each pass, for a rest, or for coaching, or to shorten the rope. This does not mean that they are done. Wait until it is clear their guys is on the platform. If they are done and they know you are waiting they should move off to the side at idle.
6. Leaving the course. If there are others waiting to use the course, don't drop in the middle of the course unless your skier fell. Run the course all the way and keep going past the normal takeoff point. This keeps the wakes going out in the right direction.

05-20-2013, 12:51 AM
So did you ever give it a go??

......I am itching to try it now. I can link turns, but I think I do counter-cut some. I may work on that for a bit first before I try the course.

Our favorite local lake (Hyco) has a course permanently mounted in it, that my wife has used a couple of times. Which brings up another question. What are the rules for slalom course use etiquette? I don't know whose course it is, would they be upset if we use it? Should I try to find out who it belongs to and aske them? Thoughts?

06-07-2013, 02:18 PM
Nope, I never did. We didn't make it much to the lake last year, and I went back to grad school, so that took up even more time. This spring weather hasn't been much fun either. My wife and I are determined to ski more this year, so hopefully I try it out sometime this summer.

06-13-2013, 02:26 PM
All, I'm going to throw this out there for anyone interested. I usually slalom Jordan Lake during the week from 6-8pm or so and some during the weekend if I can find a cover not already being used.

If anyone wants to meet up and run a few sets with us we would welcome it. Its also great to share tricks and trade secrets we all have learned over the years to eliminate bad habits. And we film our runs and review as well, so this helps.

We are also submitting our approval to the NC Wildlife Commission to permit the course that is already on Jordan ( but sunk and has not been operating since at least 2009 ).

I think it would be fun to talk shop, test some new ski's and gear and rip it up a little. I'm on Instagram SupraLaunch21V or e mail me if you are interested and I can create a distribution chain.

I also heard that there is a course on Kerr Lake? Anyone ever heard of it, or know where it is?

07-15-2013, 01:01 AM
Well we had the Insta-slalom all week in front of the lake place. Nice to be able to look out your front window and see those orange and yellow balls just waiting for you. Got blown out all weekend, but prior to that we had some great conditions.
So proof that you just gotta get in there and do it. At the beginning of the season I was doubting I would ever make the course again at any lenght/speed.
But after spending a week with a coach (Doug at The Liquid Edge, Farmer City, IL.) in the beginning of June, and getting back out there regularly I have made it up to 3@22 off @ 34. Nothing to make the record books with - but felt good - right up to the point where I bounced off my ribs and ear coming across headed for 4 ball.
Still soooo many elements of style that need work - and it all happens in about 2-3 seconds .

09-26-2013, 04:52 PM
I love the fact that this article has managed to stay up on the board as long as it has? Course skiing is a true addiction! Matter of fact it kind of remonds me of tattoos in some silly way???? I'll just try it once................ya right! LOL How many people do you know who wanted a tattoo ended up with another one or more? I have tried both more than once! :)

As soon as you wrap your head around the fact that it's YOU vs the course and not you vs the dude who skis deep into 35 or shorter off then you're going to get addicted! And there's no better feeling than the first time you run all six bouys. Even if you only get two when you exit the course at the end you're already thinking I want to go again because I think I can get three next time.

We are currently just getting ready to start building our home on our lot in our ski community. Now my addiction has come full circle. To th epoint where I pushed myself too hard a month ago and did an OTF around bouy four and tore up my left ankle, right shoulder, and right eye! I haven't been on the water since.

That said I get back home from West Virginia tomorrow (Friday) night and Saturday I'll be taping the heck out of my ankle to get out there and see if I can get around one more than I did last time or maybe meet & exceed my personal best?????

My point is - don't wait if you have access and opportunity! You'll regret not doing it. It is NOTHING like open water skiing at all! Private or public course - respect owners and their property or chances are you won't be allowed back.