Trent Finlayson teaches you how to progress from one slalom speed to the next by using the boat to your advantage with incremental progression.
1. When to say when
Once you are comfortably running one set speed you will inevitably begin seeking the next challenge. There should be no strict set of rules governing when it is appropriate to bump up the speed. Slalom is supposed to be fun, so as one pass becomes manageable, go for the added excitement of bumping up the boat speed. Just ensure you are not consistently making mistakes at the slower boat speed that result in hard falls. The faster speed will only elevate the potential for injury.
2. Work with the boat
As the boat speeds up, it is intuitive for most skiers to work harder against it. You need to take the opposite approach, however. As the speed increases, it becomes even more important to work with the boat. By doing so you will maximize your own cross-course speed, arriving to the buoy line earlier than you were able to at the previous speed. By actively squaring your hips and shoulders down the lake at the completion of the turn and maintaining equal pressure on both arms into the wake, you will advance your body over your feet. This will ensure you are not overworking and leaning away from the boat too hard, creating excessive tension on the rope. Through this approach, the faster boat speed will result in a speed boost of your own, and acceleration is the key to slalom success.
3. Timing is everything
If the boat is handing you this extra speed, where does the difficulty lie? Reaction time. If you are riding the speed into the wakes without leaning away too hard, your only adjustment will be to your timing. Since you are getting into the wakes quicker, you will need to hasten your release (or edge change). The more speed you are able to generate, the earlier you will be able to move through your edge change; so don’t get caught pulling too long.
4. Slow down as you speed up
As the boat’s speed increases, so will your own speed. This effectively means you will be spending less time behind the boat and more time up at the buoy line. Now is the time to relax, slow down and be purposeful with your movements. Because you are spending more time traveling alongside the boat, you will need to slow your reach and keep counter-rotating to the outside of the turn longer. If you are too quick with your reach, you will force yourself to “stall out” before you reach the buoy. Remember, if you are not in motion (reaching and counter-rotating) you are slowing down. Keep your mass constantly moving forward by controlling your reach.
5. Follow your own rules
Just because the rulebook says you must increase your speed by two miles per hour, it doesn’t mean you have to in practice. Initially, increase your boat’s speed by a single mile per hour if you are hesitant to take the full plunge. Once you are comfortable, make the leap to the next official speed. Leave the strict rules for tournament settings, and progress at your own rate of comfort and ability.