At just 21, Nate Smith is doing what most guys take decades to figure out, if they ever do. He knows how to use the boat to maximize his performance, which is one reason he’s run 41 off eight times this year. Smith times his cross-course attack perfectly with Zero Off, reducing the boat’s surge and allowing him to move freely into the turn in the most efficient manner. Watch him ski and you’ll immediately notice that he is always light on the handle and symmetrical on both sides of the course. He won all but one of the major events this summer, and we’d say Smith is well on his way to becoming one of the best skiers of all time. By Todd Ristorcelli
Most memorable victory of the season? I would have to say Moomba Masters. It was the first tournament of the year. It was also the earliest I have ever had to be prepared for what I found out was to be the largest tournament of the year. First time to Australia, most people I have ever been in front of at one time, last guy to make it in every round, first guy off the dock in the finals and won it.
Any crazy or funny travel stories to share? Not really … at least not that I can think of. Lots of driving, though. I drove the entire length of Interstate 10 and Interstate 70 this year. Also towed a boat from Indiana to Southern California.
What’s your 41-off count this year, and describe the challenges of besting your PB of 1 at 43 off. I have run 41 off eight times this year. One more than last year and 15 times total in my career. I have come to the conclusion that, at 43 off, the rope is just too short. I have finally run out of rope. To better my personal best at 43, I think that I simply need to practice it more. I typically do not shorten it to 43 in practice. When I do, it’s my sixth pass, and I’m tired by then.
Looking back on your 43-off attempts, which would you say has been your best opportunity to run more than one? What little tweak or timing issue would have made the difference? My best opportunity to run more than one buoy was two times at Shortline Lake in early September. I was within inches of 2 ball twice. Again, I think more practice can make the difference. As far as a little tweak, I think that it’s all in the gate and the timing. You have to get yourself out to 1 ball at just the right time or you either come up short or overrun it.
What Zero Off setting do you like best? A2 has been my letter for years.
Favorite place to ski? Back in Indiana at Sawmill Lake. Second-favorite place is Shortline Lake, in Elk Grove, California.
Who do you normally ski with? I normally ski with Scott Tynan, but this year it seems like I have been at a different site every weekend.
Describe a typical training day at the lake. It doesn’t consist of too much. Pretty much casually go down to the dock and take a few ski rides and hang out with the people at the lake. I usually just run a tournament set and go until a miss. Or usually six passes.
How many D3 X7 skis did you ride this year? It’s kind of a weird situation. I rode two. Both stock X7s. Right before the U.S. Masters I was skiing terrible and thought maybe it was time to set up another X7, so I switched the night before and only had one practice ride. I went to the Masters and won. The following weekend I skied in a tournament in North Carolina and ran 41. I didn’t think that the new ski was exactly the same as the one I had been riding (fin setup, new vs. old), so I went back to my normal ski and have been riding it since then.
What are your plans for the off-season? I’m really not sure. I do plan to take some time off. It has been a long year since I had to be ready for Moomba Masters, back in March. There is one more pro event, in Indonesia. A World Cup stop in November. I’m also signed up for a two-week visit to Australia in December. Other than that, I’m going to rest.