Four tips to make the most of your next set.
Perfect skiing conditions are what draw thousands of barefooters from around the world to ski schools in Florida each winter. Getting into a boat with a professional driver combined with warm weather, calm water and a focused crew can help make anyone ski like a pro. The problem occurs when these barefooters return home to poor driving, cold weather, rough water and a distracted boat crew, only to forget everything they learned.
The key to success is a positive learning environment that will help you continue improving between ski-school visits. To enhance your training, focus on these four elements.
1. Boat Driving
As many spouses of angry footers can attest, quality driving is especially critical for barefooting. Slight variances in the boat's speed or path can seriously affect a footer's performance. Find or train a boat driver you can trust so you can concentrate solely on skiing rather than speed, shore or other boats. You will be amazed how quickly your skiing improves.
2. Boat Crew
Leave the kids and Tom King wannabes at home during training sessions. Distractions in the boat will take away from your ability to focus on the job at hand. Save a little showing off for after your set, and then everyone will be happy. Most footers try to entertain, baby-sit and train all at the same time, and rarely does this end well.
For most of the year, much of the U.S., Canada and Europe are cold. When the air and water temperatures drop, it's time to change your training practices. Begin each set with a light jog and then stay warm in the boat before you ski. Tight muscles make for stiff body parts, which eventually lead to hard falls. When it gets really cold, do not hesitate to use shoe skis; they make falls softer and keep your feet a little warmer.
4. Water Conditions
Bad water is the number-one cause of injuries for barefooters. Rough water by itself will not hurt you; the inability to recognize when water conditions have deteriorated enough to make training impossible will. When it gets rough, head for the dock or break out the shoe skis and ski inside the wake. This will help build strength and endurance in your skiing.
Glass vs. Texture
Any barefooter who has walked on water dreams of a long, glass-calm lake in which the water is so smooth it becomes difficult to distinguish where the water ends and the land begins. This image is great for dreams, but in reality it is not quite as ideal as it seems. Here's why.
• The Scarpa Complex. Standing on flawless water makes most footers feel like Ron Scarpa, who makes gravity look like it doesn't exist when he's on the water. The fact is that gravity knows the difference between Scarpa and mere mortals, and it will snap you out of that fantasy very quickly.
• Glass Cuts. Calm water stings by cutting into the same spot on the arches of your feet, resulting in unbelievable pain that will stop you in your tracks. It's ironic, but the beautiful water you crave will burn your feet so quickly you'll have to cut your set short, like it or not.
• The Ripple Effect. Ideally, a slight texture to the water is best for barefooting. Not only will it burn the arches of your feet less than calm water, it will also help dissolve the Scarpa Complex and allow you to spend more time standing on the water — and less time swimming in it.
• Should Be a Breeze. A light breeze helps hide small variations in the surface of the water. These variations are harmless, but just seeing them can intimidate and distract. Save the glass-calm mornings for photo shoots and long-distance butt slides, and take advantage of textured water for training like a champion.