Six tips to avoid punishing falls
All barefooters are familiar with the concept of falling, but it seems like onlookers to the sport are even more familiar with it. Although falls are no more frequent in footing than in any other water sport, they tend to happen faster and look more violent. The fact is that footing crashes usually look a lot worse than they really are. Footers know the truth, but spectators will always be amazed that we can walk away from the falls we take. So to help set your mother's mind at ease, here are some tips for avoiding your next hard fall.
1. Work on your body position.
The best way to avoid a sudden, painful fall is to ski in a position that allows you to stay on top of the water. Keeping knees bent and shins perpendicular to the water is the best way to keep your feet gliding across it instead of plowing through it. By ensuring that your shoulders remain behind your hips, you will also eliminate the possibility of having your feet wash underneath your body, leaving you free to enjoy an efficient and safe ski position.
2. Stick to the “Progressive Learning Approach.”
Basically the PLA states that if you do not know how to do a maneuver that is easier than the trick you are working on, you need to go back and work on the easier stuff before moving ahead and taking unnecessary falls. It's also known as the “don't put the cart before the horse” rule.
3. Remember that speed kills.
Well it doesn't actually kill, but it will make falls much more violent and frequent than even the toughest footer is prepared to handle. Most drivers assume that WFO is the recommended speed for every barefooter. Slow things down a bit and try enjoying the ride across the lake rather than just holding on for dear life. If you need a starting speed, simply divide your weight by 10 and add 20. This will give you a good speed for getting on the water.
4. Keep in mind that it's not an invincibility suit.
Just because you're wearing a padded wetsuit doesn't mean you're invincible. Your joints can still be pulled in the wrong direction, and your head can still be slammed against the water. Don't plant your feet until they are straight in front of your body. Failure to follow this advice can end with one leg being yanked in the wrong direction, causing knee, hip and back injury.
5. Avoid equipment malfunction.
Although barefooting does not require as much equipment as other water sports, old and worn gear can cause severe injury if you are on the water when it breaks. Make sure you inspect your gear at the beginning of the season and frequently throughout the
season for signs of wear. The next step is to replace the worn-out equipment before disaster strikes.
6. Don't try to tough it out.
In the early years of barefooting, “hard skiers” would use hard falls to make themselves seem tougher and cooler to spectators. Thank goodness the “good old days” are gone because those barefooters who prided themselves on the ability to hold onto any fall missed a lot of beautiful ski days because of dislocated shoulders, injured knees and broken necks. Let's leave those stories to the historians and start a new revolution of “soft skiers” who use grace and technique to look cool instead of casts and knee braces.
Barefooting is a contact sport, and like it or not, you will take some falls that ring your bell. Stretching will allow your body to absorb some of the impact of the falls that are unavoidable. Here are some barefoot-specific stretches that will help you ski more smoothly and bounce back more quickly after unexpected falls.
• Achilles tendon
Makes foot angulations on the water much easier when barefooting backwards.
Place both feet beside one another with your heels on the ground. Slowly bend your knees until your rear is touching the backs of your heels. Keep your knees together if possible, and hug your knees with your arms. If you cannot lower your rear all the way down, spread your feet until you can completely compress.
• Lower Back
Reduces the amount of stiffness you feel the day after a hard fall.
Lay flat on your back with your legs stretched out flat on the ground. Bend one knee up to your chest and roll it across your body towards the ground. Make sure you keep both shoulders flat on the ground during this stretch. Repeat for 20 seconds for both legs. This stretch will loosen your hips, lower back, upper back and, if you are lucky, will give you a nice vertebra pop for each leg.
Increases suppleness and flexibility to avoid common injuries.
Cross your left foot over your right foot. With straight legs, slowly bend down until you feel a good stretch. Hold for 20 seconds and then release. Repeat this stretch with each foot crossed over the other.