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Learn more advanced jump maneuvers

This is an excerpt from Water Skiing and Wakeboarding by Ben Favret.

Three-Quarter Cut

With all the right gear, the ability to control your speed, and solid technique riding your skis, you may believe you can go farther. You may even be able to see the 100-foot (31 m) buoy just in front of you when you land your current single-wake jumps. This is the most dangerous point in your jumping career because you have just enough talent, strength, and ability to hurt yourself if you push beyond your limits. In fact, some top coaches keep their students jumping with a single-wake cut for a full season or more to ensure that they can control their skis and speed. This may seem like a long time, but the skiers who take the time and learn to ride their skis end up improving the quickest.

The next phase is learning to jump from a wider position known as the three-quarter cut. The three-quarter cut should begin as nothing more than an extended version of the single-wake cut. The difference is that you start from a slightly wider position—10 feet (3 m) outside the right wake rather than the left wake. Keep the boat speed and path the same as those you used for your single cuts (28-30 mph, or 45-48 km/h). The same principles of progressive edging and controlled speed apply, except now timing is more involved.

To help adjust to the new timing without the worry of going over the ramp, do the no-jump jumping drill with one small addition. Set out two buoys about 12 feet (3.7 m) apart and away from the ramp. These buoys represent the ramp. On a jump course, use the second set of timing buoys to simulate the ramp. (If you do not have a jump course set up, run the boat in a straight line about 50 feet, or 15 meters, outside the buoy closest to the boat.) Pull out 10 feet (3 m) outside the wake, assume the correct body position, and focus on the left buoy, which represents the top left corner of the ramp. Don't worry about the wakes; let the boat slowly pull you over them as you set a soft edge. As you come off the second wake, you should be near the same position you have been taking on your single cut. Drop your hip and edge up and through to the middle of the buoys.

Try this until you are comfortable, confident, and in control of your body position, skis, and speed. Once you feel you are ready, take it to the ramp with confidence, concentrating on holding your edge as you drop your hip off the wake into the ramp. Stay calm and be smart, and you will soon be jumping 100 feet (30 m) or more.

Once you get solid at jumping from this wider position, move out a little farther to about 20 feet (6 m) outside the wakes and go through the same process. Now do the same thing from 30 feet (9 m). The farther you move out, the more speed you will carry into the base of the ramp, and the more critical body position and timing will be. You should be able to generate 80 to 90 percent of your maximum distance from a three-quarter cut, so you should spend a great deal of time mastering this technique. Take the time needed to become aware of your location in relation to the boat and the ramp. Develop a sense of timing and stay safe and in control of your speed and position. If things aren't right, then pass!

Up until now you have been running the boat between, or splitting, the jump course buoys. As you learn to take a stronger edge and ski across the course more, you will arrive at the ramp earlier. You can keep your turn at the same location and get back into a full cutting position by beginning to move the boat out wider toward the right-hand side of the course. Move it out in 1- or 2-foot (31 or 61 cm) increments until you find a spot that is comfortable for you to take a full, strong edge into the ramp as shown in figure 7.19.

Figure 7.19

No matter how much you practice, some approaches to the ramp won't be quite right. In these instances, you need to pass on the jump for safety. You pass by letting go of the handle when you realize this will not be a safe jump and ski around the left side of the ramp. Avoid hitting any portion of the ramp by hopping over the corner if need be. If you are early into the ramp, pass. If you are late into the ramp, pass. If you are on your heels, pass. If your skis are behind you, pass. If you don't have confidence, pass. Do not try to salvage a bad start or edge. By learning to pass, you will stay safe and practice good habits of edging and turning slowly.

Because passing on purpose teaches bad habits, you should pass on a jump only when safety is an issue. The secret to good jumping is learning to edge through the ramp. When you pass, you usually stop pulling just after the wakes and let go of the handle and ski around the ramp. This is the opposite of what you want to practice doing. If your approach is unsafe and you don't feel confident, you should pass, but be sure to take the jump when things are good so you can gain experience and confidence with each jump.

Double Cut

As stated earlier, you should be able to achieve nearly all of your distance from a three-quarter cut. The rest comes from the double cut. The purpose of the double cut is to position the skier out wider to create more angle across the wakes and generate more speed into the ramp. The increased angle and speed equal greater distance. The trade-off is consistency. The wider you get on the boat, the more critical the timing of the turn and cut becomes.

To perform the double cut, you must learn how to make the counter cut. The counter cut is different from the cut to the ramp. Because its only purpose is to position you wider on the boat, a more leveraged position, similar to that used in slalom, is called for. The timing of the turn for the counter cut is assisted by the 500- and 600-foot (152 and 183 m) buoys. You pull out to the left side of the boat and use a snowplow position (as with snow skiing, point the tips of your skis together to slow down quickly) to control your speed for the turn. Once your skis are turned, apply pressure to the left ski and pull through the wakes across the course and up alongside the boat. When you have achieved your maximum width, you need to pull the handle up and across your body. This extra action gives you additional speed and advances you farther up on the boat.

As you glide down the lake, you prepare for the next phase of the double cut, the turn. The double-cut turn is different from the three-quarter-cut turn. Because you are farther up alongside the boat, you cannot make the same turn without creating slack in the rope or dropping back to a narrower position. You must learn the S turn to solve this problem (see figure 7.21). The S turn begins by letting your left arm extend out during the glide. As you glide, rotate your left hip away from the boat. This action edges you away from the ramp and keeps the rope tight. Now shift your weight to your right ski and make a slow rotation with your right hip back to the handle. At this stage it is critical that you maintain your forward water speed and ski through the turn as you do in slalom skiing. This will help you avoid creating pull from the boat until you are fully rotated and set in an aligned position that allows you to hold the acceleration of the boat.

Figure 7.21

Your eyes should be fixed across the course and not on the ramp, your knees should be flexed, and the handle must be down and in near your body. Set your edge and hold your direction across the wakes as you have been doing with the three-quarter cut. It will be slightly more difficult to hold the edge because of the increased angle. If you are having trouble, back up or spend more time practicing the drills you learned in the earlier sections.

A slow rotation toward the ramp while keeping your speed as high as possible is key. This sounds easy, but when you are looking across the course and see the side curtain of the ramp, you have a tendency to rush everything. You can overcome this by using a cut and pass drill, in which you make a turn and cut as if you were actually going to hit the ramp but let go at the last possible second and safely go around the ramp. This helps you learn the timing of your turn without worrying about the ramp. Use this drill to see the new perspective of the ramp and boat and make any adjustments.

More Excerpts From Water Skiing and Wakeboarding