Common Threads and Shreds

You meet cool people.  At Starbucks.  At the grocery store.  At a party.  I’ve had the opportunity to water ski at a high level, all over the world, for the past couple decades.  It has been one of the raddest and most enriching parts of my life.  Probably one of the greatest highlights though, has been the friends I’ve found along the way.

Last summer I had the opportunity to do some water skiing with one of those friends.

Steven Nyman snow skis for a living.  But he’s also a water skier, and he’s been doing it since he was a kid.  We decided to meet up a couple times throughout the summer, to do just that: ski.

After a July 4th session on Tahoe, and a early Halloween camp here in Chico, I decided to put together a FlowPoint TV Episode on Steven.  Why he skis, how it helps him on the hill, and maybe even see if he had any thoughts on the best way to carry a water ski.  But as winter hit, and the first few FIS World Cup races went down, I realized this story was going to be a whole lot more than sunsets and summertime.

After a challenging racing career, including some great World Cup wins and many injuries, Steven came alive this season, and what a time to do it.  Not only is it a World Championship year (every 2 years), but its the first time they’ve been back in the United States, since 1999.  And it might just be Steven’s favorite hill.

The Birds of Prey is the only World Cup stop in the US for the men.  Steven has 3 career podium finishes at Birds of Prey, including a 3rd just 2 months ago.

This is a story about Steven.


February 2, 2015 | No Comments

Actions_Freeride_Basis_Brown_JMP_4496Got some love from Waterski Mag a little while back. Thankful to still be able to give back to the sport and community I love!

Waterski Mag: In the Spotlight with Marcus Brown

We called up legendary West Coast-style water skier Marcus Brown a few days ago to talk to him about his motivation behind the video FlowPoint, as well as the development and lifestyle of Freeride skiing. Brown has had significant influence on our sport over the years, from his West Coast skiing style to the new era of Freeride skiing and trying to expand our sport beyond the typical six-buoy course.

History of FlowPoint?
At the end of one day I was bummed with the lack of good content in our sport. Since I first made that mental note that someone needs to step up and do something, guys like the Wilson Brothers and/or Adam [Sedlmajer] are starting to do some cool stuff. I think people are on the right track and it’s fun to be a part of this kind of immediate movement where other skiers are getting involved. With FlowPoint I’m trying to do something different than what everybody else is doing. At the core of FlowPoint TV is the idea that, if I go out and run 39 ½ off in the world championships on the river in Russia, that feeling I get is the same feeling that a beginner skier gets when they get up for the first time, or a recreational skier gets when they are the only ones on a public lake in the morning at 6.15am shredding as the sun is coming up,  just free skiing. That feeling…, that moment in time where you are just completely in the now, you’re on autopilot and nothing else matters. Flow.  That feeling is not just unique to elite level athletes. I think anybody, whether it’s on a water ski or on a tennis court or in any sport, is able to have that experience. That’s where I got the whole idea for FlowPoint.

So is the bigger idea or message you’re trying to send out with FlowPoint that water skiing is not just about skiing in the course but the passion behind why we do it?
Totally. Because when you look at what we do and you look at what, no offense, but you look at what WATERSKI magazine does, you look at what all of our industry leaders do, like boat companies, ski companies, most everybody in the industry talks to their competition skier, Only. So what I’m trying to do is start the dialogue with recreational skiers and be that hand that reaches out to that bigger, much bigger base of skiers who are just skiing for fun or learning to ski, or people who have never skied a course but they love to ski on weekends in the summer. Those people don’t even know we exist and that’s what FlowPoint is really trying to do is reach across that gap and say, “Guys we’re here for you, We like what you do. We love your lake life, and we love living it. Sharing it.” But also to say, hey competitive skiers open your eyes. There’s more than just going around buoys every day all day. If you really want to grow our sport you can’t just keep talking to the same closed group of people every year. So that’s the bigger picture.

The idea of the Freeride ski, was that your idea?
That’s been my idea for five or six years. Maybe longer. I was talking to my buddy Glen Plake (think Mohawk) who is an avid water skier too.  He and I have been getting around this idea that there needs to be a ski that’s not just for “racing.” It’s just like on snow. They don’t build race skis only. There’s also free ride skis and skis that are for the whole mountain. So that kind of planted the seed. Then really a lot of it was Dave Wingerter at HO and Bob LaPoint saying ok let’s do this. They believed in my idea and they took the bull by the horns and they shaped the first ski. They sent it to me and I hand shaped it up. That’s what started the free ride movement. Straight after that is when Radar came out with their Satori and some other skis tried to say we have free rides too. I think we’re the first ones to actually offer a true Freeride. It has a unique design that nobody has really done yet.

When did the HO Freeride ski first come out?
It was in 2012.

You’ve been struggling with some major back issues the last couple years. Are you able to at least still ride your HO Freeride ski? Is this a good alternative also for skiers who aren’t fit to run a course?

Yes I definitely free ride and totally! Not just that but people who don’t think they can ski anymore maybe cause their body’s beat up. Maybe it’s not their back, maybe it’s their knee or their hip. That’s what we tried to design the free ride for. For people who either have a hard time getting up because of an injury or they’re learning how to get up. The free ride is the only ski that’s as easy to get up on as it is and still be performance based. It can still carve and cut through the wakes because it’s not really that fat than any other ski that’s trying to be easy for people to get up on.

What are the top 3 most scenic free ride places?
Lake Powell is probably the top scenic place. There’s really no other place like it. I think another one that is really beautiful but you have to be an early bird, is Lake Tahoe. It’s amazing to ski on. Especially when the sun just comes up and theres still steam coming off of the water. It’s rad. And then Crescent Bar which is on the Columbia River. That’s a pretty unique place to ski. The whole Columbia River Gorge is pretty amazing.

Can we expect to see more awe-inspiring FlowPoint videos soon?
I hope to do quite a few. But I can’t promise anything right now. It’s one thing to put together like a one or two minute edit of the week but to do like a ten minute epic story takes a lot more. I’m definitely planning on doing something more regular. I can’t say for sure yet because I’m still trying to get funding to make it happen. It’s hard. I mean one of my sponsors is totally on board [HO] you know probably because we make the Freeride – they’re like “Yeah let’s do this. This is rad!”   And then everybody else is like “..well, we don’t really get it.”

January 13, 2015 | No Comments

Nate Smith, at Centerline at 41' Off

Nate Smith, Gate Pullout, 41 Off

2 Pictures of Nate at 41 off. 

the first is him cutting 2 to 3. He is basically at centerline, but you see how much his COM is still leading his feet. Also, notice how little lean he has for what you’d expect you’d need to run 41 off.

2nd pic is him pulling out for the gates. Again, notice how much COM shift he has, in the direction of desired travel.

This is the fundamental reason Nate is the best. He moves is COM better than anyone else. @gregy is right though, dry land is one of the only ways to really “feel” the movement….due to the lack of good on water drills in water skiing. However, the statement “I can put 90% of my weight in the front foot however if my hips are back I’m still plowing water.” is not valid. Not to get too deep, but the physics dictates that your ski doesn’t care what you’re body position is…..all it knows is where your COM is in relation to it. If you have 90% of weight on front foot….it doesn’t matter if your ass is back and your chest over the tip, or if your hips are up and stacked….the ski will react exactly the same. HOWEVER, what body position does change, is the skiers ability to handle the compressive force from the ski and the tension force from the boat.

Sorry for the rant.

Here’s the simple truth, maybe I can find time to go deeper later:

The best time to accelerate is from the Apex of the turn (widest point), until centerline. Waste time poppin’ wheelies or overturning and getting pulled out….and you’ve wasted acceleration credits (and therefore speed….which means no angle). That’s part of the reason we can run our easier passes earlier….because the longer the line or the slower the boat speed, the easier it is to execute a nice carve around the buoy….which means we get more time to accelerate.

The best way to accelerate is to move your COM forward….balancing the amount of COM shift ahead, with the appropriate amount of lean away from the boat.

*Too much lean away from the boat => Reduces the ability to lead with the COM, because the added ski roll results in higher rope load, which increases the drag on the ski, which makes you feel uneasy about shifting anything forward except for your ski. Result is less cross course direction than desired.

The best way to move COM forward, is to Stack your body properly. Now everyone is going to be different, based on body type, mobility of joints…etc. Some people WILL NOT be able to simply get into a perfect stack….maybe their hips are too tight, or their ankles or boots are too stiff. Or maybe their feet are too far about. Million reasons…but those skiers out there who cannot properly stack, yet still get it done, have learned how to move their COM forward without the perfect stack….and without stacking through the wakes. (Dave Miller is a great example)

@wish and @gregy if the ski moves in front of you, you are slow. If you want to hit the breaks into the wakes, move your ski in front of you. *Thats also a great way to let your feet move outbound too soon, and get separated from the handle before getting through the second wake. Again, look at Nate above…..that’s 41 off where the Centripetal Force from the Rope at Centerline is much much higher than at 32,35,38 off….and he’s still able to lead with COM.

Thats the secret. But really its not a secret….we started this Conversation 16 years ago…just sometime bad info has clouded the message or derailed the train from time to time. 

Glad to see the evolution in slalom theory since then….most people out there are understanding it.

Now….how the eff do you actually Stack?!!! @Horton maybe you need to make a trip up here to the Ridge soon. We could get a lot more done in person.

P.S. Anyone/Everyone is invited. 


August 20, 2014 | 5 Comments