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. 

MB

August 20, 2014 | 5 Comments

Well, its been far far too long since the last time I touched on this topic….or posted anything at all, for that matter.

This is a response to the recent developments that happened surrounding the Big Dawg Finals at the US Water Ski Nationals, as well as a follow up to “Living the dream, Chapter 1” , which you need to read first, if you haven’t already.

If you need to get caught up on what happened at the Big Dawg finals…use This Link to get your foot in the door….if you need more….you can find that Here.

 

A lot of discussion has come up regarding one of the best skiers in history, Jeff Rodgers, asking for a re-ride in the Big Dawg Finals.  Ultimately, he was granted a re-ride (basically a do-over), and after more than an hour of delay, and 75% of spectators leaving the shoreline….Jeff moved on to the final…bumping out Dave Miller.  Jeff lost to Andy Mapple shortly after that, and ended up with a second place finish…but no one really cared about any of that.  The focus was on the huge delay, and the judgement call that spurred it all to begin with.

This highlights a fundamental problem with Water Skiing at the moment:  the ability to lean on the judges to make the call.

Let me take you back to US Nationals a couple of years ago, in Illinois.  A skier in Men 3 goes inside buoy #4, but continues skiing and ultimately gets a score that puts him in first place.  Everyone watching knew he went inside the buoy (as a slalom skier, you have to go OUTSIDE buoys to get credit for having gone around them…kinda makes a lot of sense), but the judges working the event had already scored him.  There’s nothing that could be done.  He goes on to win, unjustly.

I immediately sparked a conversation on the shoreline with one of the officials and leaders of our sport….we talked and realized there is absolutely NO RULE that allows a skier to correct their own score when they know they have been given something they didn’t get:  whether its missing the gates, or going inside a buoy.

Now think about that for a second.  In a sport where the skier cannot correct their own score, what sort of culture does that nurture?  I will tell you it develops the unwritten rule that exists today in competitive skiing all over the world:  If the judge gives it to you, keep skiing.

In 2005, at a MasterCraft Pro Water Ski Tour Stop in Flushing Meadows, NY, I was skiing in the semifinals.  It was a very challenging site, and many of the best skiers in the world had fallen or continued to fall early at the 39.5 off pass.  I struggled through my first 3 passes….and as I came into 39.5 off, I drifted at the start.  As a result, I went too early for the gates and center punched the right hand gate buoy.  Pissed, I kept skiing….was early to buoy 5, safety turned it, and coulda tried to squeak around the last buoy, but had no intention of risking it as I knew I was gonna get the pass taken away.  The Judges gave me 5.  I had to speak to 3 different judges, including the chief, and they all said it was a judgement call and that they scored me 5 and that they couldn’t change it.  I ended up tying for 3rd place.

Their has to be a new rule, that allows skiers to correct their own score.  We need something that will help to change the paradigm in this sport, away from “if the judges give it to you, keep skiing”, to “if you know you missed it, do the right thing.”

As a true professional, I know that my job is not only to ski the best I can ski and represent my companies to the best of my ability….but also to inspire the youth.  Not just inspiring them to ski, but inspiring them to be better people.  Taking a buoy I didn’t get is the exact opposite of teaching future generations to be better human beings.

That leads me back to Big Dawgs.  Dave Miller might have got the short end of the stick (no dawg pun intended) the other night….and good on him for speaking up and wearing his opinions on his fur sleeve, many folks gain respect for him for that…but I have to highlight 2 things:

  1. Dave said the following regarding Jeff Rodgers and the controversy “…the reason all the Big Dawgs went wild is because none of them would consider asking for a re-ride due to lights. Its just not something that would cross our minds. It is not that Jeff is a bad guy he just hasn’t been a part of the Big Dawg group long enough to know. He did what he would do in a Pro event.”     I hate to read that from such a well respected Big Dawg.  Insinuating that Big Dawg skiers hold themselves to a higher standard than Pro Skiers, is a hard pill for me to swallow.  Because I can’t buy it.  Its not true.  Of all the night finals I’ve skied or witnessed….I can’t remember 1 where a skier asked for a re-ride due to lights.   Dave is heated and emotional…I don’t fault him for getting wrapped up in the moment….but Big Dawg skiing does not contain any higher amount of moral fabric than Pro Skiing….if it did, there wouldn’t be a need for an internal call to action for Drug Testing due to the suspiciousness of Big Dawgs being able to ski 5 practice rides the day before they ski 4 tournament rides.
  2. Just the day before, in the 1st round of qualifying, I caught some of the skiing.  I witnessed Dave Miller run 2.25 at 41 off.  But What I saw, along with at least 3 other Big Dawg skiers and countless others, was Dave going inside buoy 3.   Not a big deal. As I have stated before, there is no precedent (unwritten rule) for a skier to correct their own score if they know they’ve been given extra buoys….  I don’t fault Dave at all, because the system is set up to allow the skier to lean on the judges call at all times.  But looking back, in light of what happened during the night final and Dave’s resulting opinions on the controversy…..I can’t help but see a huge conflict.   Yeah, Jeff Rodgers felt he was entitled to ask for a re-ride…so he asked.  He asked, in my opinion, because there is no penalty for simply asking.  Remember, our system is setup to allow the skiers to lean on the judges at all times.  So, Jeff innocently asked for a re-ride.  Dave was bummed….Big Dawgs don’t do that.  The judgement call of allowing Jeff to get a second chance was not “acceptable” according the the Dawgs at the dock….and thus you have a 1+ hour delay.  But the day before, Dave accepts the judgement call of 2.25 at 41 off.  It was a call that was in his favor.   He went further and posted it on Facebook.  I don’t know if he knew he didn’t get around 3 or not….but he certainly must have realized it was too close.  A lot of people watching that day saw it and knew he didn’t get around 3.  But Dave leans on that judgement call to the point of sharing it with the world.

Now, I consider Dave Miller a pillar within our sport.  None of this is to bash him.  He’s been integral in hosting pro events throughout the years in Canada…and even skiing and doing well in them.  But its to highlight a broken system.  And how 1 little thing, the inability of the “skier” to take personal responsibility for their score….has bred a paradigm within our sport where a successful, honest, upstanding athlete like Dave Miller can get caught in the system and inadvertently fall right in line….without even knowing it.

We don’t water ski to Win.  If you just said “the hell we don’t!!”, then quit reading (if you haven’t already), because you won’t agree with what I’m gonna say.  We water ski to become better people.  We do it because its challenging.  Doesn’t matter how good we are, we can always try to be better than we were yesterday….we can always keep fighting for another chance to find our FlowPoint….that moment when everything clicks.  Its about the journey….and the people we meet along the way.  And its about learning from others and growing together, as a community.

If we want to leave the world better than we found it, why aren’t we acting like it?  Why aren’t we changing the rules to allow us, as individuals and role models, to be the best example of what we want our kids to be when they grow up?

In a system where we lean on the judges call, I don’t think that a person who accepts the judges call to grant a re-ride can be crucified for doing so.  They are playing by the same rules you are playing by.

If the rule is you have to go around the buoy, then I don’t think you should get credit for not going around a buoy…..even if the judge “gives” it to you.  To me, those situations are chances to lead by example…

 

Add a rule –> Change the system –> Change the paradigm    ….and we give ourselves a chance to change lives and individuals for the better…forever.  That’s pretty powerful.

 

Who’s with me?  I’m willing to take this to USA Water Ski & IWWF….just need to feel like I’m not the only one….

 

These guys are the future:

Screen Shot 2014-08-17 at 5.45.04 PM

The Future

We only get to guide them for a short time….what lessons do we want to leave them with?

Oh, and maybe next year we spend a bit less on Big Dawg finals lights, and a bit more on giving the best Junior Skiers in the country a bit better banquet than a stuffy room with a bunch of tightly packed chairs facing 1 direction.  You know, something they can look forward to…

 

 

 

August 17, 2014 | 18 Comments