Progression is what we all want when we ride – to get a little better. Progression is simply risk vs. reward. Getting up on two skis for the first time, pulling outside the wakes and crossing them faster and faster equals progression. Risk, in that example, involves getting to a point and speed where you can take a hard fall. The risk is the possibility of short-term pain or even injury. Reward is the sense of excitement of progressing as a skier and the mastery of those skills.
Advancing to a slalom ski, pulling outside the wake, learning to cross them back and forth faster and faster equals progression. Risk involves increasing speed and a greater chance of pain or injury; the reward, even further sense of improvement as a skier. For accomplished skiers and riders, there’s a point when participation progresses to passion, where curiosity becomes a conscious desire to advance and that advancement fuels even more advancement.
In watersports, there is no clear path to gaining skills. For instance, my daughter never put two skis on her feet. She got up on a wakeboard when she was 5 and she rides or surfs today having never skied or slalomed.
For me personally, I hit a plateau on slalom and decided to diversify my portfolio into wake sports. I honestly went out with blinders on, thinking of slalom and nothing else. I wanted to beat my best performance on a slalom course and advance to 35′ off. I have never done it.
Progression in the “sideways sports” isn’t as linear as water skiing, which almost always begins with two skis, moves to slalom, then on to some combination of tricks, barefoot and jumping. But board sports like wakeboarding, wake surfing and wake skating share the same risks and rewards as skiing.
Injury is the inherent risk; lowest on the scale of hard falls is wake surfing. However learning new wake surfing tricks is more difficult than progressing on a wakeboard or wakeskate. ‘Boarders and ‘skaters have the ability to progress from surface tricks to ollies – the same tricks performed in the air instead of on the water’s surface – and then those same tricks can be performed during a wake-to-wake jump.
Wakeboarding and skating have more options for tricks, but the risk is harder falls. Catching a toe-side edge on the surface stings, but catching a toe side edge wake-to-wake is no joke – you can really get hurt. So the next time you see someone getting up on two skis for the first time, or you see someone doing a big inverted trick in the air, think about what they are doing and how they got there. Pull your throttle back into idle and watch, admire and pay a little respect to those trying to get better and having a good time doing it.
See you on the water.