What does it feel like to fly? Billions of people on Earth will never know the feeling of rocketing into the air, and being disconnected from everything, even if it’s just for a moment. However, many waterskiers have been able to seize the opportunity to know what it is like to fly, even if for just a moment. Is it scary? Yes. Is it dangerous at times? Yes. Is it difficult to get into? Yes. So why do it? Because waterski jumping is the greatest feeling in the world. Whether you are going 25ft over the ramp and into the water, or uncorking a 300ft leap through the air, jump is truly the best thing that can be done on waterskis.
The jump event is interesting because most every person who does it starts the exact same way. There are a few ways to coach beginners, but they all boil down to the exact same three words: knees, trees, freeze. No matter where you go in the United States, junior divisions with enthusiastic parents, ski schools with professional coaching, college teams with beginner coaches, or even show ski jumpers who will eventually be doing spins and flips off the ramp; the first set that every jumper takes starts with the exact same coaching. Bend your knees, look up at the trees, and freeze, do not move. This advice has proven invaluable for the sport of waterski jumping, even at the highest levels, this basic coaching mostly holds true from the absolute beginners all the way through those who are vying for world championships.
After the beginner stages of jumping, intermediate and advanced jumpers add a two-step process to our classic coaching. They start adding harder and harder cuts towards the ramp, followed by a nice crisp pop off the top. At this point, jumping starts to become incredibly fun. Skiers lock in and find an answer to their favorite questions: “how far can I go?” and “how much further can I get?”.
For many dedicated skiers, that answer ends up being in the 70ft-140ft range over a lifetime. For the professional jump skiers we get to watch on the Waterski Pro Tour, it seems like there is no answer to the second question. These incredible athletes are constantly pushing the boundaries of how far a human is able to fly on waterskis. When our sport started, going 100ft (30m) on wooden skis was incredibly difficult, now skilled children are accomplishing that feat regularly. It used to be impossible for anyone to jump past 200ft (60m), now we have men jumping far past that at every tournament, and some incredible women approaching or meeting that distance on a short ramp. Whenever you sit down to watch jump events like the King of Darkness, or the LA Night Jam, just know that these skiers all started the same way, and continue to chase that next foot every time they hit big red.