Zig’s Tips - On Water Training


There are many ways to train on the water to keep yourself ski fit and ready for the start of the season. Strapping on your Race Ski and heading out for a run isn’t necessarily the best way to train on the water. Race conditions can not be replicated unless you’re racing. In most cases a race boat isn’t available for a training run and so the intensity you need can not always be reached.

These are some ways you can train behind a social boat to maximise your ski fitness.

Social Skiing

Get out their with your friends and have some fun. Don’t believe that having a social ski isn’t doing you any good. Even though your probably only traveling at 35mph a lot of your racing technique is practiced while you are social skiing.

Don’t just stand there though! Practice your jumps, wake crosses and try skiing with arms out in front for a while. Jumps and whips are great fun and also teach you how to control your ski in the air and bring it back to correct position for landing. This skill will be transferred to your race ski when you’re confronted with rough water.

Have a good crack at your tricks. Social ski crashes at slow speed generally don’t hurt but will help you in the unfortunate event that you fall from your race ski. Your subconscious reflex for falling will develop and your body will remember how to hit the water. There have been many times in my career that I have been able to avoid a crash while racing by relying on the abilities and reflexes that I acquired through social skiing. It’s not just a coincidence that all past and current Ski Racing champions have also been impressive social skiers.

This is a training drill that I have used. It requires you to travel at your normal social speed but with only one foot in your social ski.

I start on my left leg (my weakest) and do 20 wash crosses as fast and controlled as I can. By this time my left leg is burning so I’d put my right foot back in the rear kicker and do 10 wash crosses with both feet in. This is just enough time to recover ready to start the set again.

If you want to give this a go, start out by doing five sets on each leg as a session and progress from there. This drill is very specific to Ski Racing as it burns your quad muscles while improving your balance and control. I practice this drill on the river but if you are training in rough water, just ski within the wake.

Skiing on doubles

Get back to basics. While this drill doesn’t replicate your skiing stance at all it is a great way to train. You will improve your balance while giving your legs and back a great workout. It looks easy but you’ll be surprised how much your whole back and legs are punished. In the past I have used this type of training when I felt I needed an all over physical workout rather than a training session to improve technique.

Freeboard (Single ski without bindings)

For anyone who struggles in rough water, get on a freeboard. This is the perfect training tool for technique provided you are practicing in rough water. Without any bindings on the ski, you are forced to be very soft on your feet, bending your knees and back to absorb the rough conditions. You need to ride with the ski without the ski leaving the water. Your feet must remain in contact with the ski at all times or a fall is inevitable. This is another great way to train at slow speed lowering the risk of injury from a fall.

Training Ski

If you are lucky enough to secure a training run behind a reasonably fast boat with an experienced crew you should consider using a training ski. This is the closest thing to skiing on your race ski but at slightly slower than race pace. I would include this in my training program at least once a week and simulate race distance or time.

The above information is intended as a guide and to give you some ideas. Skier ability and experience will affect your capabilities in all of the above drills. If you would like some ideas specific to your skill level, email me at and I will help you out.

Ask Zig

Q. Hi Zig. My son is a junior skier and I have a hard time convincing him to warm up before a race. How important is warming up and what should he do?

A. Like any athlete in any sport your son should definitely warm and stretch his muscles before a race or training run. A simple jog and then some stretches while taping up should be enough to prepare.

Q. Hi Zig, I have heard some skiers talk about their training skis. Aren’t they just the same as a social ski?

A. Typically, a training ski is a cut down version of your race ski with double social boots. Although there is no specific length, most are 74” inches long. These skis allow you to train as if you were racing but a relatively slower pace.

If you have any questions that you’d like Zig to answer in this column, email him at

Recent Posts

Promote Your Sport

This article was written back in 2013 an

Tips for a Safe and Smooth S80

With the Southern 80 just days away it’s

Shop Secure

  • RapidSSL® 256 bit encryption
  • All prices in AUD