Safety was certainly the hottest topic in ski racing throughout the 2015/16 season. With many areas still under consideration and awaiting an outcome, we will see some rule changes coming into the next season. By continually raising awareness of safety issues I also hope that individuals take initiative towards their own safety by following guidelines and expert advice.
I have always been adamant that preventing falls is the single most important area to focus on in safety. Keeping the skier upright is the best way to prevent injury. This may be achieved through speed restriction, speed progression, skier fitness, stringent equipment scrutineering or just skiing within your limits. All of these are practical solutions. But during my worlds campaign in 2011, I suffered a fall that could not have been prevented through any of these measures. At high speed on the Hawkesbury River, I hit a log that catapulted me into the water, dislocating my shoulder, breaking my collarbone, leaving me with a severe concussion and ending my quest for a second world title.
The fall caused my injury no doubt, but what caused my fall? The log? Yes. But on closer inspection of my ski, it was the bent fin that caught the water when I landed which gave me NO chance of staying upright in a skiing position. Had my fin remained intact, I would have hit the log, but rather than instantly falling upon landing, I would have had the opportunity to recover and ski away.
That same week, I started work on a project that had been in the back of my mind for a while, I started designing a new fin. My theory was that if I could develop a fin that withstood the impact of hitting a log or similar in the river, the skier would have a better chance of skiing over the log and landing on a fin that was still in tact, allowing the skier to ski away. I knew it had to be engineered from a stronger material than the current soft alloy fins we see in many skis and I knew that the fin shape of that era could also be improved. Working in a ski shop supplies us with lots of data, the amount of bent fins I see come in to the shop was just unacceptable. Almost all impacts causing the fin to bend resulted in a fall.
My early ZMR (Zig’s Marine Racing) fins were constructed from 304 SS and had a design change where I decreased the leading edge by eight degrees. My theory here was that if the fin struck a log with reduced angle it would help the fin rise up over the log, lessening the impact force and giving the skier a greater chance of recovering. Although these were an improvement over the alloy equivalent, after 100 fins on the market I saw around eight that still suffered permanent deflection after an impact, results I was not happy with.
Over the course of the next 2 years, I played around with the material used to get the ZMR Strong Fin to where it is today. We now have over 250 Duplex fins in customer’s skis and as yet have not seen a single fin which has suffered deflection. A result I’m very satisfied with knowing how many falls were avoided.
The current ZMR fin uses a Duplex stainless, approximately twice the mechanical strength of austenitic 304/316 stainless steels. It has been laboratory tested (by an independent facility) against all the fins available to ski racers and found to be much more superior in deflection resistance on impact for it’s given thickness.
I without a doubt believe that using a fin of this strength and design is paramount in preventing falls and injuries.Every race ski that we sell at Zig’s Marine is fitted with one of these fins before it leaves the shop. Our fins can be simply fitted into any brand race ski.
Do yourself a favour and upgrade to a stronger fin over the winter break. At $120, it’s a simple and cost effective way to control your safety on the water. Moving forward into the 2016/17 season we all want to see progression into skier safety and this is one small step you can take in the right direction.
For more information you can call or email me at Zig’s Marine anytime.