Take a close look at this picture. What is this guy doing at this exact moment in time? Take note of what you see. He has a pole over his head, arms fully extended and hips underneath him.
Here is a man in the first moments of flight; a pole vaulter in the middle of a progression of dynamic events and movements, in an attempt to propel himself to the highest apex possible, and literally fly through the air over a fixed point.
Wow, actually, that almost sounded like a description for a guy navigating a slalom course!! Weird? Not so much. Actually, This sport, along with many others, equates identically to slalom water skiing. A skier, just like this vaulter, converts kinetic energy to potential, and back again through a continuous chain of dynamic movements. We can learn a lot from other sports around us, all we need to do is look at the basics.
So what do you think? Is he pulling down on the pole? Take another look. Actually you answer is largely related to your understanding of the end goal. For this pole-vaulter the goal is to cast his body over the bar at an insane height; similar to a slalom skier at an insane line length who is trying to cast himself out to a buoy. To do this, the vaulter must take all the energy generated in an approach run, transfer that energy into the pole, store the energy in the pole and body in such a manner that will allow him to recapture that energy to fly over a bar. We could more closely relate vaulting to skiing if rather than the bar going higher as the athlete clears a height; we leave the height the same, and make the pole shorter and shorter and shorter. Now can you see the similarities? Slalom skiing, much like vaulting is a process of energy creation, energy transfer, energy storage, and recapture. To understand these pieces to the puzzle, and the sequence of events that takes place on the water, will instantly take your slalom skiing to another level.
Take a look back at the picture again. Take a look at where this athlete is focusing his energy? Can you see what muscles are engaged? Where his body is relative to the ground and the pole? Does this change your conclusion?
Now your brain may be shifting. Are you starting to see from the little clues this athlete gives us that maybe his in NOT pulling down on the pole, but instead pushing against it? The reality is that he is pushing against it. It is the only way to effectively transfer the energy he generated on his approach run into the pole such that he can recapture the energy as he swings up, inverts, and flies over the bar. The purpose of this article is to show that what we think we see is not always the true reality of the situation, and that what is really going on takes a bit more understanding of the sport.
It is my hope that next time you watch youtube clips, photos, and training videos of pro slalom skiers that you take a second look at what you 'think' you see them doing on the water. Much like this pole-vaulter, things are not always what they seem. Making a transformation in your regular thought process and understanding of what is really happening, may allow you to see things you never saw before and open your mind to many new possibilites on the water.
Slalom is not rocket science, and with a little effort you can learn how these pro slalom skiers make it look like they can run 38off in their sleep. Do your best to think outside the box, ask questions, be stubborn, and be open to how all other sports and activities in your life can teach you a thing or two about skiing. Knowledge is power, and it might be just the thing you need to get through that next line length.