USA Water Ski & Wake Sports

Slalom - The Opportunity Zone

Note: This article first appeared in the Winter 2021 issue of The Water Skier magazine, the official publication of USA Water Ski & Wake Sports. If you are not a member of USA Water Ski & Wake Sports and you are interested in receiving the quarterly magazine, join now.


Written by Seth Stisher

Photography by David Crowder/IWWF


Whether you just started or you have been skiing since you were a kid, chances are a coach or fellow skier has barked at you about your body position.  In fact, it is often harped on to the point that we are no longer able to move athletically. I have seen more skiers than I care to count stand tall on their skis with their back arched in a hyperbolic effort to “get their hips up.” If you have ever skied with me you probably know that I try to avoid that phrase at all costs, but there is truth in the concept. Read more to find out where and how to focus on the proper body position to truly utilize the boat’s power in what I like to call “The Opportunity Zone!”


Seth Stisher slalom skiingWhat Is It?


The moment of time spanning from the end of your turn to the moment you feel the swing from the boat as you make a strong and proper transition is what I refer to as THE OPPORTUNITY ZONE. I am sure you have been told to stay strong behind the boat and this is true, but it is the space just before and just after this that gets overlooked. To keep it simple, the opportunity zone is the time that both hands are on the handle with the ski between you and the boat. This is where we are to capitalize on the boat’s power in order to swing yourself from side to side.


How Do I capitalize On It?


Prep your position: It is paramount to be in a balanced stance with your body stacked as you finish the turn so you are ready to take full advantage of the pull from the boat. To ensure you do this, keep your center of mass moving in the direction you are trying to go (this is not to be confused with arching your back to the point that your weight is on your heels). 


Stay stacked and balanced: If your body is stacked (structurally aligned) and you are balanced on your feet, the pull from the boat will create an equal amount of pressure on the ski, which will create the acceleration that you need to get side to side faster than your opponent.


Power through: As you pass through the centerline of the wakes, the load from the boat will feel as though it is pulling you apart if you have either failed on the aforementioned points, or if you choose to stay too static. Most people give up here and get cast directly toward the buoy thereby wasting all the work that has been done and creating a loose line with a forced turn at the next buoy. Instead, if you can maintain the stack of your upper body while allowing your legs to slightly unweight the ski, the ski will pass through and out onto the other edge while you maintain direction.


What did I miss?


If you take nothing else from this article, note the following key points that are critical in utilizing the boat’s power:


If you maintain a balanced stance with equal pressure on both feet you will be able to resist the pull from the boat [ITALICS]and [ENDITALICS] transition out onto the other edge without losing direction. If you are unbalanced, you are fighting a losing battle not only because you cannot accelerate efficiently, but also because you will lose the connection during the transition and start traveling down course


Use the boat rather than fighting it! Balance and alignment allow you to do this.


Be mindful of the stance through the turn so you finish in a stance that yields efficient speed.


Never over-exert to the point that you are not able to maintain your direction and connection after the second wake.


The overall point is for you to find a way to utilize the pull of the boat rather than adhering to the old school “tug of war” mentality.


Seth Stisher can be found coaching at his SkiSeth Training Center at Oz, in Charleston, South Carolina, or at any number of locations around the world through his traveling waterski clinics. Check out, or email to arrange ski sessions with him.  He is sponsored by Connelly Skis, MasterCraft Boat Company, Eagle Wetsuits, PureFood and