You may know Rodrigo Andai only as "RAL" from TheWaterSkiForum.com, but after this latest installment of the "Regular Joe Interview" series you'll definitely know more about him than that. Rodrigo has given me some good advice over the years as a Fifteenoff.com reader so I asked him to do Regular Joe Interview #4. He said he'd be happy to do it if it would help anyone out with their own slalom journey so without further delay, here's Rodrigo:
Tell us a little about yourself.
I am 40 years old, born, raised and lived all my life in Santiago, Chile. I have an industrial engineering background, and I work in the I.T. industry, for an Australian based software company (used to have my own company, but sold it to the Aussies...). Married, one daughter and another son/daughter on the way. Love boats and waterski since I can remember, and have skied for a long time, but fairly new to the course compared to most of my skiing friends. I am the founder, designer, builder, co-owner and "CEO" of Lago Chacabuco, one of the 4 man-made lakes in Santiago.
How did you first get into water skiing?
My father has a house in a big dam located 3 hours from Santiago. Went there since I was a kid. However, he was not a boat person. When I was 13, My brother and I coinvinced him to get a boat (had to [split the cost] between us). It was a Chilean made hull with a circa 1960 Evinrude Lark II. I learned how to ski behind it, but I believe I learned 2-cycle engine mechanics even more...
How long did it take from when you first started the course to skiing at 34mph, full passes at 15? How about 22?
I started skiing the course in 2004, and managed to pass my first 6 full buoys around 3 weeks after starting, @ 26 MPH. I started skiing full passes @ 34 in 2005, and 22 off in 2006. I ran my first 28 off in training in 2008 (once, in Jan) and my second one month ago. My tournament PB is 4 @28 off (twice, and both times I almost got to 5...). This season, I have had 7 tournament passes, and I have run 22 off in 6 of them. The one I missed was 3 weeks after re-starting skiing after knee surgery, so I believe I am pretty consistent, and 22 off is not an issue anymore. I am not one of the most gifted course slalom skiers out there. I took me some time time to get consistent at 32-34, and saw many passes to be able to run into 22 off or to run 22 in a short period of time, with apparently much less effort than what I did. My offside sucked, it was like a tug of war that got me just to the next buoy or past it every time. However, I see now that taking care of technique and logging hours behind the boat allows to catch up with the fast learners when trying to get consistent @ 22 off and beyond. Effort might take years to show results, but it will.
What does your typical week of skiing look like? How often do you go?
I used to ski one set every day Mon-Fri. I had knee surgery around 4 months ago (cartilage damage), and the doctor recommended to take one day off between ski sessions. So right now I am skiing Mon-Wed-Fri, and sometimes Sat, 2 sets each session. Although we can ski thru the winter, my schedule is more relaxed. Because of my job, I travel a lot. Because of this, I seldomly ski every week of the month. But whenever I can, I travel with my ski and try to do some slalom abroad. I have had the chance of skiing in many nice places. One good thing about our sport is that it is usually very easy to find someone nice to give you a pull wherever you travel.
Tell us a little bit about your lake and what it took to create it.
Building a lake is, I believe, a dream for every course skier. Although I had the idea in my mind even before 2004, after skiing for the first time in a man made lake the need for my own place settled in my mind. Around 6 of us started looking for a place, but shortly after it was just two. We decided that, although we wanted more partners, we were going to develop the complete idea and invite the rest to something defined and concrete, kind of "this is what it is. If you want in, OK. If not, OK as well". It was a wise decision, as I am sure that agreeing between more than 2 is very difficult. Almost by accident, we landed on a very nice development that was not selling lots very well, and they wanted to put something attractive in to have a differentiation. We got a very good deal on the land we bought for the lake and lots around it, with the advantage of having all the services (roads, power, water, security, etc...) already in. Getting the environmental permit was a nightmare: it took almost 2 years. It was a very rewarding experience, and I cannot say it was hard, as it was really fun!
What were the most important pieces of advice you got about slalom, and who gave them to you?
I believe that the most important advice I ever got is to have fun every time you are in the water. It should be like a mini-holiday every time. This one was given to me by Carlos Chicharro, one of the greatest Chilean waterskiers of all times, who was my partner in the lake and died tragically some months ago. I have had the opportunity to ski with very good coaches, including Seth Stisher and Tanguy Benet. They both agree in something: fix one thing at a time, and fix your worst FIXABLE mistake first. Repeat, repeat, repeat until it becomes natural. Also, I believe that being in good physical shape is a key aspect. For older dogs, it is not only the extra buoys you get, but also it keeps down injuries, back pain, etc... Being in good shape is something that everybody can do.
You had Seth down there for a little while last year. Tell us a little about that experience.
Having Seth for almost a month was great. Not only because he is one of the best coaches in the world, but because he is a great person as well. Maybe there are different coaching styles, but I believe that having someone smiling in the boat and not cursing and moaning helps a lot on the motivational side. Seth teaches you well, and also makes the process fun.
If you were to give a beginner course skier one piece of advice, what would it be?
I think I would give more than one. First, the course is very different than free skiing. Most experienced open water skiers will struggle to pass the course at any speed over 30 MPH at the beginning. Do not get frustrated, as there is not such a thing as running into 32 off after a couple of sets, no matter how good and committed you think you are. A skier should start his set 3 full passes below his PB. Having said that, I agree that speeds below 32 MPH feel different. However, I think that a skier needs to start at least 2 full line lenghts below his PB. The reason behind that is that it is very difficult to work on technique at their best line length. Also, 30 MPH (and below) is a good place to learn to be patient, not try to "kill" each buoy, and be wide. If you get deep at 30 MPH, the game is over. Do not jump and buy the latest and greatest equipment. What works well @ shortline does not work well @ 28 MPH. Need to acknowledge that I did not follow that, and I was on a Goode 9300 falling at the gates in a tournament @ 26 MPH... Ego took over, but I believe that the material someone uses for 15 off and beyond is different than the one under 32 MPH.
What are your goals in slalom?
My buoy count goal is to run 38 off before being 50 (I am 40 now). My other goal is to be able to ski at least until I am 65. Both difficult, but that is what long term goals should be.
What ski/binding setup are you riding?
D3 Nomad RCX, front Reflex and back high wrap D3. I am the distributor for D3 and Reflex in Chile, so it is not that painful to be on the latest and greatest equipment every year...
h2odawg79, 12/16/2008: Great advice!!! Especially the parts concerning line length and mph patience... I also found out the hard way, that cool 34+mph ski's do not work for slower speeds.(even being a real hinderence...) I like the "mini holiday" idea... skiing is absolutely a gift that we all probably take for granted at times... Thanx for some BIG TIME insight for all of us regular Joe's!