Upcoming extreme sport: Wave-Skiing

Posted By: The Ski Channel on June 14, 2010 2:25 pm

(Image: water skiing, a Creative Commons Attribution (2.0) image from miamism’s photostream)

If you’ve ever dreamed of skiing waves you’re not alone. Mike Douglas, Cody Townsend, Chuck Patterson and Jason Starr made the same dream a reality by pioneering a new extreme sport: wave skiing.

There were many challenges they had to overcome to get the ball rolling, and these pioneers feel that their sport has a definite future amongst the great extreme sports of today.

It all began when professional skiers Mike Douglas and Cody Townsend set off on a journey to Hawaii after asking themselves the same question many pro-skiers who surf have asked: I wonder if you can ski on a wave?

Townsend explained how the idea came to him while checking the waves in Santa Cruz, California. “It suddenly occurred to me that a wave had a similar steepness to a lot of the runs up at Squaw. From that moment on I knew that it would one day be possible to ski on a wave,” he said.

The duo tried out a numerous different ski-binding setups before the trip out to the islands, including water skis and trick skis. Eventually they decided that considering safety, the downhill bindings were the best choice because they were able to get their skis off in the water most successfully through the familiar system. “We determined through testing on the lakes that the only boot and binding system that we could get off every time was alpine boots and bindings,” Douglas explained.

In Hawaii, they hit the waves by getting towed in on jet skis, and also used the wind to give kite-skiing a try as well.

Checkout the movie they premiered at The Telluride Mountain Film Festival:


Professional athlete Chuck Patterson has more wins indifferent sports than most people will attempt to accomplish in a lifetime. As a pro stand up paddle surfer, Chuck has taken first place over ten times in the past three years. He is also a pro tow-in surfer, kite boarder, skier, and snowboarder.

Growing up as a skier, he quickly transitioned to surfing during the summer, and always dreamed about what it would be like to combine the two sports.
Patterson finally tried out the idea ten years ago, using water skis to navigate along the waves. “I did a day of it and got some really good size surf and some good lines,” Patterson said, however he wasn’t satisfied enough to try it out again. “I talked to Shane [McConkey] and said it was doable, but I never really pushed it after that.”

That outlook changed last year after he discovered about Jason Starr’s surf skis, in addition to hearing about Mike Douglas and Cody Townsend skiing on waves. He mounted his downhill bindings on a pair of his skis, packed his board shorts and ski boots into the car, and headed out with some buddies in hopes of catching a few good rides.

(Image: Almond barrel, a Creative Commons Attribution (2.0) image from emlynstokes’s photostream)

While admitting that it seems a bit ridiculous, Patterson expressed how he had caught “10 or 15 really good waves and after that I was completely hooked, it’s the most rad thing ever”.

The consensus is that skiing waves consists of equal parts surfing and skiing. Patterson likes to use his ski poles to stay more balanced on the water. “It made all the difference for me because your body posture is a lot more comfortable and it feels like you’re skiing,” he explained.

Not one to give it a half-effort, Patterson went out a couple weeks after his first try to see if he could possibly ski a barrel wave. To make a long story short, he could. He reworked his setup for next season, and is excited about the possibilities that the sport could hold.

As the creator of Starr Surf Skis, Jason Starr started trying out different wave skiing techniques six years ago, in the rivers of Colorado. After a move to Vermont, he fully developed his ideas, and started his company. Jason believes that the ideal candidate for the sport is someone who is both a surfer and a skier, because he thinks of the waves as a “terrain” similar to a mountain, but knows that it is also very important to be familiar with the surf, how waves break, how to beat the sets, as well as where to position oneself.

Starr currently is manufacturing two different types of skis: The Longboard and The Rocket. The Longboard is a stand up paddle ski designed for flatwater, whitewater, and surf. The Rocket is a custom made ski used for tow-in wave skiing or wakesurfing. It’s similar to what Douglas, Townsend, and Patterson skied on. Starr has also designed what he calls “a high performance binding system,” which he believes is the water ski equivalent to the downhill bindings used on the mountains.

Skiers are constantly trying to take things to new levels in the sport, and this innovation is hopefully just the beginning for Surf-Skiing and the future of extreme sports.