How to dock start for water sports

When it comes to waterskiing in the early season, there’s one thing that can seriously hinder your motivation: Lake temperature. When it’s still too cold to swim, why would anyone go waterskiing? Well, if you’ve mastered the dock start, then temperature isn’t an issue, right? We checked in with Greg Sturch, a guy that’s been waterskiing for more than 20 years now and won the amateur division of Wakestock in its inaugural year.

Safety: An obvious tip, but an important one: Make sure there aren’t any boats coming, and that you know where you’re heading. Nothing will get you dunked—and in a whole heap of trouble—faster than heading toward another boat or solid object.

Prep: You need to be a competent waterskier before attempting the dock start. If you are, then you can start by dipping your skis in the water, lubing up the bindings, and putting your skis on while sitting on the dock. Next, wiggle yourself down so that you’re sitting at the edge of the dock, and grab a hold of the rope.

Timing: “Really, dock starting is all about the boat driver’s timing,” Sturch says. “If you can waterski, you should be able to stand up and ski, almost immediately.” However, if the driver starts off too slow, you’re going to sink; if they start off too fast, you’re going to get jerked forward and faceplant. “If you have a powerful boat that can accelerate quickly, then you wait until the line is almost taut and then you punch it. If your boat doesn’t accelerate that fast, then you have to punch it a little sooner,” Sturch says. “A slower boat makes it way, way harder.”

Position: “Obviously you want to be a little bit back, but you don’t want to be all the way back,” Sturch adds. “Lean back against the pressure of the boat, but not to the point of falling on your butt.”

Applying your knowledge to other water sports

“All of these tips are the same for wakeboarding, but the biggest problem people have when wakeboarding is that they lean back too far,” Sturch says. “You just have to stand up.”

The main difference between dock starting on waterskis or on a wakeboard is the rope you’ll be using. “In waterskiing you’re using a line that will stretch, in wakeboarding you’re not,” Sturch says. “On a wakeboard, you have a little bit less play on boat timing. On waterskis you have a little bit more room for error.”