What is the difference between contest riding and free riding? How does one become a good contest rider? I personally love both. I love to see a guy that can just go out and not think and rip without reserve! Scott Byerly was my favorite. Watson does it so well! Gator Lutgert and many others can kill it on their own lake or on yours as long as it is under their terms.
So how do you go from a great free rider to a great contest rider? It is not as easy as some say. Many people say that contest riding is lame. No imagination! Just the same old crap. In some ways they are absolutely correct. In some ways they are dead wrong!
The best contest rider of all time is Darin Shapiro. I have been privileged to know Darin since the beginning of his wakeboard career when I brought the first compression molded board to Florida for Herb O'Brien. Darin is a great free rider if you have the chance to watch him as I have for years. He will go out and cruise and just about land everything he tries. When he trains for an event it is a whole different story. The question he and Mike Ferraro ask is what will he need to do to win? If you are at a pro tour stop and Darin is getting ready to ride, you will see him walk away with his cell phone and call Mike right before his turn. He will discuss wind and water conditions and runs the other guys have put up. He will then decide to go to plan B or stick with plan A and possibly use a more difficult trick for the double up, or an easy one if he does not need to be risky. His success record speaks for itself!
Living in Florida and being a student of peak performance techniques for years I have watched the best guys train for events in several sports. The only way to get good at it is to decide what you need to do to reach your goal. What new tricks do you need to learn? What order do you need to learn them? What part of each trick do you need to learn first? A coach like Ferraro, Raley, Kovak, or Harwood is the only way you are going to compete with the big guys. All of these coaches have produced winners! They do it by letting their students free ride just enough so they are not in the grind but focused enough to develop the plan for their contest run. Six weeks out from your contest you need to have your runs scratched out. What tricks in what order and whether it is good conditions or bad. So many times have I watched riders sabotage themselves by throwing their hardest runs in crappy conditions and falling over and over and not completing the first pass and swimming in. If you're smart you will start with an easy trick you can land 100% of the time. Throw your hardest stuff at the end of the second pass bud! Don't bomb out before your even get the boat up to speed. I have seen the best pros working on a particular trick for three weeks straight prior to a particular contest and not adding it to their run until they have nailed it under both good and bad water conditions. One week out you need to have the run down pat! Put yourself in a contest situation in your mind every day for 7 days. If you stand your run up then burn it into your mind and tell yourself that is the way you ride in the contest! Do it with a ton of emotion so it is vivid and real! This is called neuro-linguistic conditioning. Your bad runs are not to have emotion in them. The opposite of many of you. Any trick you stomp you MUST tell yourself that that is the way you ride during the contest. Program yourself! The bad tricks that you bomb on you need to ask in an empowering question, "What do I need to do to land this?" Not, "Why am I such a dumb ass?" No emotion is the key to your bad tricks, and tons of emotion with the good will take you to a new conscious level.
Take a pencil and circle the date on the calendar and write that this is the day you ride your best! I was lucky enough to learn this trick from a great quarterback coach years ago. Everything you do right is remembered and everything you do wrong is practice. Drink a ton of water for at least 5 days out from the date you want to peak. This alone will make 25% difference. Most of you are constantly dehydrated. No sugar or caffeine within 2 hours of your event. Sit alone and stretch for 30 minutes after walking for 5 minutes to warm up. Keep focusing on today I ride my best. If you hear all the other guys carping about poor driving or wind or rough water great! They are already beat. I would much rather compete with crybabies than guys like Darin Shapiro or Brannon Johnson. Just go to plan B if the water is rough and stick it. Will this guarantee you will ride great at the tournament? No! It will bring your odds up 80% and the more you develop a routine the better you will perform. All great athletes have a routine they do the exact same way every day of competition. If you need to know more about peak performance you can email me anytime. I do not charge for consultation and it is part of my mission to help people. Just pass it on to another and you will complete the karma cycle and the blessing will be yours.
I love to see all you guys and ladies riding and keeping the stoke so high. When myself and a few buddies started the sport many years ago we dreamed of riders just like you!