MY FORMAL INTRODUCTION - I'm a 5 time US National Champion. I won the Senior Worlds on a river in Moissac France in 2000, the only time I skied in the Senior Worlds. I invented the wing in 1978-79 and the Adjustable Fin in 1983. I coached all over the world for about 20 years, had my own waterski manufacturing business for 10 years, worked for just about every waterski company, etc., etc...
I started skiing at the age of 13 on the Long Island Sound, a salty body of water in between Long Island and New York, Connecticut, etc.. I skied for three summers until I passed my driving test at which point, the automobile and auto racing took over my life. For ten years I stayed away from water-skiing until in the fall of 1987 my girlfriend’s dad took me over to McGinnis’s ski lake in Ft. Lauderdale where in a rented vest and gloves and on a rented ski, I managed to make the slalom course my first set ever being on one three out of 6 tries at 28 MPH, long line (75 feet of rope). As I climbed out of the water and onto the dock, I said, “I am going to run 38’ off”! This was a brave statement back then as the World Record was held by Bob LaPoint at 5 @ 38’. Here I was, a young (26) novice making a brash statement. I was addicted! I soon purchased a new ski, vest and gloves and started making daily trips to Ft Lauderdale from West Palm Beach, picking up plenty of speeding tickets along the way. On my daily commutes I would fly (on the road) down to Lauderdale and basically drive the speed limit home after 4 or 5 sets on the water, my hands burning from all the passes and sets.
As the days turned into weeks, months and so on, I practiced and practiced. I kept asking myself “if my ski would just do this” or “what causes my ski to do that” and many, many questions of this sort. So I started tinkering. Back in the 70s, ski tuning involved filing and sanding the edges of the skis so I filed and sanded and ruined many, many skis. Rusty Carter, the top skier in the area taught me about ScotchBrite and how to tune skis with it instead of files and sandpaper. My knowledge base expanded as did my curiosity. Another one of the regulars there was Charlie (Crash) Armstrong. Back in those days, Crash was a pretty good skier. Sometime in 1979-80, Crash came out to the lake with a bolt through his fin with a nut on the other side which created drag and helped him slow down in the preturn. He was creating deceleration, something which I as well as most everyone else was looking for. Looking at his fin, I thought there must be a better way and figured a wing would work much better, causing directional drag rather than just drag. I welded up a set of aluminum wings, drilled holes in my fin and screwed them on. My first set with the wings was on a very windy day and they worked great. I played with them on and off for months until one day in the summer of 1980 I heard Kris LaPoint was going to be skiing at the lake. I immediately grabbed my equipment and headed off to meet Kris. After meeting Kris and discussing my invention with him, he asked me to ski a set with the wings off and then a set with them on. I did and he was impressed. I then gave Kris a couple of sets to take home with him for more testing. Obviously they worked as Bob LaPoint set a new World Record using a wing about 2 months later. At the 1980 Nationals in Tyler Texas the LaPoints were there along with Deena Brush (Mapple) with spray legs over their winged fins as they were at the time “Top Secret”. There was however someone else there with their wing totally exposed, me, the inventor.
THE HISTORY OF THE DYNAFOIL
The Dynafoil was next in wing evolution. For quite a few years the Dynafoil was a hit in the early 1980s. Early on in the wing development stage, every time I skied I would inevitably crawl back in the boat and make a wing adjustment. On windy days I ran more angle. On calm days, less. I daydreamed about a wing that I could adjust while in the water. These dreams evolved into a wing/fin system where the wing was connected to a shaft which ran up through the fin and then on through the top of the ski where a knob could be turned thereby pulling the front of the fin up, decreasing the angle and deceleration or pushing it down increasing the wing angle and deceleration. A marketer by the name of Carl Schuberth saw the Dynafoil potential and bankrolled the project.
THE HISTORY OF THE ADJUSTABLE FIN
Years ago, I wanted to know what larger and smaller fins would do to a ski. I needed a way to build fins from easily available flat aluminum stock so I made a set of fin clamps. I then made up a bunch of fins that varied in length, each one progressively longer than the last. Having done this, I showed a good friend of mine, Finklea Tomlinson these fins and told him what I intended to do with them. Finklea suggested that I just rotate the front of the fin up into the clamp or ski to arrive at a shorter length. So rather than having three holes in each fin where the fin clamp bolts passed through, I put three slots in the fins so I could adjust them up and down. The earliest versions allowed only up and down movement as the slots were 1/16" larger than the bolts. From these early adjustable fins we (we meaning me and the people I whose skis I worked on) learned about tip and depth. Soon thereafter, I made the slots 3/4" long allowing the fin to go forward and back and up and down introducing another dimension. The Adjustable Fin remained pretty much the same other than evolving fin shapes for a few years until Duvall and Kidder Skis came out with a new, one piece, screw adjustable fin clamp, a great idea. From there, fin clamps remained pretty much the same until Denny Kidder again came out with another revolutionary product, the internal fin clamp. I designed an internal fin clamp in November of 1993 that's accessible from the top of the ski without removing the assembly and without the bubble on the top of the rear of the ski. It hasn't been marketed yet and awaits a progressive thinking manufacturer. The advantage of an internal fin clamp is that the effective thickness of the tail of the ski is thinner allowing the tail to ride deeper preventing blow out and also allowing the front of the ski to be set to ride deeper producing more angle and deceleration. Additionally, less height on top of the ski equals less drag, which again equals more efficient acceleration.
THE SLOTTED FIN
About 20 years ago, Herb O'Brien's design team made a fin for the Mach 1 that was sort of triangular in shape. At some point in the 80s, Andy Mapple rounded off the point on the bottom rear of the fin and used it to run 1 @ 41 off at the "Thrilla at Hydrilla" record capability tournament in Boynton Beach Florida in 1988 breaking the record of 5 @ 39" held by Bob LaPoint. Andy came from Orlando to ski with us prior to the tournament. On one of these occasions, I had the opportunity of measuring and copying his fin. We (Me, Mike Ferraro, and others) all tried this fin but it was too aggressive. Over the years more skiers tried and liked it. Eventually I started using it but with some modifications. I added more length to the fin and named it the Axcell. I skied with this fin for a while until a set-up session with Allen McWilliams of Short-line Lakes in Destin Florida made me a believer of a new fin shape, the Clem fin designed by Clem Lisor of Orlando. Clem basically took a normal fin, drilled three holes in it along where it meets the bottom of the ski and put a tail on it where the wing mounted. While working with Allen, I tried all of my fins and all of my adjusting trying to make his ski turn better on his on-side turn. Nothing worked. Allen then suggested we put on the Clem fin. Then, presto, his slack problems were gone! I got a bunch of these fins from Clem and began testing them. I liked some of the things I felt when I skied one but other things weren't right so I took one of the fins that I had been using and drilled three holes in it where it met the bottom of the ski, just like the Clem fin had and skied it. I felt little if no change. I surmised from this that the tail must be where the benefits were coming from. I then built a new fin utilizing my normal, everyday shape but added a tail like the Clem fin and put it in my toolbox that goes to the lake with me everyday. Being that I was in the middle of ski season, I really didn't want to try anything different. I was skiing well and content. The fin sat in my toolbox for about 6 months until one day when I was skiing badly. I came in from a set where the best I could run was 3 at 38 off. I made a 1-2 thousandths change in my fin settings before my next set. As I was waiting to ski again, I was thinking that I was way too far off of what I wanted the ski to do and what the change would actually do so I pulled the fin out of the ski and put this strange looking thing in there from out of the depths of my tool box. My next set I ran 39 off! From this point on, all of my fin testing was aimed at how to make this fin better. I tried longer tails and shorter tails, deeper tails and shallower tails until I settled in on the current depth, length and slope of the rear or the fin. I moved the wing around also until I settled in on its current location. I named my original version of the Clem fin, the Cleaver because of its likeness to a meat cleaver knife. From the Cleaver, I filled in the tail area of the fin and called this the Fastback. At this point, I had a conversation with Drew Ross who asked me "How slow should you be going to turn the ski?" I came up with some answer that wasn't right. Drew explained that it doesn't matter how slowly or fast you come into the buoy as long as you can turn the ski on a tight line and go. With a new way of thinking, I began looking for a way to accomplish what Drew had spoken. I reasoned that if I would remove surface area from the fin, I would be able to come flying into the buoy, turn and go so I took more material out of the Fastback area and called this fin the Notchback. I skied the Notchback fin for about a year until I decided to add flex to the tail. I then made a cut in the back of the fin that allowed the tail of the fin to flex, thus acting like a rudder. Additionally, under heavy stress or hard turns, the rear of the fin would flex and not only act like a rudder, but also act like a smaller fin allowing me to turn at higher speeds. This fin I called the Flex Tail. I skied the Flex Tail till the middle of the summer of 1999. I was doing a clinic in Portugal and had been doing a lot of thinking about 2 things, a recent tournament and practice set. I was trying a new H.O. CDX in practice prior to an upcoming Record Capability Tournament. In the boat was Aaron Guess, a fellow skier. I had my fin set up around 2.475 in depth. Aaron convinced me to try 2.525, as it would give me more width. It did! The ski I was trying just didn't work out. With 2 days to go, I needed my ski back but it was at H.O. headquarters in Washington being flex tested so I borrowed my girlfriend's 64" Goode which had a specially made soft tail with a Fastback fin. I put my bindings on it (I use the Goode Interlock System so there are no holes in the ski) and skied it. I made a couple adjustments to the fin and binding location in the 3 sets I skied on it prior to the tournament and ran 1 @ 41 off for a new (approved) National Record my last round. I had established a number of things from the testing with Aaron and the tournament; 1) I liked the Fastback fin as I had the best 1 ball ever at 41 in the Tournament. 2) I liked the soft tail on Patti's ski. 3) I needed more depth! On the plane ride to Portugal and throughout the trip, I was trying to figure out how to get more depth without increasing my fin surface area so I would get the added width benefits without losing the ability to turn, as I needed. While sitting on the shore, overlooking our practice lake outside Lisbon, I decided to change a hole in the rear of my fin into a slot. Using a calculator, I figured out how much surface area I would be adding by going to my target depth and then calculated how much material I needed to take out of the fin to keep the surface area the same. I took out my drill and some files and made a 1.5" slot in my fin and then skied it. One of the biggest things I immediately noticed was a huge increase in stability. Additionally, it skied as well if not better than my Notchback fin. Over the next month or so, I vacillated between the two fins, always coming back to the slotted one. From here I had others try the fin with equally promising results.
HISTORY OF HARD SHELL HEEL LIFTS
I began working on hard shell heel lifts in the early 1980s. I took a highwrap rear binding and put springs on the rear of it where it would normally fasten to the ski. These springs allowed me to lift my rear heel. I tested this for only a short time and canned it. Then in 1998, Goode came out with POWERSHELLS, a hard shell binding system. I immediately began skiing on and testing this revolutionary new system. One of the drawbacks to the system was the inability to raise my rear heel. In rubber bindings, the flexibility allowed some movement. At times my heel would lift and then bunch up the rubber as it came back down totally breaking my concentration. I wanted and needed some way of raising my rear heel. My assistant, Chris Rossi was also on the POWERSHELLS and wanted to try something that would allow heel lift so I made up a heel lift device that Chris tried and liked. Shortly thereafter, I built myself one and have continued testing it up to the present.
6/13/2004 THE SCHNITZ INNERVIEW by Craig Wilson
Hello Steve, it is truly an honor to be the one to Innerview you. My name is Craig Wilson and live up in the cold damp corner of the country in Washington State. I would imagine that I am similar to the many readers of your web site, in that I am a Slalom junky, and a faithful reader of your web page but I have never met you. So let’s start with the easy questions.
C) I know from your ski tests that you prefer a 64 to 65 inch Goode. That seems very small. How tall are you and how much do you weigh?
S) I’m 5’8” and 160 pounds. I skied on a 65.5” Goode from 1998 until 2001 when I was doing a clinic in Nashville Tennessee. I parked our pickup truck with our skis and equipment in the bed. I went into a copy shop to get some printing run off. I was waiting inside the store, watching the truck when a couple of men pulled up along side. We had a for sale sign in the window so it appeared they were looking with that intent. Then, all of a sudden, this guy reaches in the back of the truck, grabs my ski case, drops it in the back of his truck and they’re gone. I ran out of the store and gave chase after them but it’s a good thing they got away. The ski that was stolen was a custom, ultra soft lay-up that Goode had specially built for me at my request. The only other one like it was a 64” which belonged to my girlfriend Patti who just happened to have an extra. Once in the past I borrowed her ski and set a National Record on it so I again did the same and am still riding it. I have asked Goode over and over to please build me another but they refuse so until I find something better, I’m stuck on Patti’s 64” ski.
C) Where did you grow up or spend your impressionable years?
S) I grew up in New Rochelle, New York from the age of 12 until I was about 20. This is the same town Mike Ferraro is from.
C) Besides skiing, what are some of your other interests?
C) To ski at a high level a person has to stay fit. Do you follow any specific nutritional theories? i.e. The Zone, Adkins, South Beach etc.?
S) I live on a high protein diet. I learned years ago by listening to my inner self that carbos were really hurting me, literally. I was so sick trying to eat a high carbo diet. I was always in pain! I have found that my digestive system is quite different than most people. I have a very slow metabolism and cannot handle carbos without protein or I get sick and am in serious pain. I try to eat lots of fruit, nuts, fresh veggies and lots of vitamins. My girlfriend Patti is always reading about nutrition, fitness and health. She takes good care of me.
C) What is your favorite food? Movie? Music?
S) My favorite food has to be chicken. My favorite movie is of course “FIELD OF DREAMS” and my favorite music is Jazz.
C) What do you do for strength and cardio-vascular fitness?
S) I must admit, I could be in much better shape and being in much better shape would lead to better skiing but my “LEVEL OF COMMITMENT” in this area is not as high now as it once was. I like to ride my bike and rollerblade in the spring and fall and snow ski in the winter. In the summer I cut back on the biking and rollerblading and mainly ski.
C) Who has been the most influential person to you on your path to slalom perfection?
S) Early on in my Slalom career, there was this guy who was a World Record Holder in Tricks. He taught me what he perceived were the basics even though they were not accepted as such at the time. He laid the foundation for my skiing success in the future. His name, Russ Stiffler. Russ would mainly take me free skiing. I’d do a bunch of cuts and he’d nod or shake his head. Other than Russ, I learned a lot way back when from Bob LaPoint, Hugh Peterson, Rusty Carter and Lucky Lowe. A special note also goes to my first female coaches, Diedre Mahler and Carol Colbath who would pull me, set after set, hour after hour, day after day, week after week, year after year ………..
C) It appears that you read a lot. What is one book every athlete has to read?
S) “THE BOOK OF FIVE RINGS” a translation by Stephen F. Kaufman. This is a book about and by Miyamoto Musashi, an ancient Japanese swordsman and warrior who competed in real “mortal combat” and lived to die of old age. Unlike the slalom warriors that we perceive ourselves to be, Miyamoto knew any mistake at any time could be fatal. Miyamoto trained harder and smarter than everyone he ever faced because he enjoyed life more than he would accept death. Winning was not only important and a matter of pride, it was absolutely necessary! When I look at Andy Mapple, I see the Miyamoto attitude as Andy is deadly serious about winning. Other great books are “THE 48 LAWS OF POWER” by Robert Green and Joost Elffers. This book also is filled with history and how to use power to your advantage. “THE RULES OF WAR” by Sun Tzu is a must read... “THE NEW TOUGHNESS TRAINING FOR SPORTS” by James E. Loehr, Ed.D. is another great book to use to prepare you for the upcoming battles. “THE SCIENCE OF GETTING RICH” will teach the athlete to train their brain and get off their butt to produce the desired results be it in riches or buoys. I must admit, there are many great books I have read which have created my foundation that I can no longer recall which have played a dramatic role in my life, teachings and philosophy.
C) You have been very successful in waterskiing. Were you successful in other sports?
S) I never participated in any. I played with the other children in the neighborhood, be it baseball, football or what have you but I was never interested in organized sports. When I was 12 my dad built us a home on the Long Island Sound, bought us a boat and a pair of skis and the rest is history. I used to ski past Davenport Park and wave to the people up on the rocks, envisioning myself skiing before a crowd. Never could I have imagined that my entire life would someday revolve around water-skiing.
C) O.K., enough of the easy stuff, I was surprised to read that you still pay to get coaching for yourself. Who are the best coaches out there?
S) I think we need to look at the skier more like we look at a race car team. A race car team will have all kinds of support centered around the driver. Before they even get on the pavement, there must be a financial team, a physical trainer and a sports psychologist. Then there’s the chief chassis engineer, a suspension technician, an engine specialist, a computer specialist, a tire specialist, an aerodynamic specialist and on and on and on. I all too often watch athletes who are called PROS compete with amateur equipment. I watch their skis perform miserably and let them down in their time of need. PRO skiers should be on PRO equipment. Look at Andy Mapple. He spends countless hours testing equipment and it shows! From what I’m told, Andy works with personal trainers, sports psychologists, financial planners and so on. Andy has built a team around him to get the support he needs to be successful at what he does. So I think the coaching community needs to be broken down into it’s components to arrive at a fair answer to this question. To answer your question based upon coaches that focus on skiing, I would have to say the best out there are (in alphabetical order); Jamie Beauchesne in New Hampshire (Jamie is now training at Trophy Lakes in South Carolina), Tanguy Benet, Marcus Brown in California, Mike Ferraro in Orlando, Mike Kusiak in Charleston, Brent Larsen in Wisconsin, Chet Raley in Boca Raton Florida, Matt Rini in Orlando, Chris Rossi in Orlando and Terry Winter in California. Additionally, I recommend any top snow ski coach as they are trained to see how speed, equipment and bio-mechanics work together. This past winter I worked with Daniel Brais and Mario Gohier from Canada. They’re both avid water-skiers and certified and caring snow ski coaches who have seen what we’re working on and have a good eye for bio-mechanics. One of Dr. Jim Michael’s trainers is Harald Harb who is a snow ski instructors, instructor. Harald is the number one person in snow ski coaching technology. I would like to see Harald put together water-ski seminars in addition to his snow ski activities.
C) If you were in charge of USA WaterSki and IWSF, what would you change to promote waterskiing?
S) The question before us is “do we really want water-skiing to grow”? All the manufacturers and associations would love this as they would make more money. What has happened at many public and private sites is that they have become so overcrowded that every skier’s time is severely limited. In Aspen Colorado, a one hour time slot costs thousands of dollars every year. As a skier, what advantage is there to you if waterskiing grows if all it does is limit your skiing time even more? As for my views, I do all I can on a daily basis to promote water-skiing whether by educating the skiing public (for free) via my website, free clinics during the winter months at Okeeheelee Park, always helping anyone around me who needs help and by creating water-skiing communities which I’m currently in the process of building. As for the changes I would make if I ran IWSF and USA WaterSki, I would change with the times. If we make it easier to be a judge, more people would judge. There are a vast number of slalom skiers who know nothing about tricks and jump. Let them judge slalom! And now that you’ve got me going about judging, judges need to understand that the tournaments are put on so the skiers can perform, not so the judges can get ratings, not so the judges can exert their power, not so the judges can exert their control. Tournaments are put on for the skiers! Any judge that thinks and acts otherwise should be eliminated! As for driving, if there was a true baseline for driving technique, some sort of instrument that could evaluate a drivers pull, we would have more consistent driving from one driver to another. I know proposals have been made to the chiefs at AWSA and IWSF that would introduce auto-pilot steering as well as speed control. This would make skiing much more fair as a driver can easily and undetectably control the outcome of a tournament. I know of one system that already exists and of a Star Wars company that can easily build systems that will retail with speed control included for little more than twice the cost of Perfect Pass. I would like to see skiers show up on the starting dock with a smart card that the boat operator would insert into the Smart Card reader. This card would contain the program that the skier chooses to ski behind. This would contain the skier’s weight and let’s say for example, a Tommy Harrington pull or a Steve Helton pull. Get the picture? Everyone would have the opportunity of skiing their style behind a driver that suits their style. This would be more fun. I would make the Regionals non-mandatory to those who have exhibited their lack of need to attend. I would make the Nationals larger rather than smaller with more divisions which will create more winners. More winners equal more fun and more fun equals more participation. I would establish a standard for coaching where all beginners are taught the same skills no matter where they learn. There needs to be coaching and learning structure similar to that in the snow ski world. I would not permit any pro to ski in any amateur division. I would throw out all records set by Pro’s in amateur divisions regardless when they were set. I would have yearly records that are wiped out on January 1st each year. This would give others more of a chance at fame. I would bring Wakeboarding into the fold and introduce a new OVERALL division where people who wakeboard can also compete for overall points on a trick, slalom or set of jump skis. This will bring the young generation back in. I would change the equipment rule to allow anything safe on slalom skis. Yes, if I were in charge there would be great change. And great change comes at great emotional expense!
C) The eastern block countries dominated many Olympic sports for many years, in part because of their superiority in the sport psychology department. How do you develop the confidence and focus needed to be champion?
S) In order to grow you must face your fears. The more you face them, the less you fear them. When I started competing, I skied about 20 tournaments a summer. In the beginning, I was extremely nervous and could not perform. I recognized the problem and knew if I kept competing, I would get used to the pressure. Over the years, this happened. One of the techniques I currently use is to have people ride in the boat when I ski so I am always pressured to perform. Often times prior to competition, I have mini tournaments with other skiers on the dock. We’ll spot each other buoys and then go out and ski, again, under pressure to perform. Preparation for competition to me means doing the same thing in competition as I do every day, therefore, every day in practice, I need to compete. Use smaller competitions as practice for bigger competitions, each leading up to major competitions.
C) What method of coaching is best: A lesson with a pro? Videotaping? Or trial and error?
S) When people ride in the boat when I ski, I never know what will transpire. Sometimes I learn the most from people that I would never think of as a coach. Generally when I ski with the Pro Skiers, I try what they suggest but rarely have success. Lessons with great coaches on the other hand lead to long term change and results. It is extremely difficult to get big short term beneficial change. I do like to videotape and self critique. I’ll watch it, make some mental notes and work on the changes I think I need. Trial and error takes too long. Why not use someone who is trained to prevent and correct problems rather than burning in bad habits which can take years to unlearn?
C) Steve, we know that you are not afraid to say what is on your mind. Have you ever wanted to take back something you said?
S) There are many skeletons in my closet as there are everyone’s. In water-skiing, I guess the one I’d take back was giving Nito Quitavis a vulgar piece of my mind at the Nationals in Duquoin Illinois one year so here it is in writing, Nito, please accept my apologies for my rude behavior.
C) You are a pioneer in the sport of waterskiing, inventor, coach and champion. Do you ever see a day when waterskiing takes a back seat?
S) Hopefully that will never happen but we never know what tomorrow may bring. I plan on coaching, teaching, skiing and developing water-skiing communities as long as I am breathing.
C) I see that you are also becoming a land developer, of course it is a water-ski lake development. How has that been going? What has the impact of private man-made ski lakes been on water-skiing’s appeal?
S) We currently have offers in on 4 properties. It’s a slow and tedious process to find the right piece of ground at the right price with the right terms and the ability to do what I want to do with it. I want to be like Johnny Appleseed. I want to continually plant these communities all over the country and hopefully, all over the world. The more access people have to ski, the more skiing will grow.
C) Steve, there is a lot of discussion on your web page about theoretical analysis of techniques and equipment. Where are the biggest gains to be had, technique or equipment?
S) I’ll let you answer this question. If we screwed your bindings onto a 1” by 6” piece of oak, how would you ski? On the other hand, suppose we screw your bindings onto the best ski you have ever skied on. This is how important your equipment is. Now let’s take it a step further. Suppose you had a ski that would do everything you wanted. If you want it to slow down and turn it does. If you want it to speed up and get wider it does. If it does everything you want when you want it, you will literally run out of rope. With a screwdriver and an Allen wrench, I can add or take away buoys in seconds that would otherwise through coaching, take months or years or possibly never be attained.
C) Are there any new equipment inventions out there that would blow our minds?
S) Yes and I think we’ll see them after Nationals.
C) Thomas Edison failed in his attempts to build the light bulb thousands of times. How many attempts did it take you to come up with the Schnitz fin? How did you come up with the adjustable fin?
S) The adjustable fin is nothing but a clamp and a fin. This is not even an invention. What is unique about the Adjustable Fin is knowing what each movement does. Years ago, I wanted to know what larger and smaller fins would do to a ski. I needed a way to build fins from easily available flat aluminum stock so I made a set of fin clamps. I then made up a bunch of fins that varied in length, each one progressively longer than the last. Having done this, I showed a good friend of mine, Finklea Tomlinson these fins and told him what I intended to do with them. Finklea suggested that I just rotate the front of the fin up into the clamp or ski to arrive at a shorter length. So rather than having three holes in each fin where the fin clamp bolts passed through, I put three slots in the fins so I could adjust them up and down. The earliest versions allowed only up and down movement as the slots were only 1/16" larger than the bolts. From these early adjustable fins we (we meaning me and the people whose skis I worked on) learned about tip and depth. Soon thereafter, I made the slots 3/4" long allowing the fin to go forward and back and up and down introducing another dimension. The Adjustable Fin remained pretty much the same other than evolving fin shapes for a few years until Duvall and Kidder Skis came out with a new, one piece, screw adjustable fin clamp, a great idea. From there, fin clamps remained pretty much the same until Denny Kidder again came out with another revolutionary product, the internal fin clamp which was very cumbersome to work with and next to impossible to really calibrate. I designed an internal fin clamp in November of 1993 that's accessible from the top of the ski without removing the assembly and without the bubble on the top of the rear of the ski. It hasn't been marketed yet and awaits a progressive thinking manufacturer. The advantage of an internal fin clamp is that the effective thickness of the tail of the ski is thinner allowing the tail to ride deeper preventing blow out. By making the tail ride deeper, we now have the flexibility of making the entire ski ride deeper which will produce more angle and deceleration. Additionally, less height on top of the ski equals less drag, which again equals more efficient acceleration.
C) Are there any plans to make the Schnitz fin out of carbon? What do you think of carbon for fins? Do you think fin flex is important?
S) I’ve know about flexible fins for years. Way back in the 1980s, Warren Witherell and I, both skiing on Fiberglass fins made by me, both set US National Records at the same tournament I see advantages to composite fins as they can be tuned to compliment any skier’s offside acceleration. This is not yet being done. What I mean by this is if the fin were layed up so it would roll under more out of the off-side buoys, this would allow the tip of the ski to point further across course and away from the boat, both causing an increase in angle that is lacking in the current balanced lay-up of today’s composite fins. Today’s composite fins act like suspension on a race car to absorb overload situations and allow a certain amount of tail slippage. I do this with aluminum fins by regulating the thickness. I have found that thinner fins ski better but not at the cost of stiffness. What I mean by this is I made some test fins out of .060 titanium. These were 30% thinner than normal but much heavier and stiffer. They did not work well. I have had discussions with my machine shop regarding building the current generation of carbon fins and they’re ready. All they need is the go ahead from me and it’s a done deal. Should a person set up their ski to what is ‘comfortable’ and evolve/tweak it or set it to rip and learn to ski it?
S) As I stated earlier; With a screwdriver and an Allen wrench, I can add or take away buoys in seconds that would otherwise through coaching, take months or years. A properly set up ski is passes better than one that’s not.
C) Well, winding down here, I think that’s at least your 20 questions. For all of us lost souls striving to figure out the slalom riddle, with an unending thirst for more knowledge, do you have any plans for a book or DVD?
S) I started writing a book but things change so quickly in this sport that much is out of date. If someone would like to coordinate this project, I’m game.
Thanks for your time Steve, and thanks for all you have done and continue to do for our sport, I hope to meet you someday soon.
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