The two most outstanding men’s slalom skiers in 2011 are from opposite ends of the earth, metaphorically and literally.
|Twenty-one year old Nate Smith hails from McCordsville, Indiana. In 2011, Smith took first place at two pro slalom events, The Katy Ski Jam and The California Gold Rush*, making those his first two professional victories. What makes Smith extremely noteworthy is his ability run super-short line lengths nearly every time he puts on a slalom ski, and in addition to that, he makes it look easy. Smith ran 39 off in thirty-seven consecutive record capability rounds. A look at the USAWS score book for 2011 shows sixty-two scores for Smith, three with a score into 39 off, fifty-two with a score into 41 off, and seven with a score into at 43 off. The score book can be rehashed a number of ways to extract many stats, but no matter how you look at the numbers, they show that Smith is a new kind of slalom skier. Smith is the most remarkable talent to emerge in the sport since Asher or Parrish making him the 2011 BallOfSpray Male Skier of the Year.
“Nate done broke the door down. Cool kid, unassuming as hell, but straight business in the course. He has made the ski world reconsider the constrains of 41.” - Trent Finlayson
“Yet another way to get it done in slalom. - Kris LaPoint
"One of the most efficient, confident and consistent people to ever ski. Seeing him run 35+ 39's in a row and 7 or so 41's in one season was unreal. He's a freak! He continues to put out huge scores and is making all of us train harder every day"-Brian Detrick
“Nate is so cool to watch ski; he definitely has a distinct skill from the second wake to the apex of the turn. He can manage his line tension and speed like no one else.” - Matt Rini
“Changing the way we look at slalom.”- Chet Raley
“He is like boy wonder”- Greg Badal
|Aaron Larkin hails from Hamilton, New Zealand. This thirty-four year old skier has a long history as a ranked pro skier, but historically, he has not been a consistent podium finisher. Larkin won a single Elite event in 2008 and one more in 2010. In 2011, everything changed when Larkin dominated Elite events. He won slalom at Moomba, the Princes ProAm, and the Diablo ProAm. Larkin also placed second at the Masters and the Worlds. These performances boosted Larkin from # 7 to #1 on the IWSF Elite Rankings.
“Aaron absolutely KILLED it this year. His strength, consistency and mental game were ON! In the award department his achievements have been under appreciated. He impressed me every time I watched him ski.” -Matt Rini
“At the end of the 2010 season, Aaron Larkin said to me, "If I don’t make it next year ( 2011), then I will seriously have to think about getting a real job." Well, he made it big time. He worked so hard both on and off the water to be Mr Consistent in all of the pro events this year. He has just been nominated for The Halbergs Sportsman of the Year in New Zealand. He's no 1 all round in my book.” - Phil Hughs
“Larx shut his naysayers up in a big way. No longer just doing work in crappy conditions, Larkin is winning when the entire field is at their best. Hands down, arguably the best skier of 2011.” -Trent Finlayson
“Skier of the year” - Chet Raley
“His season was truly amazing and inspiring. Last year was probably the hardest year in Men's slalom. Literally, everyone was skiing their absolute best and Aaron just simply took everyone down when it mattered most. He was the most consistent and won in every condition; in the cold, on rivers, and manmade lakes.” -Billy Susi
|Also noteworthy among the men:|
|Thomas Degasperi won his second World Slalom title
“Pretty impressive to run 3@41 in the biggest river in Russia. He and Will seem to be alternating world titles so it will be interesting to see if anyone can take them down in 2013.” - Thomas Moore
“He’s a tall Italian that gets all the ladies” - Anonymous
“Regaining a World Champion title must be the greatest mental battle of all” - Des Burke-Kennedy
“Thomas has fought through a lot of challenges to be the best in the World Championships..... twice.” Nikki Kinnear Lee
|Adam Sedlmajer won overall at Moomba and Worlds. Also, he won overall and slalom at the Europeans.
Kris LaPoint, a man of few words, described Sedlmajer with only two words “tremendous athlete” .
“Even though Adam won Overall at the Worlds, he is going to be a huge force in the slalom world for a long time. He has the style, and now the confidence to be at the top.”- Billy Susi
|Jon Travers won his first pro slalom title at The Masters. Travers also set the PanAms tournament slalom record on his way to win the event.
“Travers is one of the few guys whom the audience assumed would run 39’ every set leading up to Masters. It was only a matter of time before a big victory like this went down for him. Personally and as a photog it’s fun to see a skier with such a diverse style at the top. The kid is a human slingshot.” -John Mommer
“Winning gold at the Masters definitely gave him a new boost and motivation to keep going and ski even harder ”. - Natallia Berdnikava
|Terry Winter became a father, jumped 198 feet at Katy Ski Jam and ran 3 @ 41 four times.
"It was great to see T-Whisper running 39 again and even more exciting to see him strap on the jumpers. He has found a way to keep a balance with time on the water and starting a family."-Brian Detrick
“I think Terry just remembered how good he is.” -Trent Finlayson
“Terry is one of the coolest guys I know, and I thought his skiing would take a hit once his daughter was born. But boy was I wrong. The first round I saw him ski, I knew he looked better than ever. His 39's looked like Nate's and he is getting to 3 ball at 41 easier and more consistently.”- Billy Susi
“Determination.We all go through hard times. Terry has had his share of difficulty like all of us, but his determination to be the best he can be is unwavering . He is as focused as any top athlete in the world. To finally have a wife and child that he thought would never happen and be able to ski too .. He's come full circle and can finally push himself farther than ever before. I'm very happy for him . He deserves this time to shine. I expect he will slalom better , jump further and be the best he has ever been in the coming few years. Determination is Terry Winter.” - Mike Winter
“Terry had an unbelievable year”- Greg Badal
|Jimmy Siemers won his fourth Masters trick title and had the highest score in every single professional trick round he entered.
“Jimmy's hand pass is basically a different sport. The speed and aggression is unique; no one is even close.”-Camilo Espinel
|Kyle Tate won the Big Dawg finals a week before scheduled heart surgery
“So awesome to see Tate win the Big Dawg finals. I have known and looked up to Kyle since he was in college slaying 39’s @ 36 mph with Coxy everyday. Tater has it all…skill, power and works his a$$ off.” - Matt Rini
“Nothing but admiration for this guy - he did all the little backyard tournaments as well the record capable ones in preparation for the Big Dawg. Funny story: at one of our afternoon mid week class c event, I was the boat judge when Kyle skied. He went off the dock at 32 off, came back at 35off and dropped in to shorten. Lucky Lowe was there sitting on the dock, and he said to Kyle to opt up to 39. Kyle said, "No way! I can’t run that yet." Lucky said, "Pull your dress down and get on with it." So we shortened it to 39. Kyle ran it and got 1 or 1.5 at 41. That gave him so much more confidence that after that day, and every time I was his boat judge up to and including the Big Dawg, I always reminded him of that day. I was so pleased when he won the Big Dawg. He deserved it and then found out he needed heart surgery!!!” - Phil Hughs
|Seventeen year old KC Wilson topped the USA Boys 3 slalom rankings list, won the Jr US Open and ran 39 off in his first ever pro event.
“The face of things yet to come.”- Chet Raley
“KC killed it this year! Big boys better watch out because he is coming” -Taylor May Woolsey
“He is one of the most fluid skiers and has the best form, it's so easily done. He is the future and I wouldn't be surprised if he will have the world record one of these days!”-Makayla Haw
“KC has the second best hair in skiing, bumping Horton to third.” - Marcus Brown
“KC went out to Diablo for his first pro event without too many expectations but shocked a lot of people by smoking 39. His Frow has more power then people realize.” - Brooks Wilson
|Jeff Rodgers set new Masters Men Record of 4.25 @ 41
“He's a total badass and needs to be skiing with the Top Guns. Not to undermine the current BigDawgs but Jeff Rogers is in a whole other class.” - Thomas T-Mo Moore
“It is good for the sport to see Jeff pushing the limits.” - Greg Badal
|Fourteen year old Taylor Garcia set the Boys 2 jump record to 160ft.
“Sometimes I forget that Taylor is still a little kid when he’s hangin with the boys on and off the water. He’s got such a mellow personality, yet his rips at the ramp are unmatched, and I don’t mean for his age.” -John Mommer
|Aliaksei Zharnasek set the Mens World Trick Record to12,570.
“Aliaksey is one of the best trick skiers ever. His skiing is very technical; to me his style is “how trick skiing” should be. Execution of his tricks are very clean and technically correct which makes him stand out from the rest right away”. - Natallia Berdnikava
“Don’t try and emulate, just watch, appreciate and stick to slalom.” - Matt Rini
|Zack Worden won jump at the Malibu, Madrid Pro Jump and World Cup Linyi, and he set the collegiate jump record to 194.
John Mommer has more than a few words about Worden - “One of the biggest stories of the year is of Zack Worden. How can someone that young take down the likes of THE Freddy Krueger multiple times. He is arguably the best skier to ever ski collegiately, as he not only took down Ryan Fitz’s 12 year old jump record that had been gunned for by the likes of Siemers, Dodd, Asher, and countless others but never touched until Zack came around, but also took silver in tricks and slalom (and obviously dominating overall at Collegiate Nationals). Our waterski community hadn’t seen a character like him possibly ever. He lives how he wants, open-free-transparent and always-positive, which has led the ultra-conservative portion of the community to criticize his every move and tell him how they think he should live/act (including his collegiate coach who cashed in on his scores, yet cut his scholarship when she got her use out of him). I laugh when people dog on his character, because he is much better a person, friend, skier and role model than 99% of us. I say let the haters hate, it’s what they do best. Enjoy the ride, Free the Beard. “