The 2014 Moomba Masters is in the books! A few words that come to mind when I look back on the event are: spectacular, one of a kind, memorable and another milestone reached.
For me, it all started on Saturday for the Men’s Slalom Prelims. There were 26 skiers and the field was being cut to 15. I felt confident going into the round but was still a little nervous about skiing on the Yarra River. It was only my second time skiing on the Yarra so I still wasn’t too sure what to expect. I knew I needed to run 35off to advance. I came into the course under the Swan Street Bridge and all I could see was a lot of rollers at the 55’s where I needed to pull out. I decided to pull out for my gate earlier than usual to try to avoid them but I wasn’t able to get up on the boat, I had no speed and I was narrow. I headed in towards the gate and going into one, I thought I was way too close for comfort to the right hand gate ball and feared that I may have missed my gates. I skied 32off very tentatively trying to feel out the river. I got through the course to the city end and saw the boat shorten the line. This told me that I made my gates which was a huge relief. Coming back from the city end at 35off, I was still skiing cautiously, but I was able to run the pass even with a few bobbles and the ski stalling at 5 and pulling all the way to 6. I knew I was in the finals and felt that I knew how the river was skiing. I ran 38 which was my best pass so far. I felt like I was skiing and was ready to attack 39. I had an ok start and ended up with 2 ½ @ 39. This put me in the middle of the pack as the 7th seed in the semi finals. Nate Smith had the top score of 3@41 followed by Chris Parrish 2@41 and Thomas Degasperi 0@41off.
Going into the semi-finals on Sunday, my dad said that I skied way to tentative in the prelims and that I needed to just go out and ski and not think about the river. I was ready to take his advance and ski! I felt ready to go in the semi-finals and as I stood on the dock, I knew I needed a minimum of 2 ½@39off to advance to the finals. I felt way better this set and I was skiing and not worrying about falling. 32, 35 and 38 felt really good. The way I was skiing, I felt like I could run 39 on the Yarra River. I came into the course at 39, from the city end where I have been struggling with my gates. Previous passes from that end I was over shooting the gate and could not get a good start. Unfortunately, this 39 wasn’t different. I over shot the gate and had a lot of speed into 1 ball. I knew I only needed 2 ½ buoys to advance so I no longer had a goal to run the pass, I just wanted to make sure I made it into the finals. With the excess speed into 1 ball, I was very patient to make sure I stayed on top of my ski. I knew I just needed to get to 2 ball, my on side turn, and I could get to 3. I got to 2 and turned 2 on the tail and pulled to 3 where I got the ski around it and “S turn” for a full 3@39off and a ticket into the finals. 8 advanced to the finals and I was the 6th seed. Thomas Degasperi had the top score of 1@41off followed by Will Asher, Chris Parrish, Aaron Larkin and Nick Adams all with 4@39off.
It was MOOMBA MONDAY and I was thrilled to be skiing in the finals! I was the 3rd skier off the dock so I felt I was in a good position to put up a good score and let the rest of the field catch it. As I watched the women slalom finals before I skied, I was definitely a lot more nervous than the previous 2 days. I had butterflies in my stomach and my body just felt different. I tried to remind myself that it was just another ski ride and lets go out and have some fun. This was the biggest final I have ever been in; in my young career. My nervousness changed though as I went down to the dock and started my warm up routine. Once I got into my routine the nerves went away and I was able to get in the zone and ski like the previous rounds. 4.5@38off, by Adam Sedlmajer, was in the lead as I took the water. I came under the Swan Street bridge at 32off and was excited to be skiing in the finals in front of the large Moomba crowd; 200,000+ spectators over the weekend. I had a pretty good opening pass. I was going a little hard out of the buoy, I think because I was a little amped, but I told myself to just relax. I overshot the gate just a bit at 35 but it was probably my best gate so far from the city end. 38off was a great pass and I was feeling dialed and confident going into 39. I found myself back at the city end waiting to come in at 39off. I was determined to get a good gate since I still hadn’t had a great gate from the city end. The current was flowing and I barely pulled out at 39 for my gate. I thought I was in the right spot as I rolled in for the gate but it felt like I was heading down course still instead of across course. I had more speed than I wanted at 1 ball. I knew it was good enough to get down the course though. I pulled to 2 and had a big turn; probably too big. I got pulled up a bit and a little separated through the wakes into 3; which caused me to be a bit narrow. I felt that I was still in a position to turn 3 ball, head to 4 and be in a position to run the pass. This was until I found myself on the front of the ski at the finish of 3 ball. I quickly rocked back a bit to stand up on the ski so I could get a full 3 buoys. I didn’t think it was going to be a big hit until the rope got tight quicker than I expected and I was pulled over the ski fully stretched out 2 feet above the water doing the superman with my ski 3 feet behind me. Below is an awesome picture by Toby Daff right after I released from the ski. Towards the end of last year, I decided that I needed to start being smarter about not taking big hits or falls but I knew that it was the finals and I had to put the body on the line to get the best score possible. As I sat in the water, I was pleased with my performance but I didn’t think it would be enough to hold up with 5 guys still to ski.
As I looked up to shore and saw the banks lined with thousands of people, the tiny boat came and picked me up. I was surprised to see Andy Mapple and Nate Smith in the tiny. It was a pretty cool experience to have both of them, who were knocked out in the semi-finals, pick me up and talk to me about my set and how incredible it is to ski in the finals on Moomba Monday in front of this enormous crowd. A huge smile was brought to my face when Andy said
something along the lines of…[That was great skiing in the finals. Awesome weekend of skiing. Congrats!] For those of you that don’t know, Andy Mapple dominated Men’s Slalom skiing in the late 80’s, 90’s and early 2000’s and he is someone who all slalom water skiers; both young and old, looked up to. I believe Andy is a 13 time Moomba Masters Champion. He retired about 8 years ago but has been asked to ski in the last 2 Moomba Masters events. This was the first time I skied against Andy so I had to get a picture with one of my idols. And Nate Smith is a good friend of mine and he is the current Men’s Slalom World Champion and World Record holder.
As I was brought back to shore, I had people, both young and old, coming up wanting an autograph and/or to take a picture with me. I signed shirts, brochures and even body parts (all appropriate). I remember how cool it was for me when I was a kid and was able to have a pro skier (at the Malibu Open in Sacramento, CA,) sign a shirt, bib or poster for me or take a picture with me; so I wanted to take the opportunity to give back and make a memory for others to always remember.
It was now a waiting game with 5 skiers on the dock; Nick Adams, Aaron Larkin, Will Asher, Chris Parrish and Thomas Degasperi. Nick had an early fall at 38, Larkin tied me with 2.5@39, Asher fell a 1 ball at 39 and Parrish missed his gates at 35. Just like the previous weekend at the Australian Open ProAm, I found myself in a tie for 1st place with the same last skier on the dock, Thomas Degasperi. I walked back down to the starting dock to get ready for a potential run off depending on what Thomas did. I was on the dock watching Thomas come in from the city end at 39off. He needed a full 3 for the win and he did just that as he “S turned” 3 ball to become the 2014 Moomba Masters Champion. I tied for 2nd place with Aaron Larkin but since he had a higher seed coming into the finals, he got 2nd and I finished in 3rd Place.
I was ecstatic about my 3rd place finish at the 2014 Moomba Masters but there was still a small feeling of aaahhhhhh (I can’t think of a word to describe the feeling) since I was so close to first place once again. Nevertheless, I had just made the podium at back to back events! Talking to a few veteran skiers after the event, many of them believe that Moomba Masters is the biggest event of the year. Larkin even said that the finals was the worst conditions he has ever skied in at Moomba and he has skied in 13 Moomba Masters and made the finals in 10 of them. This made my 3rd place finish feel even better! I will leave you with this fabulous photo from the start of Night Jump Finals on Moomba Monday.