8 July 2015

How hard can it be getting pulled across the water by a boat? Pretty tough actually, according to University of Queensland high performance coach Vince Kelly.

A Conjoint Associate Lecturer in the School of Human Movement and Nutrition Sciences, Mr Kelly has trained Queensland athlete Ben Gulley to two World Water Ski Racing Championships.

He says the extreme and obscure sport would surprise most people with the demands it places on the human body.

“Some skiers are averaging 170 kilometres per hour for an hour at a time, which means their top speed is closer to 200,” Mr Kelly said.

“Their heart rate sits at 90 to 95 per cent of maximum the whole way through.

“And if they crash, the skiers can end up hundreds of metres from where they fell.

“It’s an intense sport with the potential for some very serious injuries.”

Mr Kelly, who has been a strength and conditioning consultant for the Brisbane Broncos, South Sydney Rabbitohs and Australian Rugby Union, admits he knew little of the sport a decade ago.

But since being recruited to help Ski Racing Queensland in 2009, he has not only guided Gulley to two world titles, he also scored a breakthrough with Grant Turner at the 2011 championships.

Ben Gulley, trained by Vince Kelly, competing at the 2015 World Water Ski Racing World Championships

“I came in thinking I’d just be teaching a lot of squats, but it’s more complicated than that,” Mr Kelly said.

“The way the skiers stand is with one hand behind the back anchoring the rope, one foot in front of the other and one arm outstretched holding the rope in front.

“There are a lot of demands on the skier’s back strength, core strength and muscular endurance to hold a static position for so long.

“The improvement I've seen in the skiers fitness levels from when I first started to now has blown me away.

“I set a new program for them and think ‘this will test them’, but they never buckle.”

While many people believe the speed of the boat decides the winner in a water ski race, Mr Kelly said this was false and that crews could only travel as fast as the skier can stay upright.

Media: Mr Vince Kelly, v.kelly2@uq.edu.au or UQ Communications Robert Burgin, +617 3346 3035, +61 0448 410 364, r.burgin@uq.edu.au.