Ramp makes splash with skiers

Breaking and losing skis is likely the only negative about Kenni Kuroda’s floating water ramp.

Breaking and losing skis is likely the only negative about Kenni Kuroda’s floating water ramp.

It’s a risk that Connor Spence is willing to take and save himself a few trips to Whistler. Spence, a member of the B.C. Freestyle Academy, loves the Apex Freestyle Club coach’s creation.

“You have to train somehow in the summer for your jump,” said Spence, who was among the athletes at the opening ceremony of the water ramp located near the Penticton Yacht and Tennis Club.  “I thought it was pretty crazy. I thought it was quite the success. It was pretty exciting.”

Spence likes that the ramp enables the skiers to practise the tricks on water, which they can then adjust when switching to training on snow. He also likes that it’s out in the lake and has trained on it twice. The former member of the AFC said the ramp is more like a mogul jump. He added that the transition is not as long and is quicker.

Water ramping is known to be a crucial aspect of freestyle training. Whether skiers compete in aerials, moguls, halfpipe or slopestyle, athletes must practise and qualify inverted tricks on a water ramp or air bag before they can perform them in competition on snow.

Kuroda knew his club didn’t have enough money to acquire land and build a permanent ramp site, but was still committed to giving Okanagan athletes the opportunity to ramp all summer. The former World Cup competitor and one-time professional freestyle skier came up with the idea to create a floating water ramp that could be housed on a barge and would be portable by trailer.

“As far as we know there are no other floating water ramps in the world,” said Canadian Freestyle Ski Association chief operating officer Bruce Robinson.

Kuroda gained support from Trademark Industries, who generously agreed to provide one of their barges for the project — a former military landing craft and troop carrier. Numerous people including Kuroda’s club parents came forward with donations of time and money.

The barge has twin diesel engines and can travel at 12 knots, which means the ramp can be transported easily.

The first trial jumps surpassed even Kuroda’s dreams and he quickly earned CFSA sanctioning.

“We’re really excited about what we’ve created,” said Kuroda. “We have a single jump and a dock that secures to the barge with a coaching platform.”

Kuroda believes that his invention has applications far beyond his Okanagan enclave and said that down the road he might consider selling the plans. For now he’s just looking forward to seeing his own club members reach their potentials and the podium.

On hand for the opening of the ramp was Canadian World Cup aerial superstar Steve Omischl and national mogul team member Kristi Richards.