Meet Ski Paradise Guest Coach Jim Hammer
Jim Hammer is a true water-ski ambassador. He represents all of the good the sport is about with his easy-going attitude and humble approach to coaching and challenging skiers of all abilities to not only reach their peak performance, but to have fun on their journey. “I really love to coach!” says Jim. “It’s so much fun for me to see someone improve and get that same smile that I had when I’d learned something new.”
We asked Jim about his background in water skiing and his style of coaching.
Where did you grow up skiing?
I grew up in Petaluma California. We had an uncle that had a home on the water at Clear Lake where I first learned how to ski at 10. We’d also go to Lake Mendocino where I’d ski across the whole lake. Dad would just cut the throttle and say, “You’re done, let your brothers ski!” I bought my first boat as a senior in high school, our old boat had finally died and I saw this gorgeous 16’ Marlin Playboy outboard, tangerine orange metal flake and silver metal flake. You had to wear sunglasses to look at it! My high school buddies and I went to Lake Berryessa 2-3 times a week that summer, and I was hooked. I went on a houseboat with some friends on Lake Shasta about a year later, and it was the ultimate dream to get a lesson from Mike Suyderhoud! I’ll never forget that day!
How would you define your approach to coaching?
One thing I like to do is watch the skier, look at small things that make big improvements. Focus on just 1-2 improvements at a time till they’ve got that part locked in, then move on to the next 1-2 things to move them up to the next level. I like to be patient with the skier and help them build on what they’ve learned each time they go out. At Gordon’s, the whole atmosphere is very conducive to being a better skier! Having the ability to have top notch coaches, helping you each day for six days is an amazing process. Another big thing is the safety factor. That’s one thing that I love about Ski Paradise, skier safety is top priority. I like to teach students how to have a body position that won’t allow them to go out the front anymore. Next item typically is the offside turn, showing guests how to move into the offside turn efficiently, carrying ski speed through the offside turn and setting up for a great body position out of the turn. There’s so many different types of skiers, it’s all about relating to each skier in a way that works for them. I’ve been blessed with a sharp eye and can see small things that will make the student a better skier.
What advice would you give to students who are coming to Ski Paradise this season and aren't in "ski shape?"
If you’re coming for the first time, hands, hands, hands! I’d recommend buying a couple pair of “the natural grip” for each skier. Alternating them between rides, (don’t share them as they won’t last the week). They provide a superior grip and keep your hands from getting blisters. I’d also recommend starting slow, build up your strength so you’re able to implement what the coaches are teaching you. I’ve seen skiers that just ski too much, then they’re too whipped to take advantage of the coaching. The mind says YES, but the body is just done. Take your time, skiing 6 days in a row is a lot of skiing.
What would you say to a possible guest who is nervous about coming to Ski Paradise because they don't think they're a good enough skier?
The majority of skiers that come aren’t course skiers. It’s so great to see them working on safer, more efficient ways to ski. One of the things we hear a lot is “wow, I’m working half as much and skiing so much better!” After speaking with many of the other coaches at Gordon’s over the years, we all get the same thrill teaching someone who is just starting as someone who’s running the course. So don’t worry about your ski level, come on down and enjoy the best ski vacation experience on the planet! Typically by the second day, everyone is really good friends and it just gets better. After my son Brendan’s first day at Ski Paradise, he told me that “it’s way more fun than Disneyland and Universal Studios." He actually got a tear in his eyes when it was time to say goodbye to everyone. After being at so many other schools, the combination of Gordon and Gabriella’s villa, the exceptional ski site and amazing staff is really something every skier should experience at least once. It will be a vacation you’ll always cherish. I’ve made so many new “friends for life” down at Ski Paradise, so many amazing memories, I’m so blessed to be a part of it. I’m still in contact with many of them via Facebook, and it’s great to see them out sharpening their skills in the summer at the amazing places they ski.
Please share a recent success story; a student you’re really proud of.
Everyone of course, but two stand out just a bit more. Teaching my sons Chet and Brendan to ski. Chet still loves to ski to this day, he’s going to SF state for a business degree. When he gets out and settles down, first thing for him is to find a place to ski. Brendan started skiing four years ago as a train wreck on doubles. Last year he went to the regionals and nationals, and won the most improved slalom skier in the nation for boys 2 slalom. Very proud of both of them!
What’s your personal best?
My personal best in tournaments is 4.5 at 38, numerous times over the past 30+ years. My best in practice is 3 at 39, and I run it occasionally with the help of the driver.
Fondest ski memory?
Skiing with my dad. He was a really good skier for his day. I’m so thankful he bought that first boat and took us to the lake. I’ve got a thousand other great memories over the years and great friends along the way.
~ Jim Hammer