water sports

watersports

Growing up, my neighbor’s had a speedboat. I remember the first time I saw it in their driveway. I sat on my porch and stared at it. They must’ve been the coolest people in the entire world. Then my thoughts started to wander towards the ridiculous irony of parking a boat in your driveway. That’s a water vehicle. What the hell is it doing parked on an asphalt driveway? I’m pretty sure that you’re Sea Ray 125 LS couldn’t look more out of place as it sits marooned beneath your basketball hoop in the middle of an Ohio suburb.  To me, it was like chaining up a tiger shark in your front lawn – aside from impressing the neighbors, there really wasn’t much point.

But impress their neighbors, it did. At least me. I’m sure most the adults were upset that the bright red racing stripes and the gigantic trailer hitch were bringing down their property value… I just wanted to ride the damn thing.

Turns out, the owners of said Sea Ray 125 LS had a son my age. His name was Chris. Despite any nautical aspirations, Chris and I became pretty good friends. And it was this friendship that brought to me, on a likely disgustingly humid summer day, the question: “Hey Drew, we’re going out on the boat. Would you like to come along?”

I, of course, tried to look only mildly interested and responded with a rehearsed, “Yeah, sure. That could be cool.”

Finally aboard with lifejackets casually in our hands, Chris, his parents and myself blew out past the No-Wake Zones and into the open water. It was an exhilaration I’d never really felt before. As the boat picked up speed, the wind went from blowing gently through my hair to taking over all of my senses.

As we hit full-throttle, I was at a point where all I could feel, smell, hear, taste and think was all just… wind. It blew aggressively and I loved it. We bounced around over small waves and my body was jostled around in the world’s tiniest and most uncomfortable seat. My back slamming into the plastic and metal along the inside of the boat and my tailbone jamming down into the seat. I just laughed. You could’ve stabbed me in the foot and I would’ve smiled because I… was on a boat. And that was awesome.

Finally, the boat slowed down and Chris’s family started getting ready to water-ski. How cool! Chris’s mother was the first to go. She waded back a safe distance from the boat and then gave us a thumbs up. I turned to the driver and said “Thum-

WACK! He’d already floored the throttle and subsequently floored me as well. I regained my seat and ignored any possible bleeding so I could watch this water show. She was a good skier. She swerved amongst the waves and did a few little hops. Talented and graceful on the water.

Chris was up next. Chris only needed one ski. ONE SKI?! Are you kidding me?! No. They were not. He wore that one ski like an extension of his body. Flying around behind the boat, jumping over waves, posing for our cameras, he was the master of the water.

After we pulled Chris in, the family looked at me. I didn’t understand why. “Alright, man. You wanna give it a whirl?”     Oh, shit. This was a development I had not foreseen even slightly. To me, riding in the boat was like climbing Everest. I wasn’t prepared to then ski down the damn thing!

But I did it anyway. I hopped in the water and after spending a solid seventeen minutes attempting to put my skis on; I waded back to the end of the towrope. All the while just reassuring myself that I would be fine.

See here was the deal. At that point in my life I was an athlete. I played a grab bag of sports and I was halfway decent at them. Good enough that my 14 year old mind had no trouble saying, “Dude, you can do this. It’s just another sport. Hop up their and let the natural instincts take over.”   This is a philosophy that would work wonders if you were taking on a new adventure like… say, rugby. Run, hit, repeat. Waterskiing, as it would turn out, was quite different.

When I got to the end of the towrope, I looked up to the boat. My immediate thought being – “How the hell long is this rope?!” From my position the boat looked like it was clear on the other side of the state. I looked around myself and saw nothing but open water. A sense of being alone is not a welcome feeling at any time, especially not when you have ten foot long sticks on your feet that put the kibosh on any sense of balance you once had.

As I waded there in the water, bouncing with the waves, using every ounce of energy I have to keep myself from rolling over, Chris’s dad was in the boat yelling directions at me.   “Grab the rope…”

“What?”

“Give us the thumbs up when you’re ready.”
“I can’t hear…”

“Now just lean back…”

“Couldn’t we have discussed this in the boat?!”

“And hold on!”

I realized quickly that this was the only education I was going to get. At this point I knew as much about water-skiing as my dog knew about the Frisbee: Just. Hold. On.

I held the towrope in front of me, doing my best to emulate the others I saw before me. With a deep breath full of nothing but fear and lake water, I gave a thumbs up to the driver. To this day, that thumbs up is the second most false thumbs up I’ve ever given – right behind the one I gave to a friend while chewing their botched holiday meatloaf.

The boat’s nose shot into the air and I knew it was judgment time. I held on tight and, much to my amazement, I started rising out of the water. My skis broke the surface and I scooted along. I gritted my teeth, tugged at the rope and my legs worked with all of their might to keep me standing. They were wobbling and burning like al dente noodles that were left in the pot. I was in serious pain. This shit hurt. But damn it! I was skiing! It was at this point, that I made my first fatal mistake: I looked up and smiled.

As soon as my cheeks started to dimple – SLAM! I fell face first into the unforgiving surface of lake water. It hurt a little but I thought back to the one thing I remember Chris’s dad taught me: Just hold on. So I did. The skis were long gone behind me, but I was determined.

My blinding white knuckles held that rope as the boat drug me across the surface of the water like a skipping stone. Water made my entire body permeable. Shooting up my nose, mouth and into holes that I didn’t even know existed. All of my senses were consumed by water. It’s amazing the sound that water makes as it crashes over your head. It’s a beautiful combination of “WOOSH!” “SPLASH!” and “LET GO OF THE FUCKING ROPE!” Finally, after ingesting 1/6th of the Great Lakes, my grip weakened and the rope flew away. I felt defeated. But it was a good run. As I surfaced, I watched the boat circle around and I shook out my head, water spraying out of me like an old-timey sprinkler.

That’s when I saw it. About thirty feet behind me, there was a small red object floating in the water. It looked like a flag that the local water-ski official had thrown to suggest I’d done something wrong. I quickly realized how appropriate that metaphor was. And how “freeing” the water isn’t supposed to feel.

I confirmed that I was, in fact, without swim trunks and then swam over to them – careful to keep my bottom half below the water. I put them on just as the boat came back around. I got in and watched them mouth words at me. Turns out, all I could hear was the “squish squish” of lake water trying to navigate my eardrum.

As we rode back, the wind quickly took over all of my senses again and we bounced around the same as before. This time, it hurt when my back slammed against the wall. It hurt when my tailbone jammed into my seat. And I was glad that nobody stabbed me in the foot. A certain mystique had been lost.

When we strapped the boat into the dock and started walking to the car, I stopped and looked at the Sea Ray. I looked at it bobbing in the water, mocking me, and I thought to myself: “You looked a whole lot better in their driveway.”

 

- dc

 

2 Responses to water sports

  1. I just wante to drop you a line to say that I liked your post. THanks

  2. Awesome blog over here! Thanks for sharing this very usefull information. I will visit your blog again into a couple off days to check if you have some new articles.

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