Water Skiing

Water Skiing One

My first experience with water-skiing was at Thorpe Park.

Here, the skiing is done from a moving line rather than from behind a boat so for a first timer the challenge is intense.  A line circulates at about 15mph with trailing wires that snatch onto the loop and ferry the skier around the lake.

The problem is that as the line is revolving continuously the take off speed is zero to 15mph in a blink of the eye.  And blinking is advised because as soon as you launch off you are dragged through a wall of water which, providing you don’t let go, clears to reveal a sedentary tour of the lake.

This is providing the skier has kept upright and many find the first twenty yards taken horizontally.

These souls eventually let go and bob away until the rescue boat gets to them.

I mastered the start after the second pull.

A combination of good upper body strength and ability to do 15mph under water whilst involuntarily drinking five litres of lake for thirty feet helped.

Of course this is fine until the first corner.  The course designer considered anything such as a curve to be too easy so each of the four sides had a sharp 90-degree angle as a second challenge.

Just when you thought that 15mph eastwards was comfortable the line drops away loosely then flies over your left shoulder at 15mph in another direction.

The experienced skier ensures a curvaceous trajectory is followed keeping the line taught.  The inexperienced gets another ducking and ride in the rescue boat.

I eventually got the idea of the corner but Lynda, my wife, never did.

In fact, after a while the rescue boat actually set off after each of her runs, knowing that he had business to conduct.

Being a clever-clogs at this game he never watched me so when I did fall off at the furthest point no one came to my rescue for 30 minutes.

Because of this it started to get late in the afternoon and amateur hour was soon ending.

We each had five runs, no matter how far one got and on run four I got round completely.  At the end I dropped the line and majestically skied back to the starting pontoon.

When emerging the instructor said I could have stayed on for my next run so when I got round on lap five I did just that – trying to get an extra circuit for free.

All would have been O.K. were it not for the fact that the beginners session had ended and the organisers wanted to move on to the professionals.

I had not dropped the line and was stealing a free lap.  They initiated plan A.

Plan B was not needed as plan A was simple.  They sped the circuit up to an experienced level and watched me fly.

I made the first bend but the speed had reached 250mph [actually 25mph] by the time I got to bend two.

Despite my best efforts and leaning at about 5% I couldn’t make it and ended up back in the drink.

This time I had to wait over 45 minutes for the rescue boat.

Water Skiing Two

My second experience water-skiing was less successful than the first.

This time I had had enough of wire pulls and persuaded my new friend Richard to take me out in his speedboat.

Because of his father’s successful business Richard was a wealthy young man whom I met through his girlfriend Rachel.  She in turn was a friend of Lynda through the mutual act of working together.

I had already earned my place in Richard’s boat by videoing their wedding and we all chose a lovely summer’s day to take to the Solent.

Our entourage caused a stir at the launch site as Richard’s twin in-board motored speedboat and trailer linked onto his 4×4 was about twice the size of other craft, a veritable ego boost for us all, which explains the posing when we climbed in the back.

The motor burbled away and we set off slowly out of the harbour area to maximise the envy.

Having cleared the small boats and with open sea ahead Richard swung open the throttle to speed into the distance.  Here’s where the real story starts.

Richard was a young man who shared his boat with his friend.  His friend was the experienced speedboat owner and Richard the cash cow.

The boat had lain idle for a while and Richard did not realise the inboard motor compartment had to be manually vented.  If this is not carried out it leaves petrol fumes effectively trapped in a closed box, which do very loud and sudden things when heated.

When the throttle was wound open the fumes ignited and exploded.  The boat leapt ten feet in the air and we were swamped with a bright orange flame.  It engulfed us completely singeing my eyebrows and melting my cheap tracksuit [naff nylon thing].

Lynda bore the brunt of the damage as she had her arm lain over the back engine cover.  She received second degree burns on her arm, which are the most painful due to the fact that the nerve ends remain exposed.

Lynda, sttod in shorts and tee-shirt in bright sunshine on a beach, with her left arm outstretched showing the red raw burn marks on her arm
Lynda proudly showing off her second-degree burn marks

However, at the time our priority was making it back to dry land and a Hospital.

The boat was marooned and we had to paddle back half a mile using the never-seen-action-that-day water skis.  The onlooking crowd enjoyed this part almost as much as the explosion.

I have to conclude that I have yet to ski behind a speed boat but will one day.

So will Lynda, who has made a full recovery.

Unlike Richard’s speedboat.  It was never replaced to my knowledge.

Author: Vince Poynter
From the Action section of the vinceunlimited.co.uk website dated 27 Apr 2018
First Published: Version 2.02 in Sep 2005
The photograph shows Lynda displaying her arm burn marks a few weeks later whilst in Mallorca, taken in summer 1990 by the author.  The burns were not healing well until she decided to immerse them in the salty seawater on holiday.  The photograph was added on 27 Apr 2018