Did you see a small mound of water moving rapidly across Hayden Lake last weekend? That was me, water-skiing.
Maybe I should say, attempting to water-ski.
I might have known this wouldn’t be easy, since everybody said it would be. Some people with a ski boat talked me into it by saying, “Anybody can do it. Even a beginner can do it on the first try.”
Yes, that’s right, you’re absolutely correct. And anybody can program astrophysical software to calculate the heliocentric parallax, too. But maybe not on the first try.
Let me tell you something. I am a reasonably proficient snow-skier, and I still don’t think water-skiing is easy. I spent a good 45 minutes struggling and straining and giving it every ounce of energy I had. And I was just trying to get that stupid life-jacket on. I was still on shore.
Soon after that, I found myself actually on the water, where things became even more complicated. I realized, after one aborted, duck-like attempt, that I couldn’t actually jump from the boat with my skis on. I had to take them off and jump in, while the cap’n and bosun’s mate tossed the skis in after me.
Then I had to reach blindly underneath me to put the skis on while floating in the tropical, lagoonlike waters of North Idaho. Then I had to reach blindly underneath me again, take them off and turn them around. The tips, apparently, are meant to face forward.
Then the bosun threw me the tow rope, and I found myself in a dilemma. Even the people watching from the shore recognized immediately what my dilemma was.
“The boat is facing west,” they said, sipping tumblers of sangria decorated with festive toy umbrellas. “Shouldn’t the skier be facing west, too?”
I knew I should be, but here was the problem. One hand was clutching the tow rope. Both feet had two-byfours strapped to them. This left me only one lousy hand to flap around for thrust. It took 10 minutes before I was turned to a generally westerly heading.
Finally, I was set. The cap’n gunned the motor and somehow I found myself up, exhilaratingly, on my skis. However, one ski was headed toward British Columbia and the other toward Montana. My posture became increasingly spreadeagled until the 1.3 second mark, at which point a rip began to form at my body’s mid-point, so I let go and fell backward. I skipped across the water like a rock. Little did I know that this would be my most successful run of the afternoon.
On my second attempt, I never got up on my skis at all. The boat dragged me along on my butt. A huge roostertail plumed up behind. I finally had to let go of the rope, but I felt I was on my way to developing a new ski technique. If the Olympic Committee ever decides to sanction butt-skiing, then I’m a charter member of the U.S. National Team.
It was on my third attempt that things started to go downhill, or should I say, underwater. I was holding the tow rope, skis poised for liftoff, but instead of lifting me up, the rope actually pulled me under. Green bubbles and small kokanee rushed past my eyes. Hayden Lake rushed into my sinuses. The flow of water past my ears sounded oddly like the klaxon of a U-boat.
That’s how it was from my perspective, but it must have looked even more odd from the shore. There was this greenish-white lump of water racing madly around the lake at 20 miles per hour, with a rope rising out of the water three feet in front of it.
I tried it about five more times and each time I was dragged under. It was like the ski boat was the Red October.
I still have absolutely no idea why this happened, although I think it was because I was holding the tow rope wrong. You see, I have a bad left rotator cuff from playing softball, which means that the ligaments and tendons keeping my shoulder intact are all loose and ragged. So I held the rope funny out of a fear that when the tow line went taut, it might jerk my left arm right out of its socket, thus treating the people on shore to the sight of an arm, holding doggedly to a tow rope, skipping across Hayden Lake and doing little stunts.
Thank heavens nobody had to see that gruesome sight. Although several people did call the authorities to report a mysterious hump of lake water. Some even reported a periscope sticking out of it, but that was just the tip of a ski.
Or maybe the tail of a ski. I’m still not sure I didn’t have them on backward.