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Posts Tagged ‘Great River Ski Club’

Eric Riutzel on his approach, jump and landing.

Okay, I probably should have written a blog about waterskiing in June, instead of at the end of the season, but it’s better late than never, right?

A few weeks ago I got an email from my old friend John inviting me down to the Quincy Bay to go waterskiing with the Great River Water Ski Club. I used to ski quite a bit and was even in the ski show for a couple of seasons back in high school and college. John is still on the team, and has been performing in their weekly shows for many summers now.

My friends and I used to spend most of the summer on the water. Back then, I learned to slalom, ride backwards on trick skis, ski with no hands, and even did a bit of wakeboarding. One thing I never got around to trying, though, was jumping. I always meant to try, but some seasons the water was too high or too low, or I was working on other tricks, or I’d look at the size of that ski ramp and chicken out… This year though, with the invite from the club, I harnessed my love of adventure and decided that it was the perfect time to give it a go.

I met the ski team on the docks and several people were there to help me out. Eric Riutzel has been skiing with the team since he was a just a kid, and he’s become quite an accomplished jumper. He and John explained the most important steps: knees, trees, freeze.

Laura Sievert's first ski jump attempts. The crossed skis are an example of how not to jump.

Knees: As you’re approaching a ski ramp, you’ve got to bend your knees and bring the rope in toward your body. You lean up kind of on your toes because the feel of the ramp is slick and it will help you keep your balance.

Trees: This rule is the most important part of any skiing, not just jumping. You’ve got to look up at the trees and not down at your skis. If you look down, you’re going to fall down. If you look up and out, it will help you maintain balance.

Freeze: This is probably the hardest part of jumping. As you’re coming off the ramp, you freeze your position. Jump skis are broad but have no fin to speak of, and that means that when you hit the still water on the other side of the ramp, it will feel like wet glass. You freeze and let the skis grab into the water and the boat pull the rope taught again.

I suited up in protective gear which included a padded shorty wet-suit and a hockey mask, and I rode the boat to watch Eric jump a few times. He was awesome. He made it look easy. I could see every step, and it seemed like I could pull it off. Eric even did a helicopter jump — where at the end of the ramp he does a complete 360 degree turn before he lands — and after I saw that, I was primed for my attempts.

Steve Fleer was driving the ski club’s amazing Hydrodyne boat. It sports twin 175 horsepower Evinrude motors, and is easily the best boat I’ve ever skied behind.

I tested my balance as we rounded the corner to approach the ramp by jumping up and down and feeling the way they handled. It felt more like skiing on huge doors than on proper water skis.

John Wellman performs a "deep water" barefoot ski start.

Barefoot skiing requires high speeds and a lot of practice.

I cut out hard through the wake to the left and the boat cruised right of the jump. The ramp, which sits on the bay at a nice 30-degree incline, looked more like a wall as I approached it. I think I held my breath. I pulled the rope in, froze my knees and before I knew much else, I heard the hollow thud of my skis hitting the wooden ramp, I looked up over the boat, I flew off the end of the ramp about a hundred feet in the air (okay, 12 feet.  But it felt like a hundred) and…

Boom. I hit the water, lost the rope, and wiped out. You didn’t think I’d get it on my first attempt, did you? I popped out of the water and waved at the boat to let them know I was OK. The boat swung back around and everyone inside was grinning about my somewhat comic fall. They asked if I was going to try again, and I didn’t hesitate a bit!

I had two more attempts that night because the light was fading fast and there were other skiers that still had to try some things. My second go was my worst — I forgot the freeze part and ended up with crossed skis in the air. Someone managed to get a photo of that jump… so I suppose I’ll share that with my Get Out readers.  My third attempt was very close. I actually landed and felt the skis underneath me. One dragged behind a bit though, and came off my foot, so I didn’t quite get the landing on that one either.

This water ski season is drawing to a close, but I was really happy to have had the chance to get out with the Great River Ski Club. If you would like to learn more about the organization, please visitwww.greatriverskiclub.org. The club is always recruiting new members, and you don’t need any experience to get started. They also snow ski throughout the winter, so any time is a good time to give them a call. I’m going to keep on working on my jumping and maybe next year you’ll see me in the ski show.

Original Post September 7, 2011

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